Answer by Raakhee Venugopal:
At the outset, I must say that I’m not sure if this question was asked in jest or on a serious note.
Honestly, I don’t think knowing a language or not knowing a language has anything to do with feeling any more or less Indian. Why, there are many native Hindi speakers who apparently feel very less Indian than many of their non-native Hindi speaking counterparts. Just switching on any news-channel would give us more than enough examples. Let’s not go there, shall we?
And then there are people like me who have grown up outside of India in a foreign land…in a multi-cultural environment with all kids of people conversing in scores of different languages…and I feel there is nothing non-Indian about myself. I am very proud of my ethnicity and I glorify my motherland with praises at every opportunity given.
Language has nothing to do with feeling patriotic at all. I have had some shallow-minded people tell me that they are a Tamilian/Punjabi/Bengali/etc. first and then an Indian. This is something I don’t endorse. I am the granddaughter of a freedom fighter. And I’d make my late grandfather extremely ashamed of me if I were to think that I am a Malayali first and then an Indian. Unconditional love for my nation runs in my blood. And I need not know a certain language to have it.
We are a country with a cultural richness and diversity that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. And this is fact that we celebrate. Every state, every region, every community has its own unique aspects that set it apart from the rest. And this is looked at with astonishment the world over…the sheer impossibility of the whole situation and how we’ve been co-existing for centuries like this.
I am not an expert to comment on the political undertones behind the inclusion of exclusion of Hindi anywhere. So I’ll not go there.
I studied in a CBSE school where learning Hindi was mandatory until Grade 9. But we weren’t taught our history lessons in Hindi to make more robust ‘Indians’ out of us. The medium of instruction was English and we all ended up loving and respecting our country like anyone else.
I believe that we ought to be proud of our cultural differences. If it’s for the sake of communication, then we always have English as a unifying factor. In case you generalized ‘South Indians’ as the people of the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telengana, then you’d probably not be aware that it is only in the state run schools of Tamil Nadu that Hindi is not taught as a subject. All other schools have Hindi as a subject and even if the people do not use it for communication, they know the basics.
On a side note, one of the answers mentioned something about ending the ‘foolish South Indian film industry’. I’d like to differ here. South Indian cinema has produced some of the most brilliant films of all times, many of which were remade in Hindi. People from the Hindi movie industry speak with much respect for their south-Indian counterparts. Malayalam cinema, for example, has zero tolerance for unrealistic gimmicks in the name of entertainment. The Malayalam film industry makes some of the most realistic films in the country. When Bollywood makes a handful of sensible films every year that flop while making mind-bogglingly stupid films grace a place of honor in the coveted 100-crore club, south Indian movie industry does churn out a handful of nonsensical ones, that usually sink without a trace, and more of others like Baahubali and Premam for instance. Enough said, I guess.
I am no one to judge anybody’s patriotism. Like a person’s religious sentiments, one’s patriotism is best kept as a private emotion…unless the very land you live on is threatened by foreign forces. The moment somebody goes all out advertising his religion, his nationalism or his political inclination, then you can be sure that his intentions are not peaceful ones. We are all unique…just like everyone else. And this needs to be respected.