my life

I am proud of being ruled by the British

Today, with the balance and perspective offered by the passage of time and the benefit of hindsight, it is possible for an Indian Prime Minister to assert that India’s experience with Britain had its beneficial consequences too. Our notions of the rule of law, of a Constitutional government, of a free press, of a professional civil service, of modern universities and research laboratories have all been fashioned in the crucible where an age old civilization met the dominant Empire of the day. These are all elements which we still value and cherish. Our judiciary, our legal system, our bureaucracy and our police are all great institutions, derived from British-Indian administration and they have served the country well.

Of all the legacies of the Raj, none is more important than the English language and the modern school system. That is, if you leave out cricket! Of course, people here may not recognise the language we speak, but let me assure you that it is English! In indigenising English, as so many people have done in so many nations across the world, we have made the language our own. Our choice of prepositions may not always be the Queen’s English; we might occasionally split the infinitive; and we may drop an article here and add an extra one there. I am sure everyone will agree, however, that English has been enriched by Indian creativity as well and we have given you R.K. Narayan and Salman Rushdie. Today, English in India is seen as just another Indian language.

The idea of India as enshrined in our Constitution, with its emphasis on the principles of secularism, democracy, the rule of law and, above all, the equality of all human beings irrespective of caste, community, language or ethnicity, has deep roots in India’s ancient civilization. However, it is undeniable that the founding fathers of our republic were also greatly influenced by the ideas associated with the age of enlightenment in Europe. Our Constitution remains a testimony to the enduring interplay between what is essentially Indian and what is very British in our intellectual heritage.

The idea of India as an inclusive and plural society, draws on both these traditions. The success of our experiment of building a democracy within the framework of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society will encourage all societies to walk the path we have trodden. In this journey, both Britain and India have learnt from each other and have much to teach the world. This is perhaps the most enduring aspect of the Indo-British encounter.

It used to be said that the sun never sets on the British Empire. I am afraid we were partly responsible for sending that adage out of fashion! But, if there is one phenomenon on which the sun cannot set, it is the world of the English speaking people, in which the people of Indian origin are the single largest component.

No Indian has paid a more poetic and generous tribute to Britain for this inheritance than Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. In the opening lines of his Gitanjali, Gurudev says:

“The West has today opened its door.
There are treasures for us to take.
We will take and we will also give,
From the open shores of India’s immense humanity.”

To see the India – British relationship as one of ‘give and take’, at the time when he first did so, was an act of courage and statesmanship. It was, however, also an act of great foresight. As we look back and also look ahead, it is clear that the Indo-British relationship is one of ‘give and take’. The challenge before us today is to see how we can take this mutually beneficial relationship forward in an increasingly inter-dependent world.I wish to end by returning to my alma mater. Oxford, since the 19th century, has been a centre for Sanskrit learning and the study of Indian culture. The Boden professorship in Sanskrit, and the Spalding professorship in Eastern Religions and Ethics, stand testimony to the university’s commitment to India and Indian culture. I recall with pride the fact that the Spalding professorship was held by two very distinguished Indians: Dr S. Radhakrishnan, who later became the President of India, and by Dr. Bimal Krishna Matilal. In the context of the study and preservation of Indian culture, I also wish to recall the contribution of another Oxonian, Lord Curzon, about whose project to preserve and restore Indian monuments, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “After every other Viceroy has been forgotten, Curzon will be remembered because he restored all that was beautiful in India.”

Words of Dr. Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India and possibly the single biggest reason why we as a country is today economically solvent.Thus I start my defense of my belief why I believe English should not be replaced with Hindi in India. My most fundamental objection to English bashers is hypocrisy. One of these enlight(dark)ened folks said that if I am proud of India’s economic might on account of our command of english, I should be proud of being ruled by the British and that I should be proud of the fact that we as a nation should be proud of the fact that we were a colony of, here I am waging my war in the digital domain.

I shall try to establish my case on the following grounds
2)Need of Diversity
3)Dynamic state of any culture

Dwelling on the hypocrisy part of it, if we are to be ashamed of British rule, we should be ashamed of Aryan rule, we should be ashamed of mughals, we should be ashamed of being civilized. History books abound of tales of how the technically superior at a particular point of time conquered the less advanced societies and moved the wheel of civilization. If there was no invasion, probably we would have still lived in the caves. It is not that flow of knowledge is a one directional stream from the visitors to vanquished its a bidirectional affair.So if we are proud of Taj Mahal, if we are proud of Red fort, if we are proud of Ajanta and Ellora we should be proud of Victoria Memorial, we should be proud of Archaeological survey of India but for which many of these treasures would have been consigned to the dust.
We make no bones about cheering for Indian cricket team but some pseudo nationalist who are more fluent in English than Hindi feel that Hindi should have precedence over English. why should English tat give us bread and butter be the punching bag. Is it not against Indian culture to disrespect food.There is no disagreement over the fact that bulk of us have been ruled by a few since ages, how does it matter if the rulers of 150 years were born in Europe.If we are to be ashamed of British rule, we should be ashamed of parliamentary democracy, fundamental rights magna carta, rule of law. If we are proud of all these, we should be proud of whatever we have achieved under British rule.

Second thing is about diversity: Is language so important in context of nation like India where language can never be unifying factor. Language in a country like India can only be divisive ask the fighters of separate state of Maharastra and Andhra. A few argue that national language is as important as national flag.But by that logic we should also have a state religion. But we cannot in India as India allows it’s citizens to practise any faith. then again some might argue that if nobody objects to us speaking our language than what is the problem in enforcing another language. for me Hindi is as foreign a language as French, Latin or Hebrew or English. No matter what you say a person cannot be fluent in all language so Hindi was my third priority with English being the first for economic reasons. I make no bones about it. If Hindi was the lingua franca of the world Hindi would have been my first priority. But real world economics are different.If I have to chose between two alien languages, I would rather chose the one that buys my food and medicines.The some would say that not all people knows English in India. That is definitely because English is not promoted as much as Hindi is by government. If all of India becomes fluent in English, the economic gains will be enormous but it seems politicians only care of their own children go to English medium schools. Merely a fact that more people in India speak Hindi should ot be the reason for its imposition. Moreover more than fifty percent of Indians do not call Hindi as their mother tongue. Well I would not like to dwell too much on statistics for they can be most easily manipulated. But ultimately It remains a fact that India has too many languages to be associated with one language. Then their is logic of why only one national animal, but how does the choice of national animal hurts my pocket. If some symbol can help give national identity without any adverse effects than why not. It may sound selfish but if I am generating revenue for myself and paying my taxes doing honest work than is it not more patriotic than professing love for a language and evading taxes.

Finally dynamic nature of culture: hindi was not spoken in India from ages. It was Sanskrit,Pali, Pakrit culture is an ever changing wheel we should never try to stop this change for it is nothing but a futile exercise.