Language and history: Why the Indian society lost pride in its own heritage

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Have you ever gone to an Italian restaurant and felt proud when you properly pronounced (in the right accent, of course) the Italian name of that pasta you so wanted to have? Or, remember the time when you corrected your friend about how to properly say “Crème Brûlée”?

Why is it that we do not feel the same pride when talking about the various “aasans of Yog”? Why do we instead say “aasanas of Yoga”? Why does one feel the need to anglicize words of Indian origin? Similarly, why do we call the great mountains to our North the anglicized “Himalayas” when the very word is Indic in nature and is a combination of him (snow) and aalay (abode)? Why not say “I would like to visit the Himalay?” (Note: I am not talking about how to write it, but the phonetic of it.)

Why is this pride lacking, not in all, but a significant chunk of the population? There could be multiple reasons and what perhaps is the most important is what we were taught when we were children.

Those who don’t remember history are bound to repeat it. What do all our books teach regarding our culture in schools? (And remember, a school is where learning about history ends for a large part of the population). Interestingly, when we were in school, we are taught disproportionately about the benevolence of those who lotted and plundered our land than those who defended this land. We are taught Aurangzeb was a benevolent leader but not that he raped and tortured Hindus, forcing them to convert.

Judging by what we were taught, one would believe that we were first ruled by Mughals and then the British – and the latter civilized us. Indic culture and history is just a passing reference in those books. How will you admire/appreciate your culture when you’re not even taught about it?

For most adults today, India’s existence started only after independence when it became a nation state. Its civilisational foundation is often lost, because we are taught that we were a disparate bunch of people who were civilised by invaders and then taught how to be a country by the British and politicians like Jawaharlal Nehru. The lack of self confidence is so deep-seated, that one forgets thousands of years of history, that shaped a people, much before the invaders or the Britishers brutally crushed our pride, perhaps, forever.

Further, at some point in your life, we have perhaps all laughed at someone, a friend perhaps, for not being able to speak in English properly. One can only feel saddened by the prevalent stigma in our society regarding one’s knowledge of a language! Contrast this with the Japanese or the Chinese society, but that is a different debate altogether. The Colonial hangover is rather strong, and along with our deracinated view of our own history, the pride we should have felt is buried permanently.

The idea of this article is not to say that:

  1. One needs to avoid English: Please do not do that! It is an important medium that has helped Indians reach the global stage. A common global medium of communication is not such a bad idea after all.
  2. Become pompous about our history and traditions: There is a difference between taking pride in one’s culture and acting pompous about it.

With the hope of invoking some scholarly interest in you, let me leave you with a few thoughts:

  1. Did you know that the “nose job” procedure (Rhinoplasty) which a lot of celebrities undergo, was performed in India before the rest of the world even knew about it? (Read about Sushrut)
  2. The British patent regarding Zinc extraction was heavily plagiarized from the technology employed in the Zinc mines of Rajasthan? That it was approved on a second submission is another story. Zinc was exported to Europe centuries before the people of those lands even knew how to extract it.

Why did I talk about a handful of examples above? To demonstrate the importance of knowledge (of the lack of it thereof). So, this is the conclusion I want to leave you with:

“Lack of knowledge often leads to insecurity and an inferiority complex. And, in the context of this article, that ultimately leads to a lack of pride regarding one’s own culture.”

So, go read about your own history and wear it like a badge of honour!

(The author of this article wants to stay anonymous due to the potential social media backlash that individuals face due to their views that don’t align with the Left’s worldview).