Friday, March 5, 2010

Welcome to the MBA

The recent headline "MNS to start Marathi Academy" will have drawn a few gasps of surprise. This political party, more widely known for its antipathy to non-Maharashtrians than for any great fondness for Marathi culture, has in the words of this press report "decided to set up a Marathi Bhasha Academy in Pune to promote the use of Marathi language and culture. Among other things, the academy will translate English literature into Marathi and Marathi writings into English." You should read the full report , but I'll quote a noteworthy comment from a party member who "wants Marathi to be a language of information like English. The party wants books on engineering, medical, architecture to be published in Marathi and encourage students to use them."

There will be cynics who will read bad intentions into this, but my take is positive. After all, the stated goals are entirely laudable. I think I'm not the only one who cringes when the software I'm installing offers me a choice of languages like Catalan, Hebrew or Norwegian (whose speakers taken together would barely fill Mumbai) but no Indian languages. So if Marathi actually becomes a language of information and is used routinely in computers, mobiles etc by Marathi speakers, it will set a welcome trend not just for the state but for all of India.

Admittedly, achieving such a status is a tall order. As an example, I assume a lot of Andhra-ites (prominent in the international software community) have been trying to make Telugu an information language but the impact of this has not yet been too visible. Still someone has to try, and we should hope they succeed.

The above development is also welcome for a political reason. What the various Senas have been doing since their inception is to cleverly tap into veins of negativity within segments of the Maharashtrian community. Talking to their sympathisers over the years I've detected a combination of frustration together with a sense of inferiority that easily converts into blind and typically self-defeating anger. But at the rate at which India is changing, I expect the inferiority is fading away and more confident generations are starting to emerge -- how could it be otherwise when our youth hear that we will be a leading economy in a mere twenty years?

I wonder whether the Maharashtrian echo of this growing national confidence is a growing distaste for the tokenism and petty violence that's made the Senas famous, and a desire to see some meaningful action on the ground. If there is such a trend then the Senas will be obliged to react and, having sacked their hired goons, recruit a new breed of young and motivated academics to set up organisations like the MBA and otherwise propagate the local language and culture (and, I very much hope, music).

Yes I realise the above is a utopian view. It's hard to believe the tigers will stop roaring and sit in front of their keyboards and terminals from now on. But even if there's a tiny trend, and the above news article suggests there is, it's very welcome indeed.

Tailpiece: Another political party, the NCP, which used to spend its time getting "objectionable" books banned and asking Interpol to arrest authors (see this article) has recently organised a cycle race to spread awareness about climate change (see this article).


Neelima said...

All positivity everywhere is truly welcome (to all).

Sunil Mukhi said...

Neelima: You're quite right, what I posted does look a bit ridiculous on reflection. The following alternative theory is far more plausible: the MBA etc could be "fronts" to provide much-needed respectability to the party concerned, while their "normal business" goes on in the background...

Any inadvertent spread of positivity in my previous post is regretted!

sacredfig said...

On a related note, Marathi cinema seems to be undergoing a renaissance of sorts too:

Rahul Basu said...

Sunil, I didn't think your post was naive. To those who want to spread Marathi, with whatever intentions, I would recommend some reverse engineering first; i.e. make sure that all Maharashtrians can speak, read and write their mother tongue properly. I admit this observation is based on the demographics and current trends of urban western Maharashtra (Western Ghats!), and probably doesn't apply elsewhere. Still, it's more logical than going after UP-ites who want to drive taxis.

Neelima said...

Oops that was me, not Rahul. Just put it in my name.