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Hindi Nationalism

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This piece on Hindu nationalism, written by Alok Rai, deals with the coming of modern Hindi in the late 90s and the early 20s. Alok Rai who is also known as a critical thinker, theorist and also the grandson of Premchand makes his readers aware of the process of modernization in the case of language. In this essay we get to witness a connection between Hindi (old Hindi) and “Hindi” (new Hindi). Making of Hindi as a modern language connects to the programme of the imagining the nation largely in a broad manner. Today when we speak of Hindi, we talk about larger conflicts and controversies based on language. For instance the language conflict between Tamil and Hindi. There is a problem with this assumption, because Hindi here is viewed as one language and due to this the inner conflict of Hindi is forgotten. If seemed as if Hindi had no internal problems. Controversies based on Braj Bhasha and Khari Boli were not taken into account, but in this piece we identify two languages, which is known as Khari Boli Hindi and Braj Bhasha in terms of legitimacy and sexuality, which deals to the question of purity.

Khari Boli was called rustic and stiff, and it was contrasted with Braj Bhasha, which is associated with mellifluousness and soft fluency. Braj Bhasha was said to be an old woman. Hindi was described as the loyal eldest daughter of divinely perfect Sanskrit. It was also “the good faithful but unglamorous first wife”, whereas Urdu, the mincing courtesan, was given the status of a second wife. Bharatendu, the father of Khari Boli called Urdu the language of dancing girls and prostitutes. Urdu gradually became the language of male excess, while Hindi was used by Hindu women. In the case of Hindi, there was a genuine demand and there was a radical element in the demand to make Hindi a modern language. There was an ambition amongst the people, which was to become modern. Once Bharatendu Harishchandra addressed a hypothetical or virtual community, still to emerge middle class which would prepare the ground for modernity. We basically think of raising a class in terms of language. He addressed those Hindi communities who always excluded the Muslims as aliens including the Muslim elites and zamindars.

According to Bharatendu, we can work for modernity from the indigenous perspective. Whereas, on the other hand, we talk of INC’s model of transformation, where Nehru always thought that only those people who are educated in the west can bring modernity in India. Bharatendu represents radical impulse, which was real alike radical chocking. He addressed the question regarding the development of Indian nation to everyone. In relation with the concept of modernity, it was said that the politics of the “Hindi” demand was related to Hindi commercial classes, which controlled the sabhas and sammelans. On their part it was only the financial support which was given to these sabhas, rather they started dictating the agenda regarding the themes. The themes and demands of the Hindi commercial classes, they wanted the themes to be in their favour and they also had a desire to fulfill all their demands by wearing the mask of the financial supporters for these sabhas and sammelans. This essay also helps us to understand the relationship between the Nationalism and Hindi, it was not by chance or luck that the initiative to create a new language as modern Hindi, occurred more or less at the same time when the nationalist movements were emerging. In 1880s, the nationalist movement had its first origin.

Hindi was forced as a common language, whereas Braj Bhasha was seemed to lack strength. Urdu was given the legitimacy of a dancing girl. So, this is how, we can say that there is a strong connection between the Indian Nationalism and a demand to make a modern Hindi. Sumitranandan Pant, in his collection of verse Pallava, talked about Braj Bhasha was capable of expressing the masculine terms. As Braj Bhasha was rendered the status of an old woman, then it was also discovered that Braj Bhasha can only stammer fearfully, it was fit for Krishna’s flute but not for the conch of war, as the nation was awake and eager to fight the battle of modernizing Hindi. The novelty of the new age demands that the soft and delicate language such as Braj Bhasha should be left out, we cannot remain with the feminine language because the new age demands new language and the new language came in the form of modern “Hindi”. The Awadh elites who were the bearers of “Hindi” were practically forced to invent the style, a culture, a new form of consciousness. The whole national consciousness was at stake as it was a matter of adopting a whole new consciousness.

Through this piece, we get to discover that in the language matters, when there is a loss, there will also be a gain. For instance, the Khari Boli Hindi poetry was realized as a powerful invention which was slowly taken over by Urdu. But after this entire complex thing, we get to experience some gain, which came in the form of modern “Hindi” that brought a new social order and awareness. “Hindi” came from Hindi, a narrative intimate stabilization and dispossession. We cannot judge that how we possess a language because it is a very intimate possession. Language is moreover, a private thing, people generally do not speak pure Hindi in today’s time. Today Hindi has become a middle language, which is the result of the exchange of culture and language by the people while living in the society. In order to show ourselves different, we need to portray the others as aliens. For instance, the Hindi elites showed themselves as different, they identified the Awadh elites with Urdu and the people from Urdu side identified Hindi with “Hindi”. “Hindi” distanced itself from the common languages and it produced a language, which was drained of local colour and fragrance, deprived of emotional warmth and resonance. Because of the emergence of “Hindi”, the uses of Hindi became timid.

So we can say that “Hindi” is known as the universal timidity, the sterility of thoughts and expressions and also the decline of eloquence. After reading this essay, I got a clear view of how or in which way the modern Hindi took its trajectories and judges other languages. The reader gets to know about the modern conflicts in the making of modern “Hindi”. There were three conflicts. Firstly, there were conflicts with Braj Bhasha, it was regarded as mellifluous and a soft language. Secondly, the process of distancing itself from other alien languages, particularly Urdu. Hindi was described as the legitimate first wife, whereas Urdu became the language of dancing girls and mincing courtesan. Lastly, Hindi originally was a language spoken in the domestic spaces mostly by women. On the other hand, Urdu was the language of public discourse which was controlled by the males. After looking at all these conflicts, the reader gets to know that a language not only have major conflicts but it also has some inner kind of conflicts. Usually, people are ignorant of such kinds of internal conflicts. The most interesting conflicts took place between the two, Braj Bhasha, heavy with tradition, it was considered unsuitable for becoming a vehicle of identity politics for the emergent middle class.

Whereas in Khari Boli “Hindi” the class and vehicle had found perfect complimentarily. The author tells us that the speakers were robbed from the language they used to speak; such was the effect of “Hindi”. It has been discovered that the large number of students who fail in Hindi are from the Hindi belt only, because “Hindi” has robbed them of their mother tongue. I have experienced it myself, I belong to the Hindi belt and even after belonging to Hindi belt, I face difficulties in reading and writing my mother tongue which is Hindi. Even the tribal showed some kind of interest in learning an alien “Hindi”, because for them knowing “Hindi” is correlated with power. Hence, we can say that “Hindi” for some proved to be a privilege while for some, it lead to timidity, it robbed them from their mother tongue. The coming modern “Hindi” was seen as an important development in the late 90s and early 20s.

Submitted by: Ankita Singh M.A. English Semester III

The English and Foreign Languages University Lucknow Campus

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