Indian Decade

Language, Made Easy

Language is a thorny issue in India. But sometimes a common tongue is just easier.

A few months back I wrote a piece for The Diplomat trying to understand what language means to India. The article met with several vociferous protests and some of our readers felt I was advocating for Hindi over other Indian languages.

To be honest, I hadn't anticipated the strong emotions the article evoked, and the fact that it did was proof enough that language continues to be a powerful issue in our county. But, during my holiday in Karnataka last week, I was struck by how many people could converse in Hindi. Kannada is the lingua franca of the region, but even in small towns we encountered while driving through, it was easy enough to be understood, or to find somebody who could manage a decent smattering of Hindi as well as English.

Bangalore, owing to its flourishing IT industry, is an extremely cosmopolitan town and is the city of choice for many young engineers and technologists from across the country. But, the smaller towns haven't experienced this influx so the not-so-difficult comprehension of Hindi is more of a revelation here.

I'd just like to add that I was happy with this observation not because I think Hindi is the natural link language for the country, but because yes, as a selfish tourist who wants to make the most out of her holiday, it was convenient to speak a common tongue.