Wednesday February 21, 2018

Deven S Khatri: Meet the man who is on a quest to revive Sanskrit readership in India

3
//
172
Republish
Reprint

By Nithin SridharSajal Sandesh Sushma Swaraj

While Sanskrit is considered a ‘dead language’, a group of people in Delhi have taken it upon themselves to revive and restore Sanskrit to its ancient glory. After successfully running Sajal Sandesh– one of the few weeklies published in Sanskrit, they are gearing up to start a multi-page daily newspaper in Sanskrit.

In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, Deven S Khatri, co-editor and one of the founding members of Sajal Sandesh, shared his experiences in running Sajal Sandesh.

Excerpts:

Nithin Sridhar: Sajal Sandesh is one of the few weeklies published in Sanskrit in India. Can you tell us more about it? When was it started? Who are the people behind it?

Deven S Khatri: Sajal Sandesh was started on Vaishaka Sukla Akshaya Tritiya, i.e. on 13th May 2013 by a group of Sanskrit enthusiasts with an intention to spread the language worldwide. Many people from very diverse backgrounds have contributed to this initiative. Apart from myself, we have Pandit Rakesh Kumar Mishra, our editor who has done MA-Sanskrit from Delhi University, and Mr. Manishi Kumar Sinha who is a Senior Advocate in the Delhi High Court. We also have a group of volunteers who are working in various states.

NS: How are the weekly’s finances managed? Any support from the government?

DK: It is largely funded by individual donations. I and other founding members also invest our funds in the weekly. We have received no government assistance till now. Though we have been awarded DAVP (Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity) status from the government, we are yet to receive any paid advertisements from them.

NS: What was the inspiration behind this initiative? Any incident or situation that resulted in this initiative being started?

DK: Two years ago, when Kendriya Vidyalaya decided to drop Sanskrit as an optional subject, I and other members of Sanskrit Lovers Group decided to start our own initiative to promote Sanskrit.

During the same period, when we visited the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) campus in Varanasi, we noticed that many foreign students were speaking fluently in Sanskrit. They were even chanting various Vedic Suktas (Vedic Hymns). After witnessing this, we decided to start the weekly so that Sanskrit could be popularized among Indians as a common man’s language.

NS: How was the experience of running a Sanskrit weekly in India? What challenges did you face?

DK: Well, the experience has been amazing, but we did face many challenges in the beginning. Initially, we found it hard to acquire the news and get it translated into Sanskrit. We also faced some issues while printing the news in Sanskrit, as certain letters are absent in Hindi fonts. But the biggest challenge was in tackling the apathy shown towards the idea of  Sanskrit weekly by certain government bodies, organizations, and people who were otherwise advocates of Sanskrit. One by one we have successfully overcome these challenges.

NS: How much circulation do you have on average? Who is the targeted audience?

DK: At present we publish around 25,000 copies every week. We regularly keep getting emails, phone calls, and references for new subscriptions. Though we intend to take the weekly to every home, as of now our main target groups are universities, various government bodies, Sanskrit organizations, temples and gurukulams (traditional Sanskrit schools). We also have a small number of individual subscribers.

NS: What is the response from the readers?

DK: We have had a tremendous response from the people. Common people have welcomed this initiative. I have witnessed many people treating the weekly as a holy book. The response from the students in the universities has been very encouraging as well.

Many people realize the importance of Sanskrit and treat it as a mother to Indian culture and humanity. They have subscribed to our newspaper with this sentiment and respect, though they are not able to read Sanskrit.

Sajal Sandesh Maheish Girri

NS: Can you tell us about the name Sajal Sandesh? Any special reason for choosing that name?

DK: Sajal Sandesh means “pure message”. Along with the news, we want to impart pure values, hence the name Sajal Sandesh.

NS: After launching a successful Sanskrit weekly, now you are about to launch a multi-page daily. So what comes after this? Any long term vision?

DK: Well, our intention is to spread Sanskrit and make it a common man’s language in India. So, we do have plans to upgrade and expand our current operations over next few years, and we also plan to explore other initiatives that can be taken up to spread Sanskrit.

NS: When was the idea to start multi-page daily conceived? When will the daily be launched? Have you finalized its name?

DK: Well, the desire to start a Sanskrit daily was present from the beginning itself. But, back then, we were not sure whether we would be able to manage it or not. But, now, with two years of experience in running a weekly, we are confident enough to take up this challenge. We have submitted our application to the RNI (Registrar of Newspapers for India) and hopefully we will be able to start the daily in the month of October, during the Navaraatri festival. We have thought of a few names, but it is for the RNI to finalize the name.

NS: Today, Sanskrit is largely perceived as a dead language. What is the role of Sanskrit in modern life? Do you see Sanskrit reviving and re-emerging in the coming future?

DK: I completely disagree with the tag “dead language” that is attached to Sanskrit. Although Sanskrit has been downgraded in India, in many countries like Germany, China, and USA, it is being taught at various universities. Even in India, it is still alive, though its presence is limited.

Sanskrit denotes the richest culture of India and has solutions to many modern day problems. It is a very ancient language, it is a Deva-Bhasha (language of the Gods), and it is like a mother who can impart knowledge about various aspects of life.

It is rich in its philosophy and spirituality, and can contribute to various areas of modern society like economics, medicine, etc. Today’s society lacks basic human values like love, faith, kindness, respect, and honesty. And Sanskrit can deliver these values and enrich the society.

Therefore, we have accepted the challenge to revive and rejuvenate Sanskrit, so that it becomes a language of the common man, and we can restore India to its place of Vishwa-Guru (world-teacher).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 NewsGram

  • Chandra Shaker

    Sajal Sandesh’s Great Work in revitalizing samskritam. Let us together strive to have samskritam conversation in daily lives. Because the understanding of bhaarat’s greatness is by speaking samskritam, and unity in bhaarat is also foreseen by speaking samskritam. Going to foreign countries we know it is all empty even though riches and wealth is abundant. ‘saare jahaan se acchaa bhaarat’, is all because of our samskruti. Let us revitalize our samskruti, let us unite, let us speak samskritam. Let us bring bhaarat’s past glory. If we get attracted to shining something foreign while forgetting revitalizing bhaarat’s greatness, we might fail together, because many foreign countries rely on bhaarat’s direction e.g., yoga & other shaastras, bhaarat has. Bhaarat’s shaastras are still very modern, state of the art. Please keep up good work by all who are uplifting samskritam. Thanks & Regards, Chandra Shaker, Columbus, Ohio, USA

  • arun@houston

    Abhinandan and shubhechha for bold and noble initiative……arun kankani, Houston, TX, USA

  • Andrea Marcialis

    We need more sanskrit!
    Andrea, Venice, Italy

  • Chandra Shaker

    Sajal Sandesh’s Great Work in revitalizing samskritam. Let us together strive to have samskritam conversation in daily lives. Because the understanding of bhaarat’s greatness is by speaking samskritam, and unity in bhaarat is also foreseen by speaking samskritam. Going to foreign countries we know it is all empty even though riches and wealth is abundant. ‘saare jahaan se acchaa bhaarat’, is all because of our samskruti. Let us revitalize our samskruti, let us unite, let us speak samskritam. Let us bring bhaarat’s past glory. If we get attracted to shining something foreign while forgetting revitalizing bhaarat’s greatness, we might fail together, because many foreign countries rely on bhaarat’s direction e.g., yoga & other shaastras, bhaarat has. Bhaarat’s shaastras are still very modern, state of the art. Please keep up good work by all who are uplifting samskritam. Thanks & Regards, Chandra Shaker, Columbus, Ohio, USA

  • arun@houston

    Abhinandan and shubhechha for bold and noble initiative……arun kankani, Houston, TX, USA

  • Andrea Marcialis

    We need more sanskrit!
    Andrea, Venice, Italy

Next Story

How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

0
//
14
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

Also Read: Social Media in India: Understanding The Dynamics of ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’

Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

Also Read: Quoting WhatsApp message renders ‘delete’ feature ineffective

First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

Also Read: Facebook to ‘Signal’ news gathering for journos

An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)