Thursday January 17, 2019

Macaulay’s harrowing effect on Indian media


New Delhi: While mystery and controversy still shrouding the infamous ‘Minute on Indian Education’ speech by Thomas Babington Macaulay, cultural invasion and undermining of Indian plethoric culture and heritage has continued unbridled.

However, Macaulay did play a pivotal role in corroding the very base of Indian culture.

Alike most other Europeans, he considered the Indians to be ignorant and devoid of formalities. Attributing the atrocious condition of the Indians to heathen religion and despotic rulers, he felt the urge to substitute the Indian culture with the western one.

His very aim was to embed the English language into the very fabric of the centuries-old Indian education system and destroy it completely.

In a bid to keep Indians away from cultivating their own culture, Macaulay, in 1835, advocated that Indians should proliferate western education system in British India.  The result was a ghastly blow to Indian researches in various field including science and language. He very well knew that there were countless dialects in India and it would be a near impossible task to administer them.

His motive behind introducing English was to bring all strata under an umbrella of one common language to facilitate administration.

His vicious effort alienated us from our very own indigenous culture, science, technology & even history. The outcome was a deadly one, Indians were uprooted from their cultural base but failed to adapt to the foreign culture. They were left languishing in between aping something that had destroyed the basic identity.

Macaulay landed in India at a tumultuous time with various Indian groups revolting against the atrocious of the foreigners. Macaulay very well knew that the rich cultural base of the Indian society needed to be corroded and a complete revamp was needed to control the country.

With Governor-General of India, William Bentinck giving a nod to the policies of Macaulay, Indian language and culture were sent to rot.

Not much has changed since then. Our overall lifestyle has been anglicized.

However, we have not become the gentleman but have lost the Indianess.

Ripples of the Macaulay effect was also felt in the globalization of Media in India. Despite an exponential growth in the Indian media industry, it failed to showcase its cultural history. With the private channels eclipsing Doordarshan, the agenda to educate, inform and create a feeling of national unity took a backseat.

The rapid growth of Indian economy with its middle-class aspiring for a western lifestyle was alluring for foreign players to explore the market. US-based transnational media organization was aware that India was graduating into one of the biggest English-language media software markets.  So, it was obvious for them to make inroads into the media which was once considered to be a tool for educating the masses.

A paradigm change took place in the media industry. Doordarshan began facing stiff competition from foreign players and it had to shift from disseminating educative programs to commercial contents.

With more and more foreign media players intruding into the Indian media industry, television channels started using metropolitan languages for broadcasting. Foreign program formats like reality shows caught the fantasy of the Indian audience.  The Indianized version of the shows had non-Indian languages, codes, and conventions. Mahabharata, Ramayana, Malgudi days lost the charm and was replaced by programs which used street-smart language.

Macaulay’s dream was fulfilled by channels like MTV and Channel V who wiped away Indian languages and introduced the usage of ‘Hinglish’ (a mixture of Hindi and English). The effect was the creation of a generation who started thriving on a fake and borrowed culture.

There were obvious reasons for the media tycoons to choose a foreign language for broadcasting. They wanted to spread their content across the whole of India and making programs in several languages was expensive. and for that they bombarded the use of a pro-English dialect that was neither completely British not completely Indian.

Commercialisation became so rampant that marketing policies began controlling news content. English channels created a notion that they are authentic and erudite. Their popularity rose to such heights that people began keeping English news channels switched on for all the time.

Discovery channel also thrived on Macaulay’s principles. They spread the propaganda that they aired educative content. However, their content initially focussed only on global topics and very less on Indian perspective. It became a runaway success as Indian proudly claimed that they watch nothing but the Discovery channel.

It is indeed regrettable that no government took any initiative to create content that would highlight Indian culture justifying the fact that Macaulay was right that for the development of an “illiterate nation” English has to be propagated.

The plague of western culture has crippled me to such an extent that I am compelled to use a foreign language to try and find out how Macaulay implanted the seeds of a foreign culture that have flooded the media which has become a part of our livelihood.

Next Story

English Words: How Words from Different Languages Find Their Way into English Dictionaries

English words, English language, entries English dictionaries
English Words: How Words from Different Languages Find Their Way into English Dictionaries, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Every year there are new English words that get incorporated in English language from other languages. When something fantastic catches your attention, what would you exclaim—jhakaas, bombat or semma? Is a cunning guy chaalu, chatri or shaana? Would you call your friend yaar, macha or bondhu?

The world of words is the most extraordinary of things as it gives expression to everything under the sun. Every single word that we use daily stands, often without our realisation, for something unique, something that the given word is used to give expression to.

But while most words are common in speech, there are several that have rarely been written down.

For 54-year-old lexicographer Peter Gilliver, words like “spuggy” and “netty” were perfectly ordinary as he had been familiar with them since his childhood, but he was surprised that neither of them had made their way into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

“I can recall some words which my grandmother used, like ‘spuggy’ meaning a sparrow, or ‘netty’ meaning a toilet, which were very familiar to me, but which are little used outside the northeast of England, where grandma lived,” Gilliver, the OED Associate Editor, told IANS in an email interview.

He said he brought these words with him as “just about everyone, who comes to work for the OED, brings some regional dialect words, which they learned when they were young, and which are not familiar to people from other regions”.

There are now entries in the dictionary for both words, which exhibits that their history can be traced back over 100 years, actually 200 years in the case of “netty”.

“I think there must be similar words in every region of the English-speaking world, which are very familiar to people living there but little known outside the region; we are glad to learn about such words, so that we can research them and consider adding them to the OED,” Gilliver said.

Closer home in India, almost everyone can certainly recall a moment when a word in their native language—the language they’ve known and used for years at home—baffles people from other parts of our own country.

Again, most such words are common in speech but some are rarely written down and so they can easily escape the attention of dictionary editors.

There are also many English words, commonly used in India, that haven’t found space in English dictionaries.

English words, new entries in English dictionaries
English Words: How Words from Different Languages Find Their Way into English Dictionaries, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Angus Stevenson, OED’s Head of Content Development, said that their dictionaries of current English, in particular the online text, contains many hundreds of examples of Indian English as well, and many that derive from Hindi and other Indian languages.

“We are particularly interested in words such as ‘air-dash’, ‘batchmate’, and ‘calling bell’, which are genuine examples of an Indian variety of English, and would very much like to expand our coverage,” Stevenson said.

Yo may also like to read: If you look carefully at English you will see Sanskrit hidden everywhere: Jeffrey Armstrong

“We are planning projects to gather and define words from Indian and other under-represented areas of English—for example, we cover South African English but have not yet attempted to describe the English used in other parts of the African continent,” he added.

The first English dictionary goes back to at least the 16th century and the era of the Renaissance, which was a time, somewhat like our own, in which there was a huge amount of rapid change, and many new influences on the English language.

“The first Oxford dictionary of English was the OED, first published between 1884 and 1928.”

The OED claims to draw on expertise from all around the world. Their lexicographers are not confined to the UK, according to Judy Pearsall, Dictionaries Director at OED.

“The OED focuses on usage wherever in the world English is spoken and used. We have a large team of editors in the UK, but we also have consultants and colleagues from a much wider field and we rely on the whole team to ensure that our outlook is global and outward-facing, just like the English language itself,” she said.

With the rise of social media networking, usage of acronyms and abbreviations are also on the rise. What is still the need to have dictionary words?

“For us at Oxford Dictionaries, words are ‘dictionary words’, as long as they are used, and that includes abbreviations and acronyms,” said Pearsall.

Also readThe Indian influence on English Language

“The OED looks to include terms that originated on social media, such as LOL, just as much as any other words.

“We regard all of them as part of the language, and recognize that people use and need both,” she maintained. (IANS)