“Ye Angrezi gaali apne paas hi rakhna.hindi mei ek gaali suna di to saara khandan kabar se bahar aa jayega.”
Most of us have witnessed this dialogue doing rounds on various Instagram reels. This Rani Mukherjee dialogue, though unpleasant, points to a very startling reality. If you take a close look at various Bollywood movies and daily soaps over the years, you will realize that maximum antagonistic females are cigarette smoking, alcohol consuming, fluent English speakers.
While this caricaturish portrayal has succeeded in entertaining the masses over the years, it also encompasses within itself the prevailing notion, that the English-speaking masses are elite and pseudo-liberal. The opinions and assertions of non-native English speakers are often considered far-fetched and alien.
Take for instance veteran Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. No Indian is unaware of the memes which surround Mr. Tharoor, most of them centering on his fluency and prowess. There are people in my family who claim that their mind turns foggy whenever Mr. Tharoor speaks and that his opinions and ideas are if I put it here verbatim, unfathomable.
THE ANATOMY OF BIAS
In the words of Chetan Bhagat, “In the discussion of Indian politics on social media, two distinct camps make the most noise. One of them is the right-wing camp. These people call themselves nationalists.
As a derogatory term, this camp is also referred to as bhakts, chhadiwallas, and in reference to their love for Hinduism.
The people who give them these labels belong to the other camp. They have quite an elegant term to describe themselves- liberals. That sounds like a bunch of intellectuals sipping tea and gently persuading each other with deeply intellectual arguments.”
This quirky picture is enough to summarise the prevailing notion in our country. The reason behind the ‘othering’ of the English-speaking demographic is extremely important to understand.
When McDonald’s was Burger King
For some time, change your perspective. Remove your Gen Z glasses and gaze at India, pre, and post-globalization. I am sure that you must not remember the time when Coke and a McDonald’s burger was a privilege.
It was at that time that the English speakers were few and were considered highly intellectual. They were looked at with reverence and awe. Thus these ‘liberals’ grew up with privileges, in terms of education and class. The awe they received succeeded in swelling their heads and they began to look down upon the vernacular speaking demographic.
The northern states of India particularly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar became the butt of jokes and Hindi, Bhojpuri, Gujrati became the language of the lower class, one who struggled with creativity and complexity of thought and action. These ‘intellectuals’ also obtained an iota of advantage while securing jobs, for they were fluent in a language that made them fit in and jell well with the people who mattered.
REBRAND, REDESIGN, AND RECULTIVATE!
The weaning of The Stockholm Syndrome did not take long. As India made economic progress, companies sought talent and merit, one that did not center an individual’s fluency in speaking English.
People began earning big bucks without being as ‘culturally superior’ as their English-speaking counterparts. This sudden revolution made the ‘intellectuals’ insecure. It was essential to redesign to survive. They ganged up to rebrand themselves as liberals. The liberals were secular, tolerant, and inclusive.
There is a reason why these liberals are called derogatorily as pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-liberal, and pseudo-secular. Their agenda is not to be liberal but to look down on classes that are not so globally cultivated.
Political activist Yogendra Yadav recently attacked the English elite. He wrote, “secularism was defeated because its custodians…disavowed our languages.” While this is true to a certain extent, we are giving the language more credit than it deserves. The English-speaking demographic does receive awe and adulation, but it is limited to only metropolitan cities.
As we enter the hinterland, who forms the backbone of our country, Hindi and other vernaculars take the centre stage. The English-speaking demographic thus becomes a minority.
Why are we ignoring the elephant in the room though?
The real reason behind the divide and apparent bias towards liberals and pseudo-intellectuals is the politicizing of languages. Hindi is the language for nationalists and English is the language for the elite, ones who don’t fit the mould. We have transcended from a multilingual society to one driven by the political interests of few which serve the egos of many.
It is high time to realize the original purpose of languages which is to connect and create. Let us adhere to that, shall we?
About the Author: Aindri Singh is a first-year student at Manipal Institute of Communication, MAHE.