Anybody remembers those columns which would appear in sunday supplements or magazines? A celebrity would be interviews and random questions about his or her personal choices would be asked. Say the favourite movies, movie stars, books, music on their ipod, favourite shopping destinations, most favourite cuisine and so on. I just encountered a similar list in one of the supplements I was reading. And it just freaked me out. Well, not just that particular list, but it was probably deep down somewhere which just came up with this and a discussion I had a couple of days ago.
One of my old acquaintance was discussing the 'books to have' with me. We discussed and just listed some 25 odd names, which we thought should be at every readers house. After we finished with the english list, I asked her what regional language books would she buy and keep at home. She gave me a very quizzical look, asking for what I meant. I said, "there are some classics and original masterpieces in Marathi, which I feel everybody should have. Similarly, you will also have such pieces in Bengali. what are they?" On hearing this, she made a face and cooly replied saying she does not know nor care what is written in those books, and since when did they become worth it to be bought.She added that since she is educated in a convent school, there was no question of reading regional and how does it help in today's world even if you are an avid reader of regional literature. As long as you read english, it is sufficient.
The statement angered me. Not because I was educated in a Marathi medium school, but because of
1. the attitude that reading only English is sufficient to be called as a reader.
2. statements like "regional language literature is not worth it to be bought"
3. the sheer rootlessness this girl displayed.
After that, I came across this list of celebrity choices of books, music and destinations. And I noticed that 99% of Indian celebrities gave non-native music, books, movies, food and travel destinations as their favourite. OK, nobody is asking you to restrict yourself to only liking Indian ( I am an advocate of developing a global taste, and I am NOT a right wing old fanatic), but couldn't there be a single item on their list which is Indian? Looking at the list, it feels as if there was nothing ever in India that was worth listening to/watching/ eating/drinking/reading or visiting.
What is with people? If you like something Indian, are you supposed to be bad or worthless or not 'up there' or less socially mobile or less of a human or something? Or is this a market force that is driving us to like non-native produce? Or is this one simple wanna-be tendency? That idiotic fad that says you are forward-thinking and cultured and uber-polished if you like only non-native things?
I do not take this. I challenge the thought. I feel that not reading a piece in your mother tongue is being worthless and utterly crap, moreover dis-rooted. I strongly believe that the more rooted you are in one culture, better do you understand the other culture. Only if you know the fine nuances of any one language, have that mental ability to appreciate a language, you can appreciate another language equally well. Just because I read Marathi books as well or like Bollywood music, I do not become low-standard. And just because my dear non-regional friends are non-regional, they do not become cool.
Well, getting acquainted and pro with English is really commendable, rather required, it is the ultimately the language of the world. Of course you need to read, write, speak that. But taht does not mean reading Marathi or any other language is of no use. My dear friend thought that reading any language is only to progress in life. only to earn big bucks and manage an impression. She did not know that being exposed to regional or native literature/music/history/folklore opens the door to that culture. Opens the door to understanding those people, get glimpses of 'being them'.
I take great pride in saying that I know 6 languages, can read and write 5 of them, have been exposed to literature/art/history in them, and understand at least 3 cultures in some depth. My knowledge, sense and sensibilities have developed and matured quite a bit because of that.
And then I might still be damned for reading or liking regional, who cares? :D