U. Mahesh Prabhu

Investor | Author | Media, Management & Political Consultant

Kannada is under siege by whom?

In less than a month’s time I have attended two Kannada Sammelans (read conference). One organized by Alvas Education Foundation, entitled Nudisiri, in Moodubidri and Kannada Sahitya Sammelan – organized in association with the state government in, my home town, Udupi. The difference I found in both of them was phenomenal. While Alvas did a remarkable job of setting standards for such conferences, the Sammelan in Udupi was an awful experience owing to the political organizers and publicity mongers.

People were acting in varieties at the Kannada Sahitya Sammelan to find a space for themselves in the media. I am sure everyone was aware that this event was to get a tremendous publicity given the fact that there wasn’t much happening in the political podium in Bangalore with the assembly standing dissolved and election being too far. The news channels that have recently popped from nowhere were simply finding hard to put their hands on anything sensational for airing. Thanks to this Sammelan, especially the one organized in Udupi, they were at least managing to get some worthy, or unworthy, news to feed their desperate bosses in Bangalore, if not their viewers.

Listening to the speakers at both the conference was a completely boring as well as awful experience at the same time. There weren’t many points for the speakers to talk. Almost everyone spoke of one or both of the following two topics: Onslaught of English Education and Petty Political mudslinging.The blame game was on as to who did what for Kannada.

‘English education will kill Kannada’ was the standard theme of almost all the speech. The idea for promoting the language, propounded by various speakers at both the conferences, were many including: Promote parents to send in their children to Kannada medium schools, make Kannada mandatory in all state administrative offices and to elect representatives who are committed to Kannada values.

It was a very different case to note that: People who were asking others to send their children to Kannada medium schools have had, or are having, their children educated in English medium. Those who were asking Accha (pure) Kannada mandatory at all the Kannada administrative offices had completely forgotten the fact that ‘Save’ happens to be an English and not Kannada word, while they were saying, repeatedly, ‘Kannada vannu save maadi.’ Now coming to the idea of the people talking about electing those representatives who are committed to Kannada values need I say that they didn’t knew any language other than Kannada? So much for their petty mindedness and double standards, as a result of which the Sammelan had completely lost track of its objective of displaying the might of Kannada language.

No, I am not a Kannada basher or hater. My mother tongue is as much Kannada as it is Konkani and though I had my initially schooling in Maharashtra I can fairly speak and write in Kannada. My emotional strength, even today, owes to Bhajans of Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa. I listen to as much Kannada songs as with Hindi or English compositions.

Kannada needs resurrection and I do sincerely feel that it is under siege. But the siege, I believe, is not because of the English or Hindi onslaught, as, so called, Kannada Premis (read lovers of Kannada) think.

You can’t bring in Kannada resurgence by fighting against languages of this, or foreign, land. You can’t even create love; forget respect, by spreading hatred against the people settling in our state; simply because they weren’t born here. I don’t agree with such people when they say that Kannada is in grave danger in Bangalore with diminishing of Kannada population percentage in the wake of flow of people from other parts of the country.

I am completely taken aback as to how do they think that Kannada is going to loose grounds when people come and settle in this place from other part of the world? Shouldn’t it be a matter of respect that people are coming to this place leaving their natives? Aren’t these people on being a part of the land not going to learn Kannada? Aren’t we hailing the spirits of our language by offering them a warm welcome?

I was saddened when a, so called, Kannada Premi, voiced concern at hosting of National Flag and singing of National Anthem at Kannada Sahitya Sammelan in Udupi. It was more painful to find all the people, out there, standing mute spectators to his protest. This act was, as per law, no less than a treachery. Why wasn’t he arrested then and there? Are we even forgetting that fact that disrespect for our Nation is also disrespect for Kannada? Why?

The issue that faces us today is that ‘Kannada is fast losing grounds’. Yes, it is true not just with Kannada but also among other Indian languages. This is owing to the onslaught of Globalization where better job opportunities are available only for candidates who can speak and write in English, fluently. It is also true that we aren’t going to achieve anything in life just by knowing Kannada. It is so difficult. Hence making Kannada a mainstream language is a very difficult task, one that is close to impossible. But it is certainly not difficult to save the language and its literature along with its indispensable culture.

Consider for example the language of Jews – Hebrew. When Jews were completely driven out of their home land in Jerusalem they were all scattered across the world and the language had almost met its own death. But after the World War II when they got their land back, partially, from the British through Balfour Declaration they resurrected the language and even made it functional today. Today in Israel there are two official languages: Hebrew and Arabic. It is also true that they are as much fluent in English as it is with Hebrew or Arabic.

Many people at the Sammelan were speaking about French and Germans. They were persistently hailing them for the love of their mother tongue. ‘Germans never speak in English as they find it insulting to their mother land and tongue.’ A speaker went on record to say. I felt so pity on his statement for two reasons: first the Germans never address their nation as motherland – they call it as Fatherland and secondly considering the global economic development every one there, both in France and Germany, are now coming to terms, though slowly, and are speaking English.

In my previous career as a Management Person I have been in touch with so many French and Germans. Most of them were educated in Harvard and Oxford and spoke more fluent English than British. Yes, of course, they certainly loved their languages more than English. But, as I found myself personally, not many were hated English and because they didn’t – they have been so successful in international trade.

Considering the above context let me present you a case study: In Karnataka, there are so many wonderful craftsmen and skilled artisans who make various handicraft products that have a tremendous appreciation, as well as demand, in the international market. Yet they haven’t been successful in selling their products more aggressively. You want to know as to why be that so? It’s simply because they aren’t having a good marketing support and the cooperatives who work for selling their products are employed with people who are so bad in English so as to go and communicate well to International clientele. And those arts dealers who are good in English are even today living a luxurious life at the cost of those artisans, by paying only fraction of prices to them.

Also the scope of knowledge among the Kannada writers is absolutely minute. They are so ill informed about the National and International issues. Many columnists, I could find, are so ill mannered in their language and continue to attract people to read them with their bad mannered and foul words. You can never be wise by sticking yourself to Kannada literature of these people, can you?

I am of the firm belief that it’s only when people who have knowledge of the English and Internet continue to love, read and write in Kannada is that we can resurrect the whole language and add more prospect to it. On contrary to this, you will never attract English educated intellectuals to come and write in Kannada by shouting in fowl languages to English. Let me know if you think otherwise.

Kannada’s heritage, as like India’s heritage, has been one that has been so receptive to thoughts and knowledge from all the parts of the world. We were so rich and resourceful at times in history, especially during the times of Vijaya Nagara Empire, owing to our receptiveness to scholars from all parts of India. We have never claimed glory and yet the glory always came our way, owing exclusively to our culture. This cultural heritage of Kannada has to be preserved if we have to resurrect it.

History of the world, at least until now, recalls Kannadigas among those who were highly principled and cultured. Bashing or ill-treating someone is not our legacy. Let’s not invite such a alien legacy, of demeaning protests, to protect ours. If Kannada is the body it cannot survive without its soul – which is its culture. Let’s bear that in mind.

U Mahesh Prabhu | December 15, 2007 | indiamahesh@gmail.com

Author | Investor | Painter | Media, Management & Political Consultant


  1. Balaji says:

    Mr Mahesh Prabhu
    I don’t have words to express ur excellent article
    Please to see some sane article on kannada by a kannadiga

  2. Sanajy says:

    I read the article and found myself in agreement almost completely. I am so disappointed with kannadigas who want to bash Tamil/or any other language. People have come to equate pride in Kannada with hatred of other people and languages. I am glad some one like could put it so clearly. I hope there are more people like you. A lot of my friends here in the US are snooty about this and this kannada rakshana vedike attitude reinforces that notion.Such articles might make them think otherwise – love for a language, culture etc must come from within. Well said.

  3. Kannadiga says:

    Be prroud to be a kannadiga and promote it.

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