Sunday, February 06, 2005

Tamilian or Indian?

I found an interesting post about a Tamilian's plight with desis talking to him in Hindi and here is what I told him: (For the post look <here>)

Well, I am from Madras and I had a similar view about Hindi until I landed here in the US. Even though I had taken hindi as my second language at school till the 10th standard, I really couldnt speak in hindi. I will be forever grateful to my roomies who took the pains of conversing with me in Hindi and teaching me several things in the language. Mind you, all of them had their own language (telugu, kannada and marathi) but Hindi was our common language. It should be our common language, because it is the national language, plus people are more comfortable talking in Hindi with desis than english - which I think, is very understandable. If I meet a tamilian I would be more comfortable talking to him in tamil than in english - unless of course I meet a Peter or a Mary! It is only in Madras that people dont talk in Hindi (it is now getting better and better every day), among the major cities in India (take Bangalore or Hyderabad, for instance).

Coming back to the point, the basic problem with us tamilians is that we tend to think of Hindi as an alien language and do not even want to make an attempt to learn it or use it (I had this exact feeling till I came here to the US). Our politicians are the only one to blame for this - but they dont have to go out of the state to interact with people from other parts of India, it is people like us who have to do that on a daily basis. And it is in our own personal benefit that we learn the language. From my personal experience, learning hindi really gets you more friends - in the US knowing hindi is very essential, it puts the other guy at ease when he talks with you. And after all, if you dont speak hindi who do you think is on the losing side - you will be thought of a typical madrasi (stereo-type) who doesnt want to talk in hindi.

A funny incident happened when I travelled to Rameswaram. We had to book a hotel and the SethJi over there, demanded a higher room rate than what we had been told earlier when we checked in. My Father (who doesnt speak hindi) tried to talk to him in English and in Tamil, but nothing worked. Then I went and talked to the SethJi in Hindi (All I told him was, when we came in we were told of a lower rate, and this was all in hindi), and immediately he agreed and my family was looking at me with awe!


Blogger Prabz said...

Me got nothing against it.. actually i can understand and never tried to speak.. :) But when I am good at english.. i dont really care.. Yeah sometimes it makes me feel alienated.. Okay.. thats not my problem.

Sunday, February 06, 2005 4:56:00 PM  
Blogger Twin-Gemini said...


It's not a question of being able to converse well in English...the way I see it, it just makes the other person feel at ease with you.

Not many people have the luxury of being able to study in Engligh medium schools, thats one of the main reason why people try to talk in Hindi, because this is more like a mother tongue to them. And hence makes it easier for them to express themselves better.

Sunday, February 06, 2005 5:08:00 PM  
Blogger Chakra Sampath said...

I can understand Hindi, but can't talk...

I tried to pick up from my roomies.. but they were also in the same position (as they are also from TN).

Monday, February 07, 2005 3:30:00 AM  
Blogger saranyan said...

Thats true. Knowing more languages is always helpful. And Hindi is not our only national language, its one of many. But a majority speak in Hindi. Actaully I'm wondering if there is any written rule stating that Hindi is a national language.
Its a pity that South Indians are teased when they dunno Hindi.

Monday, February 07, 2005 1:42:00 PM  
Blogger Twin-Gemini said...

Hi Saranyan

Hindi is indeed our National Language. That's the reason why our Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha meetings are held in Hindi. Here is the CIA website which has that fact.

Yeah, I agree with you on Tamilians (usually I have seen only Madrasis being mocked) being mocked when they dont know hindi. But many of my North Indian friends here have their own story to tell of their Madras trip. :-)

Monday, February 07, 2005 3:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hindi is not the NATIONAL Language of India. It is the OFFICIAL language. There is a great difference between these two. The Indian constitution states this and makes the distinction between "Official" and "National" very clear. The distinction becomes even more clearer when you find that the tiger is the National animal and not the official animal. Infact everything except language is mentioned as "National" - national animal, national song, national emblem, national bird, national bird, national flower etc

The CIA factbook is wrong in this aspect. You can see the exact wording in article 343 of the constitution (
The people who wrote the constitution deliberately refrained from designating hindi as "national language" because they knew, it cant be conferred that status.

As for your question "indian" or "tamilian" the answer comes as this - i am an indian because i am a tamilian. Sounds funny right? this is because, India is a union of states not a monolithic entity. The point is Hindi speaker can not expect non-hindi speaking indians to learn hindi. Politics apart, I sure dont want to learn hindi, just because i might be made fun of as typical madrassi - Its just a crude form of peer pressure and confirmity, not national identity.


Monday, February 07, 2005 4:09:00 PM  
Blogger Me said...

Hi Anand thanks for dropping by.

I am really good at hindi the problem is I don’t like people thinking that hindi is the only language desi’s speak.

Btw I am also from Triplicane !!!

Monday, February 07, 2005 7:25:00 PM  
Blogger saranyan said...

Bala is right, the CIA factbook is wrong.
Infact you can talk even in Tamil in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Also even the prime minister can take oath in any language.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005 4:05:00 PM  
Blogger capriciously_me said...

in addition to wht bala & sarayan have to say, hindi and english are official languages and there are atleast 22 recognized national languages...which means, within india, u can use any of these 22 languages for official purposes...

it is a misconception that hindi is the most widely spoken language...hindi is widely spoken only in "some" of the northern states...there are ppl even in maharashtra outside mumbai & pune who do not understand hindi...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005 1:41:00 AM  
Blogger Prasad said...

hi anand, first time to ur blog....
hmm.. i know this plight of the tamilians.. i was brought up in tamilnadu(actually I'm from Kerala).
The point i'm trying to make is, I was forcefully made to learn Tamil in school, but it didn't reduce my interest for Hindi and developed that side by side..
this nature i find very little among the tamil ppl.. but, i see things r certainly improving...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005 5:36:00 AM  
Blogger Vani Viswanathan said...

Hmm..well, at least with what's happening in singapore with my batch mates, I can say that most of these northies have some kind of prejudice for people who don't or can't speak in hindi.
I know hindi, but don't venture to speak it coz its quite bad ;) when I'm in a group that talks only in hindi,i'm not expected to intervene and tell them to talk in english; though i know hindi, of course i won't be as fast in understanding as the others...but if i'm in a group where all except one or two, say, can talk in tamil and i do talk in tamil, all i hear from the odd two is "hey tamil mey math bolna yaar....i can't understand.."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005 9:38:00 AM  
Blogger Twin-Gemini said...

<Saranyan and Bala> I stand corrected. You both are right. Hindi is just the official language and not the national language. I learnt something from this blog and your comments :-) Thank you.

One funny thing happenned yesterday the David Letterman's show (It's a daily show just like Jay Leno's) in the US, Aishwarya Rai had come and when Letterman asked her which language is spoken in India, she said hindi and also said that it is the national language...Many have this misconception, I think :-)

<Capriciously_me> I dont disagree with you, the northern most part of India that I have travelled to is Bangalore...LOL...and so my experience has mainly been with Northies in the US (of course, above & beyond Bangalore). And I am yet to find a Northie who doesnt speak in hindi.

<Prasad> Thanks for coming over to my blog. Well about forcibly having someone learn Tamil is not a good thing at all. In the school where I studied, I had an option of choosing hindi as my second language. I have studied Tamil till my 5th standard as the second language and hindi as the third languaage, and from 6th to 12th, learnt hindi as my second language. I had an option at my school, maybe it could have been a school policy that forced Tamil on you.

Nowadays, among the young crowd, learning and speaking in hindi has become a fad, which I see as something very good. At the very least, if people start to understand and talk in hindi, it can improve tourism.

<Vani V>Well, I have seen this also, but you shouldnt judge the whole of northies with a selected bunch. I have known several people who make an effort to speak in english (even if it is not that good - shedding their inhibitions) to communicate with the southies.

I usually try to speak with northies in hindi, and until I tell them that I am from Madras, they accomodate my broken-hindi, but the minute I tell them that I am from Madras, they start talking to me in English!

Cant you politely tell them that your hindi is not as good as theirs, and ask them to either slow down a bit and let you learn while they converse or if that is not what you want to do, then ask them to speak in English?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger capriciously_me said...

hey anand, i guess i was talking abt uneducated ppl outside major cities...bcoz i think that it will be very difficult for ppl from our villages & small towns to learn hindi or english which is y having a common language in a country as diverse as ours is quite difficult...most ppl u've met in the US are prob well educated...i think a lot of educated southies also know hindi...just that they dont speak it does not mean that they dont know the lang...& does not give anyone any reason to see that as a discriminating factor...

the easiest & the brainiest thing anyway was for the sethji in rameswaram to know tamil...i know a lot of indians in germany/japan learnt to speak german/japanese :)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005 4:02:00 PM  
Blogger Twin-Gemini said...

<To Capriciously_me> Well, I didnt think about it that way. Yeah, I agree with you about people using this as a discriminating factor.

He did understand Tamil, but his spoken tamil was quite bad :-)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005 5:36:00 PM  

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