Let’s give the ‘Diversity’ aspect of ‘Unity in Diversity’ some credit

Today started off as a regular day at work, finishing up jobs and gearing up for the weekend. Before the clock ticked 4.

We have this wonderful thing at office where, every month, we get someone related to our industry to come and interact with us. This day at 4 o’clock, we had Ms. Saswati Chakravarty speaking to us about something which a lot of us tend to overlook. The power of regional communication. That lecture put my brain in overdrive mode.

Ms. Saswati spoke about the lacuna that exists within communication circles, where so many of us target a group of audience that consumes English media and ignores a potential target that consumes news and media in their regional languages. This lacuna is significant, as Ms. Saswati pointed out, and forms as much as 69% of an untapped population. While that was a remarkable figure, our discussions helped us understand something else too. Something that touched upon a social lacuna that also exists.

A lot of us come with our prejudices because of a certain upbringing and environment. A glaring one is that of the language barrier. A common but faulty assumption amongst some urban circles is that if a community or group is not proficient in English, they are in some way lesser equipped to be successful than the ones who do know the language. I believe that is entirely untrue. 

Mind you, I have nothing against the English language. In fact, I hold it in high regard. But see, we need to understand that just because it works for us doesn’t make it is the thumb rule. The whole idea of coexistence is that each person, community and group is different and diverse in their own beautiful way. In fact, one of the wonderful things about India is its unity in diversity concept. Unity is important yes, but a country that is united while still retaining its diversity is quite amazing. That’s one thing I have always admired about this country and hope to do so for many years to come.

It’s interesting to note that many sections of our country house people who are proficient in regional languages and have some of the most successful businesses too. One of the people I greatly admire, along with my dad, is his boss. That man takes pride in his regional language and the pride is quite palpable. There have been annual days in my dad’s company where this man has given inspirational speeches on stage in the regional language, apologising to a handful of foreigners present at the gathering and addressing scores of people seated in the room. That’s an image which is still very clear in my mind even today.

I think it’s time we started understanding and empathising with each person’s priorities. English is a wonderful asset for people who regularly converse with the foreign community. And for people whose strength lies in looking inwards, a command over regional languages is a tremendous value-add. And after all, it’s the amalgamation of these two groups that makes communities and businesses thrive.

P.S. – A thought that struck me while writing this was that I, myself, am writing in English. But like I mentioned earlier, I love this language and love writing in English. But I also realise that I cannot and must not wear it as some sort of a crown at any point in time. I must and will always respect and admire those who write, converse and/or communicate in languages other than English. 

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4 thoughts on “Let’s give the ‘Diversity’ aspect of ‘Unity in Diversity’ some credit

  1. Dear Priyam
    Shirish shared this link with me. I am overwhelmed with your compliments. Thank you for remembering my extempore speeches in Gujarati, which I always enjoy delivering.

    Use of vernacular is an important tool for connecting with people. It immediately removes the distance owing to educational or positional differences and allows us to relate to each other. One of good example is our PM, Hon. Modi who has made great efforts to be proficient in delivering speech in English. For purists his English may be chaste and accented but he gets his message across to people in power around the world who shape policy. I have known him for years when his first choice was Gujarati or Hindi, where he is extraordinarily powerful in using it for influencing people so hugely. 15-20 years back he hardly used English because he was actually uncomfortable using it. By the way he has written some excellent poetry in Gujarati and written political essays in Hindi. English is his newly acquired skill. One has to rightly admire his determination and dedication in learning English speech so well.

    Like it or not English is lingua franca of today’s world – be it technical,scientific, political, social media or many other aspects of human interactions. Beauty of English is that it adapts to many vernaculars and adopts itself to a communicable hybrid version like Hingilsh or Germ-ish and many such variations. And Modiji has used it effectively for diplomatic purposes to shape world opinion in favour of India.

    I, for one, firmly believe that each language has nuances that can be conveyed in that given language only. And if you wish to influence people better to do it in a language that is understood without ambiguity or uncertainty.

    I am impressed with your clear thinking reflected in your blog. It takes some guts to admit that there are better ways than what language you are proficient in to communicate effectively. Keep up your Blog writing because that will help to sharpen your writing skills while lending focus to your thoughts.

    Wish you all the best.

    With love from Mahendra uncle.

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    1. Thank you Mahendra Sir for sharing your thoughts. I am glad you liked my post. While I was writing yesterday, the image of those annual days when you delivered powerful speeches in Gujarati was so fresh in my mind even today, remembering how much it meant to so many people sitting in the room at that time. I couldn’t help but be inspired.
      I agree with you one hundred percent that English proficiency is a brilliant asset to have, particularly because of its inclusive nature. Recently, the term ‘aiyyo’ was added to the Oxford dictionary, and that says so much about the influence India is having not just on linguists but also on other people across the world.
      As you correctly mentioned, Mr. Modi is another great example of a person who has mastered the art of delivering messages in the language the audience understands best and it’s a quality that I have come to respect immensely.
      Thank you again for writing in. It was great hearing from you, Sir.

      Regards,
      Priyam

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  2. Dear Priyam, I am an English language educator, and I completely agree with your views here. I enjoyed your perspective and your clarity of thought. I also think that we need more such efforts and explorations to help us better define the relationship all of us have with our native language and English. On that note, I’d love it if you wrote some posts for the blog of my company, learnEd, particularly for my new and upcoming immersive game for advanced communication skills for the workforce. My premise may seem different at the surface level, but you will see that our views have the same root. Let’s talk! Not all the information is there. I will share more when we meet next in India. I will reach out. Keep writing and continue to remain true to your words. All the best!

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    1. Hello Tarana,
      It’s great hearing from you. I am truly humbled that you liked my post, particularly since you too are a daughter. Coming from you, it really means a lot.
      I look forward to connecting with you during your visit to India and it would be lovely to hear about your company and contribute to it. It would indeed be a great honour.
      Thanks a lot for your comments.

      Regards,
      Priyam

      Like

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