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.