By Guru Prasanna Kasthuri
“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.” – George Orwell
Why we need a Kannada school amidst ocean of American culture? Is there a necessity to learn a language that is not used anywhere in the World except Karnataka, that too, in a very insignificant way ? Why we would need to learn Kannada language, when any children do not get any credit to this language from school or university, so it can help our future prospectus? One would be better off learning Chinese or Japanese in this time of the World, where these culture still converse and communicate in their own languages , isn’t it ? Why any Kannadiga would or should speak Kannada in their home or make their child learn Kannada language with such a difficulty in USA? Since this country – a huge melting pot of different languages, ethnicities and culture gives prominence to one language – English – why would any immigrant Kannada family need a language which is non-existent in USA? Why would Kannada Sangha which is devoted to preserve the traditions and culture of Karnataka, should have a Kannada teaching unit? Can we keep our festivals and events without speaking, writing or reading Kannada language? If anyone says this is a ridiculous argument and we should keep learning Kannada, speak Kannada and enjoy Kannada language, then, who is responsible to keep the language flowing?
There might be, some saying “yes, we need”; others saying “I don’t care”; few more saying – “I really do not need any learning of Kannada”.
Think of next 100 years. It is 2115. All our generation is passed. We have a wedding of Kannada family. Lot of people gathered. It is a Kannada wedding with an English Priest. No Kannada anywhere and they have no clue why they were called Kannada family.
One child asks – “Dad, what’s Kannada”
Dad answers – “It was the spoken language of your great grandfather, who lived in 20th and 21t century”
“If we are not speaking Kannada, why are we called Kannada family?”
“It’s just we are identifying ourselves ….”
“What do you mean?”
“You know we all have a root or ancestry… And we need identification apart from being an American ….. look everyone here …. They say either they are from Irish heritage or German or Jewish… since we are not any one of them .. we call ourselves as Kannada family …. OK’
“But, I have no idea how it was and how it sounds …”
“Don’t worry you don’t need to know, we did not learn because my parents did not ask me to speak … so I will also not ask you to do so …. Just remember, just like Jewish came from Western Europe; African Americans came from Africa; Spaniards came from Spain; Irish came from Ireland; English from England; we came from Karnataka… a state in India … by the way, who also only speak English now. Kannada is an extinct language …. ”
“How many people spoke this language?”
“In 2015, 70 – 80 million spoke …. “
“What happened afterwards, why did it decrease?”
“Oh… everyone went English schools and learnt only English in Karnataka, we did not care about learning Kannada in USA, because we thought we didn’t need it …. I remember my great grandfather was a staunch Kannada guy, saw his own brother’s children in India just learnt English in 2015, while he tried to teach your grandmother in St. Louis by starting Kannada shaale, he was in tears to hear this news … ”
“What is a Kannada Shaale? “
“It’s the place where Kannada language was taught free to anyone”
“Why it is not there anymore?”
“Oh, it got stopped because not many people showed up and also community members lost interest”
“Why did they lose interest?”
“Because speaking Kannada did not give any economic incentive, people learnt English, so they all can travel internationally to make more money and be comfortable in life ….”
“So, Daddy you tell me, for comforts and money they forgot to speak Kannada language …?”
“Yes, you may say this way…”
“Isn’t this very tragic and unfortunate ….”
“Me in 2115, with you, just browsing the history and remembering that we once had our own language, which we do not have any more ….”
“Don’t worry, you don’t need this language, you need Chinese these days to survive, not even English ….. China is the new Super power, USA is the thing of history, and we may have to migrate to China soon …”
“What about India?”
“Oh… it is still the same… stuck in 1970s…. “
“Why did this happen daddy..”
“that’s pretty simple …. They were not just, prompt and proud to keep the great culture…”
“What do you mean by Just, prompt and proud …”
“Just means, one should have honesty & integrity in the society; prompt means one must have discipline within one’s self; proud means one must be very fond of their own culture, traditions and language; through our own language we can enjoy our own creativity indigenously”
“Dad, there is something wrong here…”
“Are we Just ?”
“I guess we are. We are always truthful”
“Ok, are we prompt … ?”
“I guess we are, we are almost 99% disciplined and we do our job with dedication ….”
“Are we proud ….”
“What do you mean?”
“As a Kannada family?”
Dad slows down and says in a mild voice – “we are …”
“Without speaking Kannada ?”
“You don’t need to speak Kannada to become a Kannada family “
Son went quite for few seconds, then
“Then why would we call ourselves Kannada family, if we cannot connect with root as you mentioned. I honestly believe, if we are not speaking and enjoying the language of Kannada – we should not call ourselves Kannada family”
Father was dumb folded. Son continued,
“I wish your generation could have started a school or something, so I could have written, read, and enjoyed the works of Kannada… I would like to check out my ancestors work, just like my friends Thomas who from great Britain has – Shakespeare’s works; and Adler, who is from Germany has – E T A Hoffman’s Die Elixiere des Teufels …. What do we have in Kannada? Do we have any or not ?”
Father gets confused and speaks in an uncertain voice ….
“I guess we had once… I really don’t know anything … don’t they teach any of these things in world literature in School?”
“In school, I only read about Europe’s, Chinese works and never any Indian, definitely no Kannada work …. What happened to all of you guys, you might have taught us. It looks like two generation’s have lost their proud tradition? I understand Kannada is not the language of business and also I may not want to invent anything technological with my ancestor’s language; but I would like to keep it as an invention of their intelligence… because developing a language takes thousands of years … yet we all lose it 50 years …. I would like to be a Kannadiga in a true sense; I want to be proud of my ancestor’s tradition, culture and language…. “
Dad interrupts … “You are a Kannadiga my child, we still do Ganesh festival and Ugadhi festival even in 2115…”
Son retorts angrily
“You told me ganesh festival is done in Maharashtra also, Ugadhi is also celebrated in Tamil nadu also; so what is the difference between them and us… isn’t it the language? When we are all identified as Kannadigas, because we speak a language Kannada; how can your father and your grandfather who lived in 2020’s did not consider starting a school or a system which can preserve Kannada language for our generation of 2115 in USA as early as 2015? You had 100 years to do something. Yet you did nothing. It looks like we had to re-explore the language …. I think I am going to do a Ph.D on reinventing a dead language called Kannada instead of me becoming a medical doctor.”
Father sits quietly, mother gives him a cup of coffee to relax from this heated argument …..
Did this dialogue answers any of our questions?
Our mother gives birth to us. She will help us grow and stand on our feet. We stand and walk; then run; then when our mother is alone, needing support. By not caring, we let her down. Our language is our mother. She gave us a way to speak, way to communicate, a method to create our own culture, and created our own land Karnataka. This we call home. We are have more history than many. Karnataka history did start around 3000 years back. Karnataka language has a sustained more than any modern languages of Europe. We can always go back home anytime. The only link between that land and ours is the language – called Kannada, rich with great works of literature for more than 2000 years. By learning language we get related. By speaking language we keep our identity intact, by enjoying our literature – we will know how societies lived in the past. We live in USA, which gives us freedom to practice our religion, and language as a fundamental right. Let’s keep one language for business and let’s preserve our language for our identity, culture and tradition. Without this link, we are lost in the big world with no connection. With no Kannada language, we will lose our original identification for a new one, with this we lose all we had for thousands of years.
Learn Kannada to write, speak and read, because it is a window to Karnataka and its culture.
“Language is the inventory of human experience.” – L. W. Lockhart