Colonial Hangover in India

One Tweet from ‘The Athletics Federation of India’ has gone viral very recently because of all wrong reasons. It was written with a good intention but unfortunately contains a phrase ‘Not so fluent in English’. The tweet I am talking about was written by the federation to congratulate Hima Das for winning the gold medal in a track event at the World Junior Athletics Championships. The social media reacted quickly. This is what you expect these days; everything (I mean literally everything) get their share of attention, mostly more than they deserve. Let see some of the reactions I encounter in my daily feed for the said not so well thought tweet: ‘colonial hangover’, ‘hiding your f***ing insecurities’, ‘screw yourself’. These people were loud enough to create waves that made ‘Not so fluent in English’ more famous rather than the intention itself. Some were concerned that the tweet is an insult to the champion, without realizing that they were also stereotyping her. Those are nothing but another form of insult. For example, ‘common! she is a villager!’, ‘she came from paddy field’. Is village not a respectable place to live; or being a farmer a sin? So, most of the cases all of us make the same mistake. Do you know why? Because deep down we all are carrying the ‘colonial hangover’ with us.

Colonial hangover! What does that mean to me? For me, it is a situation where you feel ashamed of anything connected to your own root. Let me elaborate. You may feel ashamed to tell that you came from a village. Or you are ashamed to talk about your public school. Or you feel pity when talking in your mother tongue. You might be ashamed of your lack of so-called ‘formal education’ despite excellence in arts/crafts/sports/spirit. You feel low and can't tell that you don't like a tie with your cotton shirt. You could not wear your traditional formal dress for an interview. All of this because there is a perception of what is suppose to be good and what is not; the root of the perception is ‘west is better’. Also, there is a possibility that someone is still sponsoring this perception to your own environment. Probably through some alienated education system! Through the market economy! Through advertisements! Through (distorted) statistics!

Coming back to the tweet I am talking about today. If we think deeply we can identify that it is not the federation but one or a few people wrote the tweet. These people belong to a society where a birth of a child is followed by a question ‘which school is good (read English medium) in the locality?’. The society who do not believe in its own culture and own self. This is a hangover for sure, and with obvious reason colonial as well. In India, it is really sad that people have to hate their mother tongue. Because English became an alias to success. If you think the opposite way, you will feel a deep peer-pressure building around you. Probably that is why Hima Das had to speak English. Have you seen formula one champions speaking in Spanish or German? I saw that in several times. The same story repeats in MotoGP as well. I don't know about other sports as I do not follow any. In the contrary see what happen in India. Every successful people here are groomed to speak English.

Then I tried to think what if she had spoken in Assamese. Probably she will also have to face few tweets referring that why she had spoken in Assamese instead of English or Hindi. I can remember how people had trolled Deb, a Bengali actor for speaking in Bengali at the Parliament a few years back. So there might be another side of the coin as well when the whole country is in a colonial hangover state.

If you ask my honest opinion on the topic, I would say before bullying anyone for their colonial hangover we should ask ourselves - will we consider local public school over the English medium for our child? Will we wear Pajama-Panjabi (women have bit freedom in this case) in our office meeting? Will we take an interview in the native language? Will we stop pretending a language as a success symbol? Will we respect the other person for what they are and not for which language they speak? If any of the above is yes for you, probably you have started preparing a lemon juice to get rid of the hangover. Congratulation!!!

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