Friday, June 21, 2013
EDUCATION IMBROGLIO-1: AN INTRIGUE AND FRENZY
It all started some 400 years back when a company of merchants from Britain- East India Company as they were later christened-landed in India to do trade in cotton, silk, indigo, dye, salt, saltpeter, tea and opium. In 1610 they built a factory at Machilipatnam and established a fort at Chennapattanam and thus the earliest influence of their language and reign started percolating on the Southern India. And slowly the reins of administration changed hands and an alien rule started prevailing in the country.
Literature always reflect history perfunctorily and the authentic, logical traces of its influence can be seen in that great masterpiece of Telugu- Kanyasulkam which was published in 1897. When Girisam, the anti-hero of the play arrives along with venkatesam, his student at Krishnarayapura Agraharam, his native village -Venkamma, an uneducated housewife of Agnihotravadhanlu becomes fanciful and requests Girisam to talk with her son in English. This is not a mere curiosity or intrigue. Her instinct tells her that the vedic scholarship has already lost or loosing its face value and English education is slowly becoming the order of the day. Her husband groans complaining about the cost involved in making him study in the town, saying that he had learnt his vedic knowledge without spending a single paisa. Education was never a barter then nor was it a source for earning livelihood. The entire village was a macro family- each doing his chores as per the family tradition of each community. Agnihotravadhanlu agrees to host Gireesam, only because he is conversant in English and he can get all the court papers translated into Telugu which are written English.
Yet another youngster who was a witness to the awesome performance of Girisam and his ward was Karataka Sastry’s student. He is learning vedic literature from his teacher and presently gets floored by English language. He abhors the archaic form of education and yearns to learn English. Already elsewhere the yearing to start learning as a source of earning started in all earnest. This is a very important breakthrough in a society where the language was always a medium of communication, not of transaction. Venkamma instinctively sensed- as early as 1897- her son’s scholarship as a veritable means of livelihood while Agnihotravadhanlu was cleverly finding a functional use of the language. This trend was 116 years old.
In those days- all the court proceedings were invariably in English and anybody having any knowledge of English had a field day. The entire play was about the lawyers, courts, witnesses and small Brahmin families mortgaging their properties in the mire of court cases. Only two characters- significantly- were in a different focus because of their virtuosity of English language. One: pseudo-intellectual Girisam and the other: real scholar Saujanya raopantulu.
That was a time when a marked transition was taking place when a foreign language and its need was becoming imperative in the day-to-day life. It was the beginning of the end of vernacular, that was losing its sheen and application. In the changed circumstances- Telugu had no place to earn a job and consequently one’s livelihood. In fact, a ‘job’ and a qualificatioin to earn one was unthinkable until then. There was a rudimentary shift in the administrative set up, hitherto unheard of, wherein an employer-employee relationship, education aimed at careers, delivering work for a monetary return etc. came into vogue- It has all the trappings of a glorified slavery. Somebody will tell you what you should do. That somebody will decide your worth.He will decide your conduct rules. He will regulate your living conditions for a finanacial return and assured living. Your job is to serve. Sounds more like bourgeois? It has more acceptable, and respectable label called ‘service’. An altogether different and totally foreign culture started prevailing on the society.
What is happening in these 12 decades? In 2013, a family whose bread earner is qualified to sell his educational abilities for a price in America, established himself with sizable returns, carefully planned to have children born only in America so that they become natural American citizens by birth and since these children cannot communicate in their native tongue-Telugu- their grandmother, who is in her early fifties is learning English nowadays to be able to converse with them! And this lady belong to yet another traditional Brahmin Agraharam- Gangalakurru. The metomorphasis is now total and irreversible. And what is more, they don’t regret. And they don’t even know that this is a matter of regret!
What was an intrigue a century back has become a way of life- fine tuned, perfected and has become a money-earning vehicle. Why? Nobody bothered to develop the technical or professional knowhow and the functional application of regional languages in independent India in all these years. What was a need to adapt themselves to an alien way of life then, became a perfected nomenclature. Small countries like Korea and Palestine could do it successfully with foresight. There are not many Koreans in America as there are Indians.
The first generation families who nervously groped for their livelihoods and ended in United States have by now developed roots that cannot be uprooted and the second generation is totally lost to American ethos. My own wife’s brother, who had three girls married black people and settled there. Their lives are irreversible, relationships totally severed. There is a total dislocation of cultural bonds and the parents are helplessly caught in the changed juxtaposition.
Yesterday- only yesterday- a five year old boy – my younger brother’s grandson -born and brought up in America was asking me as to how I happened to know his mother!
This is the ‘cultural shock’ of the worst kind, but significantly only one side of the coin.
(to be continued….)