Look who’s talking

While the US President Bill Clinton managed to endear himself to the multitudes of Indians across the country in the course of his historic address to the joint session of Parliament, his Indian counterpart Prime Minister Vajpayee alienated a good part of his countrymen who were watching him on the tube at the very beginning of his speech itself.

The reasons for this have very little to do with the message and more to the medium, for, while Clinton spoke in English, Vajpayee chose his mother tongue which is not quite the mother tongue of a substantial chunk of Indian population, not to mention the scores of foreign media and dignitaries who had thronged the hallowed venue to hear the two leaders out.

Now, while the idea is not to kick up all that old dirt about Hindi chauvnism that we down south are so familiar with, Vajpayee’s act did amount to bad manners at best and poor diplomacy at the worst. Needless to say, President Clinton and his entourage would have been as flustered and flummoxed as the rest of of the non-Hindi speaking nation was.

Expectedly, our own home-grown rationalists have been wounded to the core and the extent of the hurt can be gauged from the fact that all the newspaper offices were sent a statement from CM condemning Vajpayee within minutes of the latter winding up his speech. Sure, one may agree, for if Vajpayee’s indiscretion has spoiled the party for even the non-Hindi Aryans, one can imagine the pique of the die-hard dravidian Tamilists.

Indeed, these paragons would like us all to believe that such spontaneity is the proof of the pudding for those who ridiculed their relentless pursuit of Tamil in every sphere ranging from Archanas to Agricultural fairs, not sparing even the tots studying in private schools. But then there is a catch and a slip, too, if one bothers to read carefully the CM’s extremely emotional and spontaneous statement of hurt.

First to the slip which will lead us to the catch. The CM now laments that Vajpayee should have read out his statement in English, repeat, English for all the world, including the Dravidian world, to understand and appreciate his response to Clinton’s speech, that everyone including those of the Dravidian world clearly understood.

Is it not a sort of self-indictment for the CM to recognise the acceptability of English as an effective link language, something he has been fighting against till date in the company of his chief hitman, Tamilkudimagan? But having acted in haste in a fit of indignation, does the CM now recognise the chinks in his dravidian armoury, the catch alluded to above, that has been put on display the last several decades, and more particularly, in his current reign?

Has it not always been a reality that English, instead of being the aggressor as he and his clan had propogated all along, is actually the best defence, and the only insurance against Hindi imposition, their avowed anathema? The CM’s rational conscience would have to answer this question though his statement has already let the cat out of the bag: That the CM along with scores of non-Hindi speaking Indians felt more at home with the videshi Clinton than with our own swadeshi Vajpayee.

Of course, one will have to wait and see if the CM spreads this enlightenment for the benefit of his co-borns in the government and party. Though he should be doing this with the godspeed with which he despatched his statement, it is still a tall order, with the governemt itself perched on a high pedestal on the language issue, particularly its opposition to English. In this context one can only laugh at his allegation on Mulayam Singh who, if reports are to be believed, bullied Vajpayee into speaking in Hindi.

But then, Mr.CM, if Tamilkudimagan is right, so is Mulayam.

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Jawahar T R