3rd Year – No 74
Friday 6th January 1956
• The further he went West, the more convinced he felt that the wise men came from the East.
— S. Smith
“J’admets simplement que l’enfant hindou recevant en anglais les rudiments de sa culture, soit dès l’adolescence beaucoup plus familiarisé avec l’anglais qu’avec le français”.
N.M.U. does not deny that the Indo-Mauritian is more at home in English than in French. In fact, he even concedes that the Indo-Mauritian child too is more conversant with English. And what we wrote was “the Indo-Mauritians, even the well-read ones, rarely speak and write French”. But some two or three paragraphs later, after his usual digs at India and Indian Culture, N.M.U. fondly maintains that (a) “les Hindous de Maurice arriveraient difficilement à se comprendre entre eux sans l’usage du patois français (b) leur ingratitude à l’égard de la langue française est ridicule et blâmable”, and asserts that (c) our love for the English language is mere pretence.
(a) If N.M.U. does not already know it, he should once for all learn that we have “la langue de nos aïeux”. And all of us Indo-Mauritians without any distinction whatsoever speak it at home. He should go about and see how keen are the people on learning Hindi. They are at the cost of great sacrifices, spending lots of money to build schools of their own where their children can be taught the language of their forebears. So it is stupid to say that we cannot do without the patois. So the question of ingratitude does not arise. And then, did we not write that “we have not been able to make French our own?’ We could feel grateful if we really had some tangible advantage of it — we object to it just because it is a “serious handicap and hurdle” to our children.
N.M.U.’s assertion that our love for the English language is mere bluff — is mere bluff. Why not ask Ramses about it? And then N.M.U. could bluff too — he has been doing it a long time now. What about the second-hand translations of his own editorials?
Ours is not a policy to build on ruins. We want all languages to flourish side by side. It should be clear to N.M.U. that we have no grouse against any language as such. He can grant us sufficient common sense to know what is good for us. We of the Indian stock staunchly believe that “all the religions and cultures are as many rivers flowing to the Ocean.” (Upanishad). But we definitely object to having to toe the line to anybody. Our objection to any language is strictly from the educational point of view, N.M.U’s deliberately lending a political colour to what is purely an educational problem is malicious. The Indians have never hated the English. Tagore’s and Gandhi’s sentiments in this connexion are well known. “I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any of them.” (Gandhi).
N.M.U. is curious to know whether the English are at home now in India. Well admittedly they feel more at home now — for the home is no longer a camp. Will N.M.U. care to know that there are many more Britishers in India nowadays than before Independence? What N.M.U. means perhaps is whether the French would be welcome back to Pondicherry or Mahe — everybody is welcome there — but as a visitor or a friend. And no other. Our own sentiments so far English is concerned are clear from the following: We are more at home in English, partly through a national inclination for it and partly because of its usefulness abroad and at home.
N.M.U. is faintly aware that there is something called caste in the Indian social make-up. What it is all about, how did it come to be there, when it flourished and when it declined and fell is all Greek to him. Hence his reference to India as the “République des Castes” sounds stupid.
Does he care to know that the caste system has been at once the source of the strength of India and, in modern world, its weakness? The caste system is as dead as a ducat; it is a crime from the legal point of view.
But it cannot be denied that the caste system prevented the disintegration of the Hindu social structure. It was the only answer to the incursions and infiltrations of such disparate elements as the Scythians, the Greeks, the Mongols and the Moghuls — to name just a few of them. India was a melting pot of races. To avoid social anarchy this caste system came into being. Other alternatives were extermination and subordination both foreign to the Indian spirit. Each racial group was allowed to develop the best in it without impeding the progress of the others.
“People objects to caste because it has been abused. While it was a scientific system of social service it was honoured, when it became a matter of social privileges it was resented. It is therefore doomed to disappear.” — Annie Besant.
Numberless social philosophers (including John Ruskin and Auguste Comte) have paid tributes to the institution of caste “which illustrates the spirit of comprehensive synthesis characteristic of the Hindu mind with its faith in the collaboration of races and the cooperation of cultures” (Dr Radhakrishnan).
Is N.M.U. convinced? Well he ever be?