When in Rome..!
AS our Prime Minister spoke to the joint-session of Con gress in America, I felt a sense of pride! There is a famous saying that when in Rome do what the Romans do! Our Prime Minister did just that: To the people who feel they know English better than the rest of the world, he spoke in English, and good English!
Many years ago I was part of an international choir, which was called all over the world to sing western classical music. In fact around 16 years ago, in Spain the choir won against choirs coming from USA, England, and Ireland. We felt very proud because we had beaten the rest of the choirs in their own music. In their own language!
Unfortunately we don’t do that most of the time. We like to tell the world that we sing our own music, that we speak our own language, but to show the world that we are as good or even better we need to beat them at their own game, not tell them we play a different one! Our PM did just that; he spoke eloquently and had them rising up four times to give him a standing ovation!
I remember going to Korea a few years ago for another choir competition in Busan. The first prize went to a Japanese choir who sang in English! They were superb. Today, we should stop talking about India’s past, about aircraft we flew during Vedic times, about the glorious Indus valley civilization that was there ten thousand years ago, and concentrate on making the world notice us.
Today after the PM’s speech the world notices us. I do believe Vajpayee was a better speaker than Modi is, but when the former PM spoke in the US, he spoke in Hindi. Only we Indians remember his speech, the other nations don’t.
The world remembers our first PM, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, because when in England he learnt to behave like one of them, and in India he behaved and talked and thought like an Indian. We can go on screaming that we will hold on to our language, we will hold onto our culture, but if you want to get onto the world stage, you need to learn their language and engage them in their own way of thinking. Modi spoke with a Gujarati accent, so what? Speak with whatever accent you have, but learn to communicate with the world on their terms, and not ask them to learn ours.
About twenty years ago, in a shop in Spain, I asked the sales girl, “Do you know English?” She looked at me and asked rudely, “Why don’t you learn Spanish?”
I went to Spain again, a few years back after Spain became part of the EU. Everybody either knew English or was learning English; they had realised that to get business and to do business and to build their businesses, they had to learn and speak the language of the world. Like I said, as PM Modi spoke to the joint houses of the American Congress, my heart swelled with pride..! — Email:firstname.lastname@example.org