When in Rome..!

Pakistan Observer - - OPIN­ION -

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:bob­s­ban­ter@gmail.com

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