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Standard of English in India

Just a few years ago, English was spoken by just five to seven million people and the language consisted of dialects spoken by monolinguals. But today there are more non-native users than native users of English. English has now become the linguistic key for opening borders. Now it is considered as a global medium of communication. English has become a world language, spoken by almost 1.5 billion people in the world. English is nowadays the dominant or official language in over 60 countries.

It is quite remarkable that India holds the third rank of consisting most English-using population in the world after the USA and the UK. Literatures in English are nowadays recognized as part of the national literatures, and English is also recognized in the over-all language policy of the nation. The language has deeply penetrated in the society, which has, in its turn, resulted in several varieties of English in India. The development of those new varieties is connected with historical and social factors. The new Englishes have all their own contexts of function and uses. They have also, in their turn, affected the native varieties of English.

Indian English is used mainly by Indians for whom English is basically a non-native language. It is a minority language, but yet it has well-occupied the standard of a language of national affairs in India. But the noticeable part is that the spread of English across different cultures and languages has meant the diversification of English in India, which, in turn, raises questions about the standardization of English in India.

If we notice precisely upon the standard of English used in India then we will come across a diverse picture of it. Though English is not the native language of India still there has to be maintained a standard in the proper and balanced use of it. The standard of use of the English language varies from place to place and region to region in India. For instance, the English used in the North-Eastern region of the country apparently differs from the English that is used in the South-Indian part of the country. The foremost reason for this distinction can be assumed as the diversity of languages used in these regions and the influence of their mother tongue as we know that India is a multilingual country. Moreover, the accent of languages of both the regions differs very emphatically. These types of differences obviously degrade the standard of the English language.

To minimize such dissimilarities and degradation of the standard of the language, there must be maintained a proper and a uniformly acceptable standard. And obviously, this is to be maintained from the school level itself. The students are to be well-prepared to be able to compete in the world level. They are to be taught reasonably proper English. They must be provided with the knowledge about the role of English language in various developmental fields.

In India, there are various boards and government recognized authorities who have adopted different significant initiatives in order to standardize the English language among the non-native learners of the language. These authorities lay importance upon teaching the language only by people who have attained special qualifications that make them eligible to teach the English language. To maintain the own standard of the English language, it is certainly not important to teach English as merely a subject in the school level, but to teach it as a standard language is of more significance. Therefore, every board or concerned authorities should lay significance upon appointing teachers who have studied the English language as the subject of honours in graduation or the post-graduation level. This is certainly not the ultimate solution but yet it can be a useful initiative that can motivate the students well enough.

Kamala Das’s poem “An Introduction”-a review

Kamala Das is one of the prominent writers of India writing in English. She was born at Punnayurkulam, Kerala, in 1934. She was brought up in the warmth of a close-knit Kerala matrilineal society and she felt uprooted when she had to move to Kolkata with her father who was a salesman. At Kolkata, she attended a Catholic boarding school for some days but suddenly at a very young age she had to get married. In the poem ‘An Introduction’, we can clearly observe autobiographical and confessional elements that are a striking quality of Kamala Das’s poems.

In ‘An Introduction’ included in ‘The Old Playhouse and Other Poems'(1973), autobiographical elements reveal a gender bias and the poet’s assertion in favour of living spontaneously in her own way. She was quite frequently advised by her friends and relatives not to write in English because English was not her mother tongue and her retort turns out to be a definition of language. Her English may be half-English and half-Indian and it may be queer and distorted, but it is her language when she uses it. It is as natural to her as crawing is to crows and roaring to the lion. Kamala Das’s arguments in favour of uring English make clear that there is obviously a need to adapt the language to serve the purpose of Indian writers in English. The use of the language need not be in the way that the British use it; English has to be acclimatized to the Indian condition. What Kamala Das calls queerness and distortions may be read as local idioms and cultural referents to which English is acclimatized. Elleke Boehmer finds Kamala Das echoing R.K. Narayan who called English ‘a swadeshi language’: ‘To her English represents a valid personal choice: “half English, half Indian,” the language with “its distortions, its queerness” is there for the taking.’

In her early youth the poet got no love when she asked for it and the woman in he was insulted in the name of love. In sheer disgust she began to ingnore her womanliness but society would not let her have her way of wearing clothes like a boy. She was suggested to perform the role of a traditional woman. She could be a girl, a wife, a cook or a housekeeper but she could not be herself and an individual. The poet feels that man-woman relationships cannot endure because all men want a woman and all women want love. The poet says that she cannot love without being deceived. She asserts herself, takes initiative and finds to her disappointment that she is let down. However, she does not admit defeat and asserts her determination to live spontaneously a life of intense passions and emotions. She wants to be herself and live her life.

Bibliography: Poems Old and New

How does Philip Sidney defend poetry in his essay “Apology for Poetry”?

Philip Sidney defends poetry in his essay “Apology for Poetry” from the accusations made by Stephen Gosson in his “School of Abuse” dedicated to him. There, Gosson makes some objections against poetry. Sidney replies to the objections made by Gosson very emphatically, defending poetry in his essay. Sidney does this in a very logical and scholarly way.

The major objections against poetry are: (a) “that there being many other more fruitful knowledges, a man might better spend his time in them then in this”; (b) that it is the mother of lies; (c) that it is the nurse of abuse; infecting us with many pestilent desires; and (d) that Plato had rightly banised poets from his ideal republic.

Sidney’s replies to these objections:

(a) Defending poetry against the first charge, he says that man can’t employ his time more usefully than in poetry. He says that “no learning is so good as that teacheth and moveth to virtue, and that none can both teach virtue, and thereto as much as poetry”.

(b) His answer to the second objection that poets are liers is that of all writers under the sun the poet is the least lier. The poet creates something by emotion or imagination against which no charge of lying can be brought. The astronomer, the geometrician, the historian and others, all make false statements. But poet “nothing affirms, and therefore never lieth”, his end being “to tell not what is or what is not, but what should or should not be”. The question of truth or falsehood would arise only when a person insists on telling a fact. The poet does not present fact but fiction embodying truth of an ideal kind.

(c) The third objection against poetry that it is the nurse of abuse, “infecting us with many pestilent desires or wits” may be partly justified, but for this a particular poet may be blamed but not poetry. To this charge, Sidney replies that poetry does not abuse man’s wit but it is man’s wit that abuses poetry. All arts and sciences misused had evil effects, but that did not mean that they were less valuable when rightly employed. Abuse of poetry, according to Sidney, is not the problem of poetry but of the poet.

(d) The fourth objection that Plato had rightly banished the poets from his ideal republic is also not tenable because Plato sought to banish the amoral poets of his time, and not poetry itself. Plato himself believed that poetry is divinely inspired. In “Ion”, Plato gives high and rightly divine commendation to poetry. His description of the poet as “a light-winged and sacred thing” reveals his attitude to poetry. Sidney concludes, “So as Plato banishing the abuse, not the ‘Thing’, not banishing it, but giving due honour unto it, shall be our patron and not adversary”.

In this way, Sidney very strongly defends poetry against the accusations made by Stephen Gosson on poetry.

Superiority of poetry over history and philosophy:

In the promotion of virtue, both philosophy and history play their parts. Philosophy deals with its theoritical aspects and teaches virtue by precepts. History teaches practical virtue by drawing concrete examples from life. But poetry gives both practical and precepts examples. Philosophy, being based on abstractions, is “heard of utterance and mystery to be conceived.” It cannot be a proper guide for youth. On the other hand, the historian is tied to empirical facts that his example drags no necessary consequence. Poetry gives perfect pictures of virtue which are far more effective than the mere definitions of philosophy. It also gives imaginary examples which are more instructive than the real examples of history. The reward of virtue and the punishment of vice is more clearly shown in poetry than in history. Poetry is superior to philosophy in the sense that it has the power to move and to give incentive for virtuous action. It presents moral lessons in a very attractive manner. Things which in themselves are horrible as cruel battles, monsters are made delightful in poetic imitation. Poet is therefore the monarch of all knowledge. “For he doth(does) not only show the way but giveth(gives) so sweet a prospect into the way as will entice any man to enter into it.”

The poet does not begin with obscure definitions which load the memory with doubtfulness, “but he cometh(comes) to you with words set in delightful proportion, either accompanied with or prepared for the well-enchanting skill of music and with a tale for suit he cometh unto you, with a tale which holdeth(holds) children from play and old man from the chimney corner. And pretending no more, doth intend the winning of the mind from wickedness to virtue.”

Review of “Very Indian Poem in Indian English” written by Nissim Ezekiel

Nissim Ezekiel is quite unique among Indian poets writing in English in so far as he is an Indian Jew of Bene-Israel origin. Ezekiel was born in Mumbai in 1924 and educated there. He later studied Philosophy at Birkbeck College, London. He stayed in England from 1948 to 1952 where according to his own view ‘philosophy, poverty and poetry’ shared his basement room. In 1982,he was awarded with the Sahitya Academi Award.

The poem ‘Very Indian Poem in Indian English’, written in a very light vein is an ‘Indian poem’ because the poet looks at the world around him through the eyes of a typical middle-class Indian. Apparently the speaker, the ‘I’ of the poem is literate but not highly educated. Here, the personna is voicing his opinions to a visitor.

“I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct.
I should say even 200% correct.
But modern generation is neglecting-
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.”

So it can be now easily understandable from the above extract that how different his type of writing is. The poem is in ‘Indian English’ because it is full of ‘Indianisms”, little mistakes of grammer and usage which do not resemble with standard English. For example, many Indian tend to use the continuous tense where rightly they should use the present indefinite form of the tense-‘I am standing’ for ‘I stand’, ‘Every day I’m reading’ for ‘every day I read’ and so on. ‘I’m the total teetotaller,completely total’ would be unthinkable in standard usage.

Although basically humorous and ironic in tone, the poem may be seen as an attempt to assert the legitimacy of ‘Indian English’, the English that is used by the Indians, which seems to be ‘wrong’ and quirky to others.
(Bibliography: Poems Old and New)

Conservation of Biodiversity

The most important point of environmental ethics is for conserving biodiversity. The following assertions based on the intrinsic value of species are important for conservation of biodiversity and protecting the ecosystem.

(i) Each species of plants and animals has the right to exist. Each species has values for its own sake, an intrinsic value unrelated to human needs. So, for our need and comfort we should not disturb them.

(ii) All species are interdependent. The loss of one species may have for reaching consequences for other members of the community. Killing of animals for the sake of sport or meat disturbs the whole food chain and ultimately adversely affects that ecosystem.

(iii) Human beings must limit their greed for self prestige and power; and learn to live within the same ecological limitations as the other species do.

(iv) People must take responsibility for their actions. If some organisations or individuals are responsible for polluting the environment, they must take corrective measures.

(v) People have a responsibility for future generation. In all of our actions we must think of keeping the planet clean and should not waste limited resources at least those resources which are non-renewable.

(vi) A respect for human life and ethnic diversity is compatible with respect for biodiversity.

Child Abuse through Reality Shows

Childhood is the golden period of man’s life. They need love and care for their growth and development. However, child abuse is the tragic irony of our life. Children participating in the so called reality shows has become the only religion of today’s world. For some parents, money is more important to be earned, no matter how it comes. Even at the cost of exploitation of children. Of late there has been a mushrooming of reality shows. Most of them feature children of tender age. Money tempts the parents to send their children while children have to undergo lot of incovenience and sufferings. Parents forget that it is a sin as well as a crime to earn money at the cost of their children. The children sacrifice the innocence and joy of their childhood and neglect their studies. They are forced to burden the responsibility which are meant only for the adults. They have to dance and sing at the tune of the organizers. They forget to enjoy the bliss of childhood. It is a crying shame for parents.

So, I think, this evil practice should be stopped with all sincerity and strictness.