I've just been reading George Orwell's Rules for Writers. The article makes special mention of Orwell's sixth rule - Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Followed by French novelist Gustave Flaubert's take - "Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity."
This reminded me of the time I attended a literary event organized to mark the publication of a new Marathi novel by a Marathi writer I knew. It was a very high-falutin affair with a good sprinkling of 'Marathi Intellectuals'.
'Marathi Intellectuals' can often be rather tedious beings - blessed with traditional set ideas about the way things should be and nationalistic to the hilt.
The main speaker was a rather well-known writer, who is based in London and who had been roped in as he happened to be in town at the moment. His speech - a very jingoistic one - was about saving the 'sanctity and purity of the Marathi language' from the 'ever-spreading encroachment of the West'.
If you hadn't already been encroached by the West, you would hear this speech and go away thinking nothing but founts of evil existed in the West.
I'm really tired of this 'us' and 'them' mentality. The only way these people can prove 'our' culture is superior is by denigrating another of which they obviously know precious little - if you can take a couple of stories of violence, intolerance, and steamy sex, and conclude this is the essense of 'the West', you should be prepared for the competition over there that reads about poverty and illiteracy and disease and develops much the same ideas about 'the East'.
We don't have the monopoly on wisdom and culture - and these people prove it every time they insist we do.
So anyway -
'Our tradition and our culture', he proclaimed, must be 'preserved at all costs'.
At the cost of living in a stifled, stunted atmosphere?
Tradition, Culture and Language are not static things 'to be preserved'.
- If they were, our society would never evolve and we would never make any kind of progress.
- If they were, there would never be any scope for any creativity.
- If they were, we would still be speaking the 'pure Marathi' from the era of Dnyaneshwar. How many people can even read the Dnyaneshwari today and understand exactly what the man is saying without referring to the commentary in modern Marathi?
I find it very funny that people can lambast 'the West' and insist on 'preserving traditional ways' and find nothing odd about adapting 'Western ways' to suit their own ends.
- Using a car - an invention from 'the West' - to arrive at the venue.
- Using a mike - an invention from 'the West' - to air their views.
- Being dressed in a business suit - a fashion from 'the West'.
- Living in 'the West' themselves.
Some Desi patriot.