My take on Justice Katju’s take on Learning Hindi

A good friend of mine, posted a link to this article on Facebook, and being vetti, I went ahead and read it. Now being the kind of person who has a very strong point of view on most things in life, I certainly do not agree with Justice Katju. While I could be juvenile, and dismiss him off as an idiot, like many others do in the comments section, I think the more appropriate thing to do is, think openly about a few things.

  • “I advised Tamilians to learn Hindi”

Absolutely nothing wrong with it. But everyone should decide on their own on what they want to do with that advice. After all, if everyone listened to every other stupid person’s advice, Sachin Tendulkar would have retired ages back. 😉

But saying that, I leave it to you – you decide, and then constantly nagging, trying to justify what you said over and over again, it not letting you decide freely – well, that is compellingly compelling.

Person 1: Do you want to ice-cream or a cookie ?
Person 2: I’ll take the cookie
Person 1: But the ice-cream is really good.
Person 2: No thanks, I’ll still take the cookie.
Person 1: Are you sure ? the ice-cream is nice and cold.
Person 2: Can I please have the cookie ?
Person 1: Well, it’s your choice. All I am saying it, the ice-cream is a better choice over the cookie.
Person 2: $%$# you. Do me a favor and stick both up your rear en*!!

Do you see how annoying that is ?

  • “the number of Hindi speakers would be about 15 times that of Tamil speakers.”

My dear Justice Katju, let me point out to you that the majority of the world’s population speaks Mandarin Chinese. Why don’t you learn it ? Maybe you already know it. So why don’t you advice people to learn it ?

Let me make my point more clear – it is not to heckle poor Mr. Katju. Have you heard the proverb “While in Rome, be a Roman” ? Yes, it makes sense to learn a language if you are going to be visiting a place where the language is used predominantly or solely. Let’s say you were going to go on a short/decently long trip to Spain – don’t you take trouble to learn at least a few common phrases of the language ? But do you sit home and learn Spanish, so that if Spaniard tourists were to visit your city, you can give them directions ?

Same with Hindi.If you expect to be posted/travel to a place where the majority of the population speaks Hindi, then by all means buy the “Rapidex guide to learning Hindi in 10 minutes” book :)- more seriously, learn the common phrases, learn what will get you by your day to day life at the very least. But, should you learn it on the off-chance that might happen ? Maybe not, for the same reason that you will not learn Chinese on the off-chance that you will travel to China.

See my gripe stems from the fact that, Mr Katju doesn’t advise Hindi speaking populace to learn Tamil when they visit Tamil Nadu. While in Tamil Nadu, speak Tamil. The problem stems from the fact that “Northies” coming into Tamil Nadu, expect to be spoken to in Hindi, served hot Parathas at Kaiyendhi Bhavan, and want the crappiest of Hindi movies to be released ahead of Tamil movies. They will also walk up to a shop and inquire in Hindi ‘you don’t know Hindi’ ? The Germans and French don’t respond to people who talk to them in English even if they know English. Did you know that ? You would be very unwelcome if you constantly tried to force them to converse with you in English.

Mr. Katju, being the literary expert he is, also also disregards Urdu,

  • Pakistanis (who number about 200 million) also speak Hindi, though they call it Urdu” he claims blatantly. Any dimwit with half a school education should know that Urdu is not Hindi.
  • “Anyone coming from Tamil Nadu to other parts of India will realise this. Without knowing Hindi he will experience great difficulty”

This, I agree with.

Back to the point of, When in Rome – be a Roman.

  • I fully support the demand that lawyers in the Madras High Court should be allowed to argue in Tamil (except before judges who have come on a transfer from other States

Why should judges who come from other states not learn Tamil, in the same way anyone from Tamil Nadu going to other parts of India should learn other languages ? This is very simply and definitely double standards.

Mr. Katju, your suggestion is absurd and inconsistent. I have considered your suggestion. It doesn’t make sense. I reject it. Thank you. Maybe you should sit down and “think rationally about this, and it would make sense”.

For those who feel strongly against the Justice Katju’s article, Although not entirely on the same matter, 🙂 I suggest reading this slightly old other post.

Edit : 16-Dec-2012

It would be unfair to leave out a few details here. I generally do not talk about myself on my posts or my blog. (At least not the relevant details.) However, some things need a special mention. As a student I studied Hindi in school, till I ditched it in favour of French for my last two years in School. I did Tamil as a third language, and learnt to read and write. I can already talk Tamil well enough. Now, why did I learn Hindi ? Well, it’s hard to say that as a kid that I had a choice in the matter,but I can say with confidence that if I were asked today, I’d pick the same. Why ? Why not ? Do my actions need to be justifiable ? No, not as long as they don’t affect others. But I’ll say this – I’ll do whatever the frig pleases me. And I will not have someone tell me I cannot learn Hindi if I want to – just as I will not have someone tell someone else that they should learn Hindi even if they don’t want to, and shove it down their throat.

Do I fell I can communicate and bond with people better because I know Hindi ? No. I in fact converse in English when the other person talks to me in Hindi or Tamil (unless they are already close enough, at which point, it makes no sense any more.) I don’t let anyone “arey yaar” me into giving them my homework just as much as I don’t let anyone “enna machi” me into doing the same. There are no favours. Well, but that’s just at the student to student – colleague to colleague level. In those circles, if you can’t talk to me in English, get the hell out, and do me a favour by not talking to me. Would I treat a ‘rickshaw wallah’ or an ‘auto kaaran’ the same way ? Of course not. I would try my best to get my message across in a tongue they understand.

Enough about me already. The other important thing is, this post is not about whether or not you should learn a language. This post is about one man, trying to force his ill-formed opinion upon others in the name of advice. So, I did my research on Justice Katju – I thought he didn’t know Urdu. So I listened to an interview on ‘Walk the Talk’. He quoted Urdu poetry effusively, and I thought to myself, my God, did I make a mistake in thinking this guy was cuckoo ? But then it dawned on me that if he knew Urdu and made a statement that went “They speak Hindi too – they just call it Urdu”, he was not an ignoramus. He was being a Machiavellian. He was purposefully misleading or misguiding people. Also, if you take the trouble of watching the video,

you will find it rife with self-contradictions, and inconsistencies in his stand. The guys is not even sure of what he represents.

You should also read the following article, which does a much better job of putting Katju in place –


2 thoughts on “My take on Justice Katju’s take on Learning Hindi

  1. Dai. I didn’t think you were this vetti 😀

    Anyway, although there are inconsistencies in the article about Hindi/Urdu and judges from other states serving in TN high courts (I felt that these statements were irrelevant in the context of his idea of advising people to learn Hindi), I am inclined to agree with him. In fact, my stance is stronger than his. I think making Hindi mandatory in schools does not hurt anyone that’s learning it. From a practicality point of view (and nothing else) learning a language that can be understood by most of the country is not going to hurt. I am not one to discriminate against Tamil either – I think being in TN and now knowing how to read and write Tamil is something to be ashamed about. I totally endorse making Tamil and Hindi mandatory for classes 1-8 (if not until 10). I can only see people thanking themselves for having put themselves through this drill (even if they didn’t like it) – and I am positive no rapidex course can come close to 8 years of broken yet slowly evolving Hindi.

    “See my gripe stems from the fact that, Mr Katju doesn’t advise Hindi speaking populace to learn Tamil when they visit Tamil Nadu.”

    Now, Northies coming over to South India and not learning the language is well known. I myself had a recalcitrant roomy from Haryana while I was in Chennai who couldn’t say anything beyond on, rend, moon and naal despite having been in the city for 4 years. I’ve openly chided him and at times, been caustic in my words (it was sad that he missed my sarcasm) but that is a separate issue. Katju seemingly understands and speaks Tamil. But I am still flustered about his statement about arguing in English for Northie judges, so I am just going to conclude that he is not one that is averse to the idea of being a Roman while in Rome, something I am totally on board with.

    And obviously, it makes greater sense to learn Hindi than Chinese although there are more Mandarin speakers in the world, because the average TN Munuswamy is more likely to work in areas in India where Hindi has a greater likelihood of being spoken and understood (just probability and statistics here) 🙂

    We can debate more over phone – been a while since we talked! 🙂

    Posting this from college id – wordpress is asking me to login when I put my gmail id and I’ve forgotten the password.

    1. @Srihari,

      It is the “mandatory” that I am against. I am against all forms of mandatory. I am against making Hindi mandatory, just as much as I am against making Tamil the only option/mandatory. Let people pick what they want.

      Anyway, this whole post was not about whether or not anyone should or should not learn Hindi. It was about how enraged I got when I read this chaps post. To think he has held high positions in the Government makes me shudder.

      I will make a few edits to the post, (including more on Katju :D) and post some disclaimers to make sure that my view point does not come across as totally fanatical and biased. (In a couple of weeks 🙂 By then the finals would be done, and I would have all the free time in the world)….

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