Friday, September 24, 2010

A letter to Raj Thackeray from his poor and illiterate supporter

(The writer of this blog wrote it down in Marathi as the supporter told him. Then he edited it and finally translated it into English.)

Dear Raj,
You fight for us. You fight for our language: Marathi. And we fight for you. Can we fight to invent a Marathi word that can not be translated into any other language? You may say that there are many such words in Marathi. But most of them may be religious and traditional. I want a modern untranslatable Marathi word.

Your party’s website has given a list of Marathi substitutes for the English words that we are used to. I have not read the list. But someone has told me about it. In the list the Marathi word “Namskar” has been given as a substitute for ‘Hallo’. But “Namskar” can’t be the substitute for ‘Hallo’. There is no substitute for “Hallo” in Marathi. Thus, “Hallo” becomes an untranslatable English word. Similarly, “Hi” is also an untranslatable English word that we are used to. But there is no untranslatable Marathi word that the entire world has been used to.

Can we invent at least one Marathi word which the entire world will have to get used to?

Though I am illiterate, I can speak a little English. I work with an international hotel as a janitor in Mumbai. Ever since a Canadian tourist asked me an untranslatable modern Marathi word, I have become restless to find it.

You insist on using Marathi, but you are not against English. You have never questioned the rapidly increasing English medium schools in Maharashtra. You have never said that the medium of instruction in all schools in Maharashtra should be only Marathi. Marathi medium schools are declining rapidly. The present government is punishing the owners of private Marathi schools. But it is not punishing the owners of private English medium schools.  The fetish of our people for English medium schools is dangerous to the existence of Marathi medium schools. But you have never taken this issue of dying Marathi schools very strongly. In fact your own son studies in an English medium school. The website of your party is in not simply in Marathi, it is also in English.

Thus you know the importance of English. English is the vehicle of knowledge. It is not just an international language but also the language that connects Indians. It is through this language I am reaching you.  English is the vehicle of prestige too. However, only rich Marathi people afford to educate their children in English medium schools. You are rich too. Everything is possible for the rich people in India.

But is it possible for them to find an untranslatable Marathi word? Is it possible for you to find an untranslatable Marathi word? Is it possible for your uncle to find it?

For an untranslatable word, what needs is a great idea. An idea that can be understood only in Marathi! An idea that can really change our lives! It should be so great that everyone in the world will have to need it. Everyone in the world will have to learn Marathi to understand it. Then a new era will emerge – an era in which Marathi will rule the world. The people of Maharashtra will rule the world.

However, I do not know how to invent a great idea. One needs time and money to invent. The most important requirement, perhaps, is a genius mind. Like any other common Maharashtrian, I have plenty of time but I have little money. The fact that my children study in a Marathi medium school is more than enough to prove my poverty. But I am very confident of your philanthropy. You are rich and generous too, right?

But what about the genius mind?

I can’t think of a genius idea because I am poor and on top of that I am illiterate. I am so poor that I can’t send my children to an English medium school.  I want my children to study in an English medium school. I have no money and there are millions of Marathi parents who have no money. Our children are deprived of the English language, so they are deprived of knowledge. Thus our children will remain poor as poor as we are.

While knowledge of English is essential for our survival in the present, an untranslatable idea is essential for our super-long term growth. Sounds ironical, but true.

You insist that you are not against the migrants but you want every migrant to learn Marathi and to respect our culture. Is our culture rich? The richness of any culture depends on great ideas. Is our Marathi rich? Is there an untranslatable Marathi word that the entire word has to learn?

Thousands of migrants have to come to Mumbai. They have to leave their places out of compulsion and out of poverty. They are so poor that I doubt whether they can afford to even educate their children, forget the medium of instruction. Most of them are illiterate. You want them to learn Marathi, if they have to live in Maharashtra. But what is the use of learning Marathi? I know Marathi, but I want to learn English. Marathi has no value. I serve international tourists who easily give me hundreds of rupees if I speak with them in English. They can do so, as they earn in dollars. A dollar is always greater than a rupee. So the more I know English, the more rupees I will earn. What is the using of learning Marathi?

But let me tell you that the Canadian tourist was ready to give me thousands of rupees for just one untranslatable modern Marathi word.

Either let me know an untranslatable Marathi word or teach me English. The one who knows English very well can easily get a good job. I do not know English. My wife does not know English. So we are poor. My children will not know English. So they will remain poor. Poverty grows because of Marathi. And ironically Marathi survives because of poverty.

In the last International Conference on Marathi, Ramadas Futane said, ‘as long as there are poor Marathi people in Maharashtra, the Marathi language will exist.’ But I have no concern for Marathi. Marathi should not be persevered at the cost of poor Maharashtrains like us. I have concern for my survival. I have concern for my poor family. I do not want my children to remain poor like me.
It is true that your fight to help us regain our jobs that we lose to the north Indian migrants. But I suggest that you should concentrate on overall poverty eradication in stead of simply trying to save our jobs. Create jobs, do not simply save them. For that a shift in the focus is needed. The focus should be on ‘ingenuity’.

We should understand that we, society as a whole, can’t achieve a long term inclusive growth unless we find at least one genius idea. At the same time we should understand that one can’t invent an idea when one’s survival is at stake. So the first priority should be poverty eradication. And for poverty eradication, knowledge of English (spoken and written both) is essential in today’s world. You can set a mission of making us proficient in English in the next five years. Even a free English coaching can be made available to every poor Maharashtrian on the behalf of your party. I guarantee that such efforts will eradicate poverty and you will deserve all the credit.

Once you have removed poverty, you can bring the question of a genius idea to the fore. This is a vision which focuses ‘ingenuity’. But the vision will become an illusion if you promise us a genius idea. A vision based on ingenuity can not be promised. But a vision based on ingenuity can be shared.

Will you share such vision with all the people of Maharashtra?

-         Your poor and illiterate supporter

P.S. - Though the question of finding a great idea will keep all of us dangling until we really find it, you are smart enough to use the thin line between a vision and an illusion for your long and successful career in politics.

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