Monday, October 21, 2013

Nepali versus English: Which to learn after Tharu language?

Connecting the dots
Imagine the egg and chicken conundrum. Tharus were in Nepal since the days of Buddha. It makes at least 2,500 years. Medically it has been proved that Tharus are resistant to malaria. And to be immune to malaria, you need to spend at least some 3,000 years in the marsh along with the Anopheles mosquitoes. This proves Tharus were here for more than 3,000 years ago.

Now imagine scholars claiming Tharus don't have their own language. They have been lamenting that Tharu language is a spin-off of Maithili in the eastern, Bhojpuri in the central and Awadhi in the western Nepal. However, it is a well-known and well-accepted fact that Tharus were here in this part of earth much earlier than the Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi speaking races.

So, were the Tharus dumb before their neighbours speaking Maithili, Bhojpuri and Awadhi entered Nepal? Did they speak in sign language?

Even a blockhead can say no to this false claim. The truth is, Tharus had their own language and their language was marauded, exploited, influenced and colonised by other languages.

Still the roots of Tharu language remain the same. The basic words are same. Only, with the time, and the influence of newer languages, Tharu language turned into what it is today. 

The need to preserve Tharu language
Take the example of "Jhutti" – a bunch of rice sheaves weaved into decorative forms of a cow's beak (kauwatholi), broom's headgear (maur), mat (patiya), comb (kakahi) and so on. To explain the one-word wonder you will need at least 10 words in Nepali and so in other languages.

Likewise, name the fishing equipment – koniya, dhasha, chachh, helka, tapi, dhariya, deli and many others – you need at least a bunch of words to explain them. But the Tharus, they have been using it since ages and no other language can well explain them.

Now come to the food items. Who else can explain hundreds of recipes of fishes and water snails other than Tharus? Similarly, none other than Tharus can explain the ornaments that they have been wearing since ages. The nuances of daily lives lived and experienced by Tharus can be explained only in Tharu language. That's why it is essential to preserve Tharu language. It's similar to saving the Sami language of Norway, Sweden and Finland that has 180 snow and ice related words and as many as 1000 different words for reindeer.

Why Nepali speakers hesitate to learn Tharu language
Now, the quintessential question to the national language speakers residing in Tharuhat, the land of Tharus: Why do they hesitate to learn Tharu language while Tharus have learnt Nepali? Are they still surviving in the days of Manu? Do they still claim to be smarter and more intelligent than their brothers (the relationship they pronounce when they have to relate with Tharus)? Or do they feel ashamed of learning and speaking Tharu language?

The one and only answer to this question is: The state made it mandatory to learn and speak Nepali while it claims that Nepal is a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-cultural country. That's the sole reason Tharus must learn Nepali in order to survive in Nepal. On the contrary, Nepali speakers living in Tharuhat don't need to learn Tharu language. Because the ones speaking Tharu language are compelled to learn Nepali. Though it is a foreign language for them.

If anybody disagrees to it then ask them to do so without learning English. No Nepali speaker can survive in this global competition without learning English. They are compelled to learn and speak English even though they can express better in their mother tongue Nepali.    

Why not to speak English rather than Nepali
So the question: Why not eliminate the middle-language called Nepali if the Tharus need to compete globally? Obviously, they can follow their Indian counterparts. In India, it isn't compulsory to learn Hindi, the national language. They can learn two languages and survive. One, the mother tongue (Oriya, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi and likes) and the other, English.

Tharus can do the same. The middle-language Nepali can be eliminated so that one doesn't need to slog twice, once for Nepali and then for English. Slogging once will save their time and energy. The saved time can be utilised in other productive works. It's not a hate-relationship with Nepali language but a genuine suggestion to the Tharus to leapfrog in this competitive world.