Saturday, September 01, 2007

The North South Divide: A Chasm

In a land of billion people, with 1500 miles separating the east from the west, and an equal distance separating the north from the south, the resulting cultural exchange that culminates across different parts of the country allows us to accept the similarities and probe for those differences that can get baffling at times and at other times, equally glaring. India has in her the wherewithal to adapt to the changing times, and in today's fast paced world, she is really doing a good job in staying in tune with the present.

North, south, east and the west, but if you notice, people tend to classify India into two broad divisions, the north and the south. The east and the west somehow tend to get aligned with one of the two major divisions. Ask any Indian about the two regions, and he will be quick to draw the boundaries. At least 99% of the Indians will agree with me: Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu fall in the southern part of India, and anybody hailing from any of the four states can be called a South Indian. What about the remaining states? OK! The rest are the North Indians. My friends from Maharashtra tend to argue with me, But, we are neither north Indians nor south Indians! We are more cosmopolitan in our outlook. I know that the times are changing. A typical north Indian attitude: Anybody who does not speak Hindi should be from the southern part of India. Just apply the logic to suit the other end. According to a typical south Indian, anybody who speaks Hindi is a North Indian. So, a southerner would most definitely place a person coming from Bombay in the northern part of the country.

Hindi was adopted as the national language of India post Independence. The late sixties and early seventies witnessed quite a battle down south. The Tamilians wanted Tamil to be incorporated as the national language, the Telugu speaking people obviously wanted Telugu, Kannadigas wanted Kannada and Keralites wanted Malayalam as the official language of the country. The country was obviously in a turmoil, with each region declaring its language as the preferred choice of communication at the national level. After much discussion, Hindi was chosen as the national language of the country. There were protests from the southern quarters to ban teaching Hindi in schools and colleges. The leaders of these states did not want to promote Hindi in any way, and they felt that Hindi was a direct threat to the vernacular medium. Talks on logistics and numbers failed to find any reason with these people. The south felt that Hindi was being thrust on them. It actually took some time before news was aired in the local language. Even today, a southerner is not at ease speaking in Hindi. Why is that? Right from the beginning, he is brought up in a surrounding where people around him are speaking in the local language - Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam or Telugu. A habit that formed an integral part in him two thousand years back requires some changing, and it has to come voluntarily. Though English and Hindi are a part of the school syllabus, I am really not sure how many south Indians feel comfortable speaking in Hindi, though it is the national language of the country. There is always this reservation of Oh! Am I using the right words? Do I have a Southerner accent? Is he laughing at my Hindi? Though such an attitude is changing, it would really take some time before he comes out of such thoughts. When I was having a talk with one of my friends the other day, he told me "GK, first the preference is Telugu, then comes English and then comes Hindi." Why? I have problems speaking in Hindi, I just don't know. We can never be comfortable in Hindi, how many ever years we learn Hindi or how many ever Bollywood movies we see! I have had Hindi for close to twelve years, learning Prem Chand and other illustrious authors of the good old times, but coming to speech, Hindi takes a backseat with a certain kind of unknown preference to the vernacular languages and English. Just that the system of learning is so different down south. We are forced to speak in English in schools, and outside schools, Kannada gets important for local conversation, and somewhere down the line, other than learning for tests and exams, Hindi never gets the cake in the conversation sector. Pretty bad, but that's the truth!!! Language clearly defines the line between the north and the south, actually, unfortunately.

Bangalore has transformed itself into a cosmopolitan city. There is a good influx of people from the north what with the booming IT sector having set up a base in the silicon valley of the country. People down south have always been hailed as conservative compared to the counterparts from the north. Now, with the IT scenario, things have changed. There is no point in trying to draw comparisons as the flambuoyance is slowly finding its way down south. About ten years back, it was easy to notice the difference in a person, whether he is from the north or the south. Getting into the details can just be a touch controversial!!!

A laughable fact is that people from the north can never accept the south Indian film industry. Many of them find it amusing how a Rajinikanth/ Kamal Hassan/ Chiranjeevi/ Mohal Lal can be called as good film stars. Why? Because, their Hindi has a south Indian touch! But, come on, they are meant to be south Indian film stars belting out dialogues in the local tongue. South Indian films are not catered to the North. It has its special audience section down south. Obviously there is a difference in the style of film making. It is impossible to appease the other section with products from the southern market. It is a pretty tough job! Bollywood draws its fascination down south, but people have more choices from the local industry and so, Bollywood stars though popular, cannot drive a south Indian fan crazy.

The north and the south have their differences, but it gets fascinating, when in a different country, all of them unite for a common cause. Be it a religious or a social cause, there is no opportunity lost to join hands and get together for a cultural fiesta.


  1. GK. Good article as always. I tend to agree with most of your statements except for one. Kannadigas wanting Kannada to be the official language. As Master Hirannaiah says in his one of his famous dramas, Kannadigas are not as passionate or fanatic about their language/state. They are mostly laidback and tend not to interfere in these divides.

    As for the main topic, I have seen that most of the North feel that if you are from South, they tend to think you are "Madrasi" and likewise most in TN tend to think anyone talking Hindi is a "Northi". I still feel its more obvious in Chennai about people not "wanting" to learn or talk Hindi and I hope it is going to change. I have heard the most educated people...argue the fact that you cannot call Hindi as the official language of India but instead Tamil should have that honor. That shocked me beyond words.

    I hope that one day we think more of India rather than some " divides".

  2. I honestly don't care abt these. Make English the official language and give maximum importance to each and every regional language. If I ever go to some Hindi speaking language, i will start speaking Hindi. Most of the Hindi speaking states contribute zero to the economy. Doesn't make sense to impose Hindi upon others.
    Many languages have a history of more than 2000 years.
    If u r a true Indian, u gotta adapt without the language coming into picture.
    If u want to settle down in a different state u gotta learn that language. just because u speak Hindi or Tamil, it doesn't make sense not to learn any other language.
    If ur move is temporary then manage with english.

    However there are extremists in each and every state, kill all these. Karunanidhi is the first who comes into mind. The Election commission should ban all regional parties who blackmail the central govt.
    The Bengalis letting Bangladeshis or the Tamilians letting LTTEs are the height of languages craze.

  3. You are a self centered attention seeking prick. Stop rattling your pea sized brain to come up with something interesting. How much ever you try your writing always sucks.

    Please spare us of your tamil sounding English and retire!!!

  4. Madan Sir: Thank you sir for the comments. But, I am sure Karnataka too went through a phase when it was apprehensive of Hindi. That was a long time back. Times have changed now.

    Anonymous 1: Whatever said, I do not think we need to be patriotic towards a particular language. The feeling has to come towards the nation. As you said, language really does not matter for us to grow up!!!

    Anonymous who is scared: Thank you for your refined comment. I wish people would come out and identify themselves when they come up with such comments than pose incognito. Isn't it embarrassing, Anonymous? :-) It is not sufficient if you just air your views, you should be brave enough to show your face later!!!

  5. Thats a good reply GK. If one wants to share his/her views , let them b bold and come out with their actual name rather than being anonymous!!.After all, there is a freedom of speech for everyone. Keep writing GK. Its always a treat to read your articles!!!

  6. GK,

    I was going to comment that I wonder why people have something very strong to say (good or bad) but do not have the guts to stand up and say, yes this is me and this is what I have to say. But I noticed you had said that yourself. Yet, it is indeed interesting; SOMEBODY goes through the post, takes the pain to post a comment and says he/she doesn't like what you write. Ironic!

    I haven't had a chance to read what you've written but remembering the countless times we must have discussed on the topic, you know what my views are. Hindi is a wonderful language and I think there should be one binding language and the best language that can do that is Hindi I guess. Anyway, let me read the blog and see if your views have changed.

  7. Madan sir: :-)

    Pavan: My views are always balanced. Now, you will kill me for this :-) I have never been against Hindi; it is just that I wanted to put things from a Southerner's perspective!!!

  8. I do feel speaking Hindi is really not mandatory. Mother tongues and local languages have their own significance and English it is enough to communicate with rest of the India as well as to the World. If we spent so much time learning different languages, we will never improve in other areas. Well written post.

  9. Pijush: Welcome to my blog. Thanks a lot for the comment. Learning a language is not as important as learning the technology. Language is just a communications tool and as long as you are able to communicate effectively, it really doesn't matter what you are speaking!

  10. First of all i would like to apologize for the late reply, but you see unlike you i do not spend a whole day in anticipation of people 's comments on what i write.
    Secondly, a lot of rotten stuff has been brought to light by philanthropists, not unlike us, in service to people.
    Thirdly, the main reason of me being anonymous is that i do not want my name seen anywhere close to this stinking , pompous and kindergarten writing that you call a blog.
    Lastly, i can already feel a strong stench of a new "blog" on this bit. But i guess it is futile to ask you not to blab on it.
    P.S. It was really very desperate of you to comment on your own blog under pseudo ids.

  11. I agree mate.This was one of the misconception i too had.
    Given the size of India its only natural.Holland is such a small country the size of karnataka and still people have so many dialects that they cant understand one another.

    @madan: People in chennai dont have o learn hindi coz they speak tamil and everyone they want to speak too does too.Hindi is official language but not national language in certain states(10 states and 3 union territories).This is a per constitution.

  12. dei, I did not know that Hindi was not accepted in ten states, though got it verified on google now :-) That was surprising news!! Then, the whole concept of national language gets defeated!!!

  13. hai why india should require a national language india is a country of divercity why the union govt wants to impose hindi as national language to south indian states all the states are divided on linguistic basis so why do we require a national language every one can learn their mother tounge and learn english the international language why the union govt india spends crores of rs for implementing the national language to non hindi speaking areas we have already seen the consiquence of this (mumbai) who is speaking marathi in mumbai these days

  14. Sunil: Yeah, personally I feel there is no use harping on a single language within the country. We have to progress towards development, not fight about petty language issues. It keeps happening time and again!!!

  15. This post of yours is pretty awesome, do check out another post of mine on the same topic at
    I am curious to know your reaction, I have to admit I have been more harsher than you.

    @anonymous (who is abusive)
    I think its your comments which stink on this blog page. I am surprised the author has allowed such a coward like you to comment on his blog. Shame on you.

  16. Vishnu,
    Nice post that you have written! The divide between the north and the south is too glaring not to notice!!!

    Regarding the anonymous commentor, he is actually non-anonymous, he is my good friend, who has written that in "good" humour :-)
    So, I guess it doesn't matter what he has written :-)

  17. Hi Praveen,

    I believe English can serve the purpose of the common language than Hindi.

    Here is my reason for that: