Monthly Archives: February 2016

Indian TV channels and their contempt for Hindi

Rajesh Kochhar

Nowhere in the world would you find such disrespect for grammar, syntax and pronunciation as on Indian Hindi TV channels. Roman alphabet is grossly inadequate for representing Indian language sounds. If you come across an Indian word written in Roman script, you cannot pronounce it in an ‘obvious’ manner; you must know beforehand, from independent sources, what the correct pronunciation is. Take two popular Indian proper nouns Tata and Lata. They are spelt similarly but their actual pronunciation is vastly different. Both the t’s in Tata are hard as in the alphabet itself, but t in Lata is soft. In South India, Lata would be often written as Latha. This however does not mean that th is to be pronounced as in haathi.
While ostensibly paying tribute for bravery and endurance to the Siachin soldier whose name is written as Hanmanthappa, Hindi and English channels have not cared to find out what his name is and what its correct pronunciation is.
Roman alphabet makes a distinction between j and z; as well as k and q. Sounds represented by z, f, and q do not occur in Sanskrit. However, many common words in Hindi contain these sounds; the presenter/anchor should know the difference. An otherwise well-respected Hindi TV personality jarringly insists on saying hajaar (thousand) in place of hazaar. Curiously, ph in Sanskrit words is increasingly but wrongly being replaced by f: instead of saying saphal ( fruitful, successful), the tendency is to say safal.
Unlike English, each Hindi noun is assigned masculine or feminine gender. The gender in turn determines the verb and adjective form. In English one would say: Divali ( or festival of Divali) was celebrated. But in Hindi, Divali manaayee gayee, but Divali ka tyohaar manaayaa gayaa. ( Incidentally, there is no need whatsoever to employ w in Hindi words; the phonetically correct alphabet is v.)
Like gender, it is important to know whether a Hindi noun is singular or plural and how a noun goes from singular to plural. Do (two) nauka ( boats) doobi is wrong; it should be do naukayen doobi.
When text in Devanagari is shown on the TV screen routinely there are errors of half and full consonants and long and short vowels. ( It is not possible to illustrate this in Roman script.) The examples given here are merely indicative. Anyone who watches TV can expand the list. Can there be a way of making sure that Indian media, particularly the TV channels, know the difference between correct and incorrect when it comes to Hindi?

Was Dyal Singh Majithia a devout Sikh?

Rajesh Kochhar

He was not, but The Tribune says so.

Dyal Singh Majithia( 1848/9-1898) has been rightly described as the most notable Punjabi of his time. (Majithia as the last name is a geographical indicator; Dyal Singh’s clan name was Gill or Shergill.) Extremely wealthy through landed inheritance and his own commercial enterprise, he devoted his entire wealth and life to public cause. His most enduring legacy is the founding in 1881 of The Tribune, which has remained a well-respected and influential newspaper of Punjab region. It is no coincidence that The Tribune is a year older than the Panjab University Lahore; the paper was set up to successfully advocate the cause of the new university as a modern institution.

Dyal Singh was ‘an admirer and supporter’ of the Brahmo movement. Although in Punjab Brahmo Samaj speedily lost ground to the more militant and broad-based Arya Samaj, it did constitute a small but valuable intellectual resource comprising Bengalis and a handful of well educated Punjabis.

Since Dyal Singh had no children he decided in consultation with his friends and advisors to vest most of his immovable and movable property in three public trusts, one for The Tribune,  and the other two for a proposed College and Public Library both subsequently named after him. The three executors of the will, Jogendra Chandra Bose, Charles Golak Nath and Harkishen Lal, were all advocates or pleaders. They were also named trustees of The Tribune and made members of the other two, larger, trusts as well.

Dyal Singh’s last will was opposed tooth and nail by his relatives especially his estranged Amritsar-based wife Rani Bhagwan Kaur and to a smaller extent by the Karachi-based ‘Mrs Lily Catherine Gill’, ‘an East-Indian lady, claiming to have been married to the deceased’. An application for probate of the will was made by the executors on 18 February 1899. A two-judge Civil Court which examined the matter at length rejected the contentions made by the objectors and granted the probate on 19 April 1900. Bhagwan Kaur then took the matter to the judicial committee of the Privy Council which dismissed her appeal on 5 August 1903. 

On the founder’s day this year,  that is on 2 February 2016, The Tribune paid tribute to its founder through an article titled ‘Visionary who helped shape modern Punjab’, written by Rajinder Mohan S Chhina, Honorary Secretary, Khalsa College Charitable Society, Amritsar. The article claims that Dyal Singh ‘was a devout Sikh’.

The Tribune has often written on Dyal Singh. It is the first time mention is made of his devoutness as a Sikh. The claim is extraordinary, because it is not supported by any evidence. All known evidence in fact points to the contrary.

A major objection raised by Dyal Singh’s widow concerned his religion. She argued that ‘certain personal habits of the testator [ Dyal Singh] in respect to diet and otherwise were inconsistent with Hindu or Sikh orthodoxy, and so excluded him from the term Hindu in the Act’. Note that for the purpose of various acts applicable in the case, the term Hindu included Sikh. The Chief Court asserted, and the Privy Council concurred, that even if  Dyal Singh’s religious and social practices were ‘heterodox’, this did not mean that he ceased to be a Sikh.

Chief Court’s judgment on Dyal Singh’s probate case has come to be recognized as an important document in the legal history because of its pronouncements on what constitutes religious inclusion. Had Dyal Singh been a devout Sikh, the prolonged litigation would have been unnecessary.

Irony in The Tribune’s 2016 tribute to its founder should not be missed. On the one hand, tributes are being paid to Dyal Singh’s vision and leadership. At the same time attempts are being made to place him in a religious straitjacket.