Monday, March 23, 2009

Tribute to C. Subramania Bharati

It was reported by as follows:

Puducherry, Mar 22 : Chief Justice of Madras High Court Hemant Laxman Gokhale today visited the poet Subramania Bharathiar museum cum research centre here and paid rich tributes at the his portrait.

The museum has been housed in the premises where the poet resided for nearly 11 years during his political asylum in Puducherry in the early part of the 20th century.

Puducherry government pleader in Madras High Court T Murugesan who accompanied the Chief Justice explained to him the various features of the museum and also the chequered career of the nationalist poet.

A video presentation on the life of the poet and his contributions to the literary world and to the freedom movement was displayed.

It was heart warming to read the above report. Bharati suffered untold agony under foreign rule, and the visit by the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to his house in Pondicherry is an historic event.

In March 2008, the Uncollected writings of C. Subramania Bharati (1882-1921) from the Hindu, titled பாரதி கருவூலம், was published by Aa. Iraa. Venkataacalapati. For the first time, letters by Bharati have been compiled in a book form and made available to the public. It includes a long letter titled "Police Rule in India", addressed by Bharati to Ramsay Macdonald, M.P., that was published in the Hindu, dated 10th February 1914. The police attempted to implicate Bharati in the Ashe murder case, and the letter is painful to read. To rule out grudge by the then government against him, he wrote to the Commissioner asking if there was any warrant pending against him. He followed the trial of the Ashe murder case at the Madras High Court.

Bharati also wrote a letter to the Hindu, dated 19th October 1916 as follows:

National Languages as Media of Instruction
Sir,- In the course of a recent lecture at Triplicane, Mr. J.C. Rollo of the Pachaiyappa's College has supported the use of English as the only right medium of instruction to Indian boys and girls. But he recognises, rightly, that the consensus of Indian opinion is against his view. He thus summarises the arguments on our side. 'It is urged that a student will save much time by being instructed in the vernacular (sic), that text-books in the vernacular (sic) will be within easy reach of all classes of people, that an Indian possessed of literary genius will be able to commit the fruits of his genius in his own vernacular (sic)'. This summary is far from being exhaustive. Our main argument is that one's mother-tongue is the only natural and human medium for imparting instruction. If anyone should doubt this, let him go and make enquires of educationalists in Japan, Scandinavia, England, Italy, Mexico or any other land where human beings are human beings. Speaking of the Tamil country, especially, the blunder of using a foreign medium becomes shocking because the Tamil language happns to be far superior to English for accurate and scientific expression - a fact which naturally enough, Mr. Rollo seems to be quite ignorant of. 'It cannot be denied,' he says, naively, 'that there is no vernacular (sic) in Southern India fitted for the teaching of science or the technicalities of history.' But the self-complacency betrayed by this statement of Mr Rollo is quite pardonable in him, considering the present state of things educational in British India.
'Insufficiency of scientific terms' is the next charge levelled against our languages. But the Nagari Pracharini Sabha is publishing a very useful dictionary of scientific terms in easy Sanskrit which can be introduced wholesale into every Indian language, thus securing the unity of scientific phraseology for India, even as Europe has borrowed wholesale from Latin and Greek for a similar end.
Within a few years, the novelty of such terms will disappear and they will look quite natural in Tamil or Gujarati books, even as all those big classical terms appear very natural nowadays in English or French scientific text-books.
Of course, we have no objection to teaching English as a secondary language in our schools and colleges. I think that any rational Englishman ought to be satisfied with this concession.

Bharati was fluent in both English and Tamil. His passion and fire for promoting national languages spoken by the majority people is writ large. Tamil carries with it the credit of being the oldest language still spoken by a vast population across countries with virgin fervor. It is only fair that Tamil is used as an official language in the Madras High Court. The State Government, through the Governor, should seek the consent of the President under Artice 348 of the Constitution of India, to give Tamil its due at the seat of justice.

One more minor detail. We could not have missed that Bharati used '(sic)' after 'vernacular'. According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English,

n [C usually singular] [Date: 1600-1700; Language: Latin; Origin: vernaculus 'born in a place', from verna 'slave born in his or her owner's house']//
1 a form of a language that ordinary people use, especially one that is not the official language: in the vernacular //

Bharati vehemently opposed the idea of calling Tamil a vernacular language in the light of its Latin origins implying slavery and subordination. The book cited above also gives the instance when a reporter went to interview Bharati, and his outburst at the very mention of a word, which could have been none other than 'vernacular'.

We still have the "VR (Vernacular Records) Section" at the Madras High Court. It would be a fitting tribute to Bharati to rename it as "OR (Old Records) Section".