I recently watched the Irrfan Khan starrer ‘Hindi Medium’. As the title of this post suggests, it was a satirical take on the plight of non-English speaking parents trying to land admission at a prestigious, elite, English medium school for their five year old daughter.
It shows the lengths they go to in order to ensure their daughter’s future. Although a lot can be said about the lack of acting skills of the entire cast as well as the movie being riddled with clumsy direction, content and editing, yet, it brings to the fore a very pertinent topic and delivers a strong message to the society.
The movie emphatically showcases how one can only go on to achieve success in life today if one has mastered the art of speaking and writing English fluently. There’s nothing wrong with this premise, I agree. However, we face a very real challenge to the progress of society when we start to judge and categorise people based on this ability alone. Over the years, we have not only become social snobs towards people with fautly and faltering English, but we have also started to measure a man’s worth on this scale. Herein lies a grave problem.
A particular dialogue in the movie aptly summarises the society’s attitude towards English. Roughly translated, it says, “If a French man were to speak incorrect English, it is excusable. If a Russian were to speak incorrect English, it is again excusable. However, if an Indian were to speak incorrect English, that man is deemed a failure at life and is assumed to amount to nothing”.
To make matters worse (yes, suprisingly enough, it is quite possible), there is absolutely no scope for children of parents having been educated via Hindi medium to gain admission in English Medium schools. The entire admission process is structured in a way that the child’s future hangs upon how well his parents fare in the interview. Usually, it is affluent people only who have recieved education from English medium schools while the poor studied in Hindi medium, Government or Public schools. So, by imposing this structure, we are eliminating the chance of kids belonging to poor households to get a chance at competing with affluent kids even at a later stage.
In essence, the privileged become more privileged and the poor remain poor, if not become poorer. No hope for bridging the rich-poor divide Survives.
The movie also showed how the welfare scheme of the government under the Right to Education Act, granting access to free and compulsory education to all children aged below 14 years of age, is being misused by the rich for their own benefit, thereby reducing the chances of the poor by a huge margin again.
In a society today where “convent educated” is a stamp of approval on our foreheads, worn with pride, opening many doors for us; where “English speaking” brides and grooms are actively sought for in every matrimonial ad, this movie comes as an eye opener.
Schools are not meant to only impart learning in the English medium. Personality development is not limited to being fluent in spoken English.
No, schools are temples of education. Education being a holistic one. Children are the future of the world. We cannot shape them into social snobs. We cannot divide them into classes and categories right from preschool. They cannot be made to feel less than another because their parents were not fortunate enough. No, schools are meant to nurture young minds and hearts. They’re meant to nourish the nature of children and enable them to form a moral compass. They’re meant to enable the creation of better human beings so that they may grow up to break the shackles that we, as a failed society, erringly imposed on them.
Nurture, nourish, shape and enable is the motto. Not divide, distinguish, judge and begrudge them their dreams and futures.
I would like to end this narrative with the lyrics of a song from the movie sung by equally capable students from a government run, Hindi medium school –
Sooraj jaise chamkenge ( We shall shine like the sun)
Dekhe hain saadi ankhiyan ne (our eyes have seen)
Eh sapne ambraan de (dreams of the skies)
Eh sapne ambraan de
Boond boond jodenge pal pal (we’ll collect every drop of water at every moment)
Door door beh jaayenge (we’ll flow far away)
Phir naal samandran de (along with the ocean)
Phir naal samandran de
Assi aithe khade (we are standing here)
Hai jaana pare (we have to go somewhere)
Na kam humko tol (do not consider us any less)
Assi zidd te ade (we are adamant)
Junooni bade (we are passionate)
Eh dil ke ne bol (these are the words of our heart)
Ek jindri meri (I have one life)
Sau khwahishaa (but a hundred wishes)
Ek ek main poori karaan (x2) (I’ll fulfil them one and all)
Ek jindari meri
Mushkil humein rokna (it’s difficult to stop us now)
Shehron jaise ban jaayenge (we will become large like the cities)
Lagde ne jo chhote chhote (that crop up from tiny lanes and roads)
Eh raste galiyan de
Eh raste galiyan de
Phoolon ki tarah mehkenge
Hauley hauley yaaron
Ek din mausam galiyan de
Eh mausam galiyan de (someday, friends, these seasons of lanes will spread fragrance like flowers)
Abhi na jaane koi (right now no one knows)
Pehchaane koi (nor do they recognise)
Hai kya apna mol (our worth and value)
Assi zidd te ade (but we are adamant)
Janooni bade (we are passionate)
Eh dil ke ne bol (this is spoken from my heart)
Ek jinadri meri (I have one life)
Sau khwahishan (but a hundred desires)
Ek ek main poori karaan (and I will fulfil them all)
Raat hai kajle waali (this night is dark)
Door badi diwali (the festival of lights is agar)
Dive dhoondhe akhiyaan (my eyes search for those lamps)
Dil waale ghonsle mein (in the nests of your hearts)
Panchi banange yaaron (we’ll make our homes)
Humne ummeedan rakhiyan (we have hope)
Maine haaran nahi hai (we won’t be defeated)
Chahe kuch bhi kare duniya (no matter what this world does)