by Polly Noshir Chenoy

(Dr. Chenoy belongs to the Department of English, Osmania University, Hyderabad.)

My mother’s contention is: “British gayan ne’ opre vadhare British thai gayan” (We have become more British after the British have left). This, she attributes mostly to the fact that the Parsis; especially the younger generation speak no other language except English and have no knowledge of any Indian language. But what is annoying and also rash, is the fact, that the Parsis feel superior to the other Indians on account of their mastery of the English language and tend to look down on those who cannot speak the language well. Whereas, it would help them immensely if they continued to learn their adopted mother tongue, Gujarati, as well as the language of the region in which they live.

Times today have changed greatly. Everyone lives in very competitive times, and therefore, the Parsis are seriously at a disadvantage not knowing the language of the region, nor their own mother tongue, Gujarati. They try to get by with a smattering of Hindustani with the local people and of course with their knowledge of English with the elite. But this kind of elitism must stop.

The attitude and the thinking of the Parsis needs to undergo a change as this change would benefit them both locally and nationally. It should be instilled in the young that the more languages they learn, the more advantageous it is for them. They should also be made to realise that assimilation is better than alienation and that they can no longer afford to live “marginal” lives.

In our family, we were first taught Gujarati at the Parsis School and we also learnt Urdu, the official language of the erstwhile Hyderabad State. We continued to learn Urdu, for instance, at the Convent where we studied. My indebtedness and gratitude to my parents is indeed great for their foresight and insistence that we also learn Gujarati. Otherwise, a wealth of knowledge concerning the history of our people and of the lives of eminent Parsis would have been lost to us.

But, the Anglicisation of the Parsis has a longer and deeper history and cannot be confined merely to the problem of our children speaking no other language except English.

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Courtesy : Ruby Sanjana


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