Vyasavali/Freedom to use the current language

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Vyasavali  (1933)  by Gidugu Venkata Ramamoorty
Freedom to use the current language.

Freedom to use the current language

"Current words like current coin have a space value."

Admirers of classical Telugu evidently believe that in the twelfth century when Nannaya translated the Sanskrit Mahabharata into Telugu, the vernacular language had reached the acme of perfection and then formed a sort of crystallized linguistic machine with all its parts elaborated and finished; and that succeeding writers have been merely setting it in motion in order to produce their literary works. We know that such beliefs however eminent the persons who hold them may be, are founded on erroneous notions regarding the nature and growth of language. A Pandit whose conception of the nature of language is derived from his acquaintance with Sanskrit, devotes his life to the study of old Telugu and attempts to reproduce the older forms in his writings; he therefore inculcates the belief that a literary language ought to be as uniform as Sanskrit for all time. That some of the graduates of the modern universities follow the doctrines of the Pandit indicates that the study of the science of language is not what it ought to be.

In a monster memorial presented about six years ago to the Government of Madras in the name of the whole Telugu population, praying that “classical" and not "modern” Telugu should be the proper medium of instruction in all the Educational institutions, the leaders of the movement declared:--

"The Telugu of Nannaya of the 12th century is not different from that of Rao Bahadur Mr. Veeresalingam Pantulu of today. The language of the one is the same as that of the other. The same rules of grammar, rhetoric and prosody govern both. It is, therefore Wrong to say that the literary language is archaic or antiquated as the few advocates of the Modern School represent it to be"

Mr. Veeresalingam who was elected president of the public meeting held at Madras in order to adopt the public memorial against Modern Telugu drafted by Mr. Jayanti Ramayya Pantulu, emphatically denounced modern Telugu as a vulgar dialect. We then criticised his views in our pamplet entitled A Memorandum on modern Telugu and discussed the question frequently with him. It is a most remarkable thing that Mr. Veeresalingam Pantulu, the beau-ideal of the classical school should have changed his views and publicly declared in his "Autobiography" that Telugu had changed and a new grammar ought to be compiled to suit the requirements of modern Telugu Prose and recorded his intention to write some work in modern Telugu and a grammar of modern Telugu. But alas! he is no more! There are thousands of educated Telugus who now percieve the error of the classical school The guardians of classical Telugu fondly hoped that if current forms of words were studiously avoided in books, the old language would continue unpolluted. The educational authorities accepted their views and interdicted current Telugu. The syndicate of he Madras University announced five years ago, that it "is not at present in a position to recognise what is known as modern Telugu for University purposes. "Who knows what the whirling of time may bring about?

We wonder how educated men who love freedom of speach, wilfully surrender the liberty of using their own speech and tamely submit to the tyranny of pedantocracy, while they complain of the vagaries of bureaucracy. Some at any rate value highly the birth-right of using one's mother tongue and we are among them and do not hesitate to defy the whole world-pedantocracies and bureaucracies, universities and academies included and exercise our right. We vindicate it for the good of the whole community.

The opinion of the renowned Indian poet Sir Rabindra Nath Tagore regarding modern Bengali is equally applicable to Telugu and we make no apology for quoting a passage from his letter on "The vernaculars for the M. A. Degree" published last year in the modern Review. We hope the Editor will not object to it. "Our literary language is still in a fluid stage, it is continually trying to adapt itself to new accessions of thought and emotion and to the constant progress in our national life. Necessarily the changes in our life and ideas are more rapid than they are in the countries whose influences are contributing to build the modern epoch of our renaissance. And, therefore, our language, the principal instrument for shaping and storing our ideals, should be allowed to remain much more plastic than it need be in the future when standards have been already formed which can afford a surer basis for our progress.

"But I have found that the direct influence which the Calcutta University wields over our language is not strengthening and vitalising but pedantic and narrow. It tries to perpetuate the anachronism of preserving the Pandit-made Begali swathed in grammar wrapings borrowed from a dead language. It is every day becoming a more formidable obsctacle in the way of our boys' acquring that mastery of their mothertongue which is of life and literature. The artificial language of a learned mediocrity, inert and formal, ponderous and didactic, devoid of the least breath of creative vitality, is forced upon our boys at the most receptive period of their life. I know this, because I have to connive, myself, at a kind of intellectual infanticide when my own students try to drown the natural spontaneity of their expression under some stagnant formalism. It is the old man of the sea keeping his fatal hold upon the youth of our country. And this makes me apprehensive lest the stamping of death's seal upon our living language should be performed on a magnified scale by our University as its final act of tyranny at the last hour of its direct authority.

"In the modern European Universities the medium of instruction being the vernacular, the students in receiving, recording and communicating their lessons perpetually come into intimate touch with it, making its acquàintance where it is not slavishly domineered over by one particular sect of academicians. The personalities of various authors, the individualities of their styles, the relation of the living power of their language are constantly and closely brought to their minds and therefore all that they need for their final degrees is a knowledge of the history and morphology of their mother-tongues. But our students have not the same opportunity, except in their private studies and according to their private tastes. And therefore, their minds are more liable to come under the influence of some inflexible standard of language manufactured by pedagogues and not given birth to by the genius of artists. I assert once again that those who, from their position of authority have the power and the wish to help our language in the unfolding of its possibilities, must know that in its present stage, freedom of movement is of more vital necessity than fixedness of forms."