Friday, July 16, 2010

Symbol of Contention


They say "it would contribute to India's economic growth internationally." I know not how it would do so, but I know that "it would also contribute to India's social divide nationally."

Falling in line with all the other big economic power houses, India adopts a symbol for Indian Rupee after a publisized competition to design it. The design is inspired by the letter "Ra" of Devanagari script. In fact, it IS the letter "Ra" with a horizontal line added up. But why not get inspired by a letter from Tamil or Malayalam or ...

In my view, the choice of a Devanagari letter to represent the national currency depicts the central government's well-known favoritism of Hindi over other language/scripts. I find no reason for the non-Hindi-speaking states to bear this cultural onslaught and lingual monopoly of Hindi. The news papers are full with opinions that this symbol symbolizes Indian's multicultural ethos. If a single thought was given for it, then an element of Dravidian script should have been included. Alas, it is Hindi from which the New Delhi derives pride and not from the mythological animal called multiculturalism. Hindi has always been given a special status while other languages get step-motherly treatment. And the Hindi-speaking babus and sahebs in the capital have no idea that good and evil, beauty and ugly have different meaning in different parts of this humongous nation.

Selection of this symbol for Indian currency just increases the symbolic divide between north and south India. In a country like ours where pride of a region is shame for another, it is wise to not to invoke the feelings of pride of some if you risk hurting the egos of others. Being neutral is the way to protect egos on both sides. However, it is not the way to protect votes.

Confession and Conclusion: Hindi is the language close to my heart, speaking which I grew up, reading which I felt home. Now I'm swimming in the sambhar cup of Bangalore, "aste." I do not have any hard feelings for Hindi. What I object to is not Hindi, but the favoritism of Hindi over other languages. To generalize, I object to the notion of supremacy of one language over another.

Edit: Some readers found it difficult to understand why a non-person like me would have a problem with such symbol if the creator, Udaya Kumarhimself is an Tamilian. If the designer himself had risen above the languages, who am I to question his integrity. Indeed the designer is broad minded. However, my dear readers could not comprehend the fine divide between the integrity of an individual and the integrity of a government. I'm not criticizing the designer, but the selector.

Being the ruler of a multicultural country like ours, the government should have the sensibility to gauge the prevailing sentiments across the country and act accordingly. When they know that selecting a language specific symbol might give rise to resentments in some parts of the country, then why go ahead with it. Shouldn't we expect the government to take the responsibility of creating a harmonious environment in the society. Unfortunately, thats the last thing our political parties wish.
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  1. Yes, you are correct country like India whose 42% of the total Indian population now live under the global poverty line of $1.25 per day. 1/4 of the nation's population earns less than the government-specified poverty threshold of 12 rupees per day (approximately USD $0.25). The puppet Dr. Singh should see into that rather then putting new symbols...if economic depends on symbols then i guess...we are morons.

  2. Bang on... We are heading now where if all our efforts are headed towards such trivial things like symbol of the currency etc... Well written Ravi!

  3. Mr. Ravi, you have narrated a beautiful story here! but do you know that the person who designed this symbol Mr. Dharmalingam Udaya Kumar is Tamilian and is doing research on Tamil alphabet and manuscripts and is the assistant professor in the department of design of IIT Guwahati? it is easy to criticize anything, but to appreciate you need a broad mind!

  4. from the moment i read the news of rupee symbol. i was hearing only one thing from all of my south Indian fnds saying dey had done the partiality and Tamil fnd say dey should choose Tamil and at the same moment Karnataka people say they shd choose Kannada over Hindi and Tami. Now my friend its not an issue of showing "where pride of a region is shame for another". i think it was always literally from one side referring Tamil/Kannada etc. high profile than Hindi. i started reading your blog thinking you would have been different but alas...

  5. not oxymoron...the author is a moron... its not the symbol which creates a divide but people like u...grow up man

  6. when the designer is a tamilian himself. i don think tis blog makes any sense. the thing is tat tamilians and only tamilian in the southern region of india have a problem with hindi. i am a tamilian myself. but in college i had many hindi speaking frends. they wud really be discriminated and harrased by non cosmo tamilians.

  7. First thought: u got a spl way to express what u feel.. NICE!! ur blogs r gud keep writing ;-)

    Second thought:
    Initially I thought it is English letter R, which horizantal line with it. R for Rupee and that line, is just we need to have some line like the one in the $ symbol. ;-) ;-) So everyone interpret on their own way ;-)
    Even If I would have know hindi, I would have thing in my way only ;-)

    Didn't u blocked comments in ur blog? I mean preview and then approve only valid comments with ur reply. so that it will be more gud.

  8. @Anu, Ravikant, and Anonymous - All of you have the same point, i.e., since the designer was broad-minded enough to base the design on Devanagari instead of Dravidian script despite being a Tamilian, we have got no business criticizing its racist nature.

    You are very true in that. Indeed the designer is very broad minded. But what you missed in my criticism is that I'm not criticizing the designer, but the selector.

    Being the ruler of a multicultural country like ours, the government should have the sensibility to gauge the prevailing sentiments across the country and act accordingly. When they know that selecting a language specific symbol might give rise to resentments in some parts of the country, then why go ahead with such thing. Shouldn't we expect the government to take the responsibility of creating a harmonious environment in the society. Unfortunately, thats the last thing our political parties wish.

    @Bala -
    If you know Devanagari, the top horizontal line makes it a "Ra" and not English R in anyway. Had the top line not been there, I would have taken it for R with the vertical line removed.

    No, i don't moderate any comments because I believe that if I've got the freedom of speech in the form of blog, why should I suppress the freedom of speech of others to criticize me.

  9. Ravi I agree that the selectors might be little bit biased towards the Devanigiri when they took their decision. But can you tell me why you want to criticize these things. Tell me why you are following skepticism and of course in that mail you send, about the speech of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, I had seen that you like to criticize. By criticizing, you are actually emitting the negative energy to the readers.

    I would like to say something, please ignore if I am wrong. The world looks like how you see to it. A glass half filled is half empty also, the only difference is in the perspective of our vision. I believe that a good writer like you should have a responsibility towards the society. When you think about criticizing the universe will give you more stuffs to criticize and make your environment worst.

    I can understand the people who love their mother-tongue: but I don't understand when they hate other languages more than they love their language. I can understand when people do things to make sure that their language will live long: but I don't understand when they are killing other languages to make sure that their language survives. Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest is not always true.

    India is a multicolored painting. And the painting looks beautiful only when we have all the colors in it. When you change the shade of one color the painting will look dirty. Try to make this painting more beautiful not by belittling other colors but by increasing the color of your choice and by helping others to do the same!

    One more thing! Change your pattern of thinking and you can see how it changes your life and your world. I had started a new blog regarding the same topic: . The first topic tells you about a wonderful book called THE SECRET by Rhonda Byrne. Try to read that book if possible. It will remove all your doubts about what i had discussed now.


  10. i agree with anu. the author of this needs to grow up and have a broad mind about the world.... this same fellow will surely criticize if an indians r jobless in US and this same fellow will shout if an outsider comes to his city.... its not about writing some bullshit, its about writing meaningfully.....


  12. i have followed all the comments,
    which people have often told abt the broad mind,

    if one agrees to what ever shit is thrown over your face you appalude and you name it as national intergirty/securalism

    in india you have every reason to divide the people around and rule same as what firangis did,

    so all that matters was why divide people by introducing a symbol..,


  13. Very well written usual !!! loved reading this....U not only echo my feeling for hindi but also set things in right perspective. keep writing! good work.

  14. @Anu - I agree with you in that the world is the why you look at it. But in the absence of critics, the same rosy world would be on a path of gradual degradation. I might have criticized the symbol even if they had done it the other way.

    You understand the concept of multiculturalism, I understand, but not the guy driving the auto or the guy selling tea. In the given circumstances, it is the duty of the government to consider the sentiments, to not allow anger to rise.

    @Ramey - You said it all in few lines. Thanks.

    Finally, a friend of me reminded me that people here might have missed on the title of this blog "NONSENSE from a skeptic mind." :D

  15. Hi dude,
    I don't think it is possible to satisfy everyone in a Multi-cultural society like India. There is bound to be a bias towards a culture that is followed by a majority of people(Much like Swimmers are preferred to non-swimmers in CTC treks). I think it is fair, otherwise our symbol would be clustered if we include details from all regions ;)

  16. Why all the big ruckus about a symbol!
    Cant we come to the simple conclusion that it is just another way to represent something unusual and usually exotic (considering the rising cost of living in India)
    Forget integrity and diversity, the sheer fact that we need a new symbol for currency indicates our basic need!
    As soon as a person has got enough moolah, the care for symbols stops then and there.
    It does not help an iota if someone is put behind bars or not.
    No wonder the politicians can store away enough and then allow the followers to fight and bitch and rot for discussions.


Creative constructive criticism is accepted and expected.