What’s The Good Word?

What’s The Good Word?

Alas! Most of us do not remember a single one. In fact we prefer to throw shoes at each other (as was done recently by a scribe in India) rather than use words to debate an issue. Our politicians can only think of out doing each other by using choicest abuses and/or openly declaring to kill their opponents by unimaginably cruel methods. Their recent mutterings have thankfully pressed the Election Commission of India to take some suitable action against them. But, when this is the state of our elders and guardians, then what to talk about our youngsters.

A newspaper recently reported about a British school teacher being aghast at the slang vocabulary of her ten year old students. Things were no better in even elite Mumbai schools, where children (coming from supposedly good homes) use crude Hindi slang and swear words, dumbfounding everyone. Some blame it on parents, others on friends, or on video games and television shows which blur the line between what is acceptable and what is not.

These days, use of foul and violent language seems to be the ‘in thing’ amongst girls and boys alike. ‘Shit and ‘Bastard’ are the most commonly and frequently used words by students of even the so called prestigious schools. ‘Fuck you’ is another favourite, which has other worse equivalents in Hindi. In a milder tone, violence in the form of harsh words is being practiced too often. Stupid, fool, jerk, ass, are some of the hurtful and demeaning words which are used daily by most of us.

The finesse of language and the grace of good manners are gone. Lucknow , the city where I live, was once famous world wide for its polite manners and refined language (tehzeeb), even amongst the poor and illiterate. Alas! No more. Now we don’t care. It has become fashionable to be brash, loud and ill mannered. Words like ‘Please, Sorry, Thank you, Forgive me, Bless you for helping me’, are fast becoming obsolete. With the SMS language being accepted as the modern mode of communication, the last nail in the coffin of polite language has been hammered. More slang words, in cell phone language parlance, are being coined everyday.

We have become insensitive and that is what our kids are learning from us. Parents no longer seem to care about the four letter words being used by their wards in front of them. As income levels are rising, rude behaviour / foul language is becoming synonymous with power and might. We do not care to switch off our mobile phone conversations in theatres and cinema halls, despite repeated requests from artists and fellow spectators alike. We love to carry on loud, late night conversations in trains, totally oblivious of other passengers trying to catch a wink of sleep.

No wonder it all reflects upon the way we are bringing up our children. If we use foul language and arrogant manners at home and outside, children will be quick to pick it up, only if it is for the sake of imitating their elders. In many families, I have seen doting elders teach the 2- 3 years old to use swear words, just for the fun of it. Later on, it becomes a habit with no holds barred.

We are also becoming crude in our behaviour. Etiquette is passe. To some extent, this is connected to the weaning away of fine arts from our lives. Subjects of the Humanities group are becoming outmoded, making us less humane. Most parents (even the educated ones) feel that it is a waste of time if their child paints, draws, reads story books, recites/writes poetry. They think that any activity which does not fetch higher marks for their child is useless. I remember the father (an IIT professor) of a very bright student of mine, reprimanding her on winning a prize in an essay competition. He thought that she should have devoted that time more fruitfully in doing math rather than waste it in inane pursuits. A lack of appreciation for the finer points of life is affecting many facets of our personality. It is making us rude, selfish, and uncouth.

These days, nobody wants to study history, geography, sociology, English etc. If you are a good student, you are expected to study pure sciences, or at the worst, commerce, at the plus two level. In fact many schools pride themselves in not offering the ‘humanities stream’ at the class XII level. This trend needs to be reversed, though it may already be too late. Let us make not only good engineers and management professionals, but good human beings too.

We can at least teach our children to mind their language (which will be an asset to them in later life); to appreciate the beauties of nature and to feel the ecstasy of music and fine arts. Let us try to save our society from degenerating by mending our own ways. We can do this in our homes, in our schools and in our workplaces. Let our children learn to speak and act politely from the heart. Only then will they blossom creatively and grow up with the knowledge and appreciation of beauty and grace. Only then, perhaps, will they learn to respect and value life, stop desecrating monuments/buildings, stop molesting women and stop hating each other in the name of caste, social status and religion.

We can at least teach our children to mind their language (which will be an asset to them in later life); to appreciate the beauties of nature and to feel the ecstasy of music and fine arts. Let us try to save our society from degenerating by mending our own ways. We can do this in our homes, in our schools and in our workplaces. Let our children learn to speak and act politely from the heart. Only then will they blossom creatively and grow up with the knowledge and appreciation of beauty and grace. Only then, perhaps, will they learn to respect and value life, stop desecrating monuments/buildings, stop molesting women and stop hating each other in the name of caste, social status and religion.


Shobha Shukla

The author writes extensively in English and Hindi media. She serves as Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS).

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