14 May, 2021

Sanskrit In 7 Days

What we need is the opposite of a supremacist language policy

Illustration by Saahil
Sanskrit In 7 Days

A Kalashnikov cannot shoot itself. But you can use English to denounce English, turning the muzzle back on itself. You can do that in Sanskrit too, or Tamil, or any other. It would not constitute suicide. The structure of language allows such a reflexive act—it’s a slippery, superior form of technology at this level, not a being with a soul. In an imaginary world (or in a university department), it would be possible to separate a real, neutral care for languages—their material and abstract beauty—from other considerations and to tend to them in peace. But in the world most people inhabit, we live with complications. People tend to feel they “belong” to languages, like Chief Seattle belonged to his land. It’s one step away to yours and mine, to borders and fences, to trespassing, invasions and imperial dominions.

To have schools all over India celebrate a ‘Sanskrit Week’ by decree—that couldn’t have been passed off as an innocuous, joyful thing in the best of times. It becomes doubly dicey...

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