French and English May Be Cool, But What About Learning Sanskrit?

Enchante, hors-d’oeuvre or beaucoup sound so chic and amazing, right? And how about suprabhat? Not feeling it, right? Well – that’s the current rut we are in when it comes to the mother of our languages – Sanskrit (notice how I said rut?)

I ain’t no Gaurinath Shastri or Carudeva Shastri (both well-coveted Sanskrit scholars), but I do love my country to death and the foundation it was laid upon. And when each and every country is trying to preserve their cultural heritage, I think it’s about time that we paid our dues.

Can I take you guys a little back into the past? It was during the time this movie called “Namastey London” (starring Akshay Kumar and Kaitrina Kaif) came out. In the movie, there’s this scene on a boat where the actor razzes on a bunch of Brit(s) about how so many words in English have been derived from Sanskrit . Full marks to the speech – but what’s more impressive was the effort made to woo Kaitrina.

They say Sanskrit is the mother of languages – and you will perhaps be shocked to know that it’s on the verge of extinction. Yep, you heard it – it’s about to go over the cliff.

Let’s look at why Sanskrit’s considered the mother of languages. The Spanish word cremsin meaning crimson was derived from the Sanskrit word, karmija. Smile was derived from the Sanskrit smi. Manouche in French was derived from manushya. These are just a few examples. This is a deja vu, right? Did I just go Akshay Kumar on you guys or what?

But you and I don’t go around chanting shlokas in the streets anymore,do we? The Sanskrit scholar Sheldon Pollock says that the dynamic Sanskrit pundits are not to be found anymore in India – and I couldn’t help but agree with him. Gone are the days when people used to go all pedagogical on you about ‘Pratyabhijna Shastra’ or ‘Tantra Shastra’.

So what happened there? Did we shoot them old scholars into the orbit? Enter ‘problematisation’ in the recipe, but that won’t be the answer you are looking for. Even though it is the closest thing to the solution, it’s not the one you are looking for.

Define ‘problematisation’, you say? Don’t sweat it, people. Even I didn’t get it at first – but after 10 minutes of sparring with it, I got the gist. It is a form of criticism – but instead of dealing with the pros and cons of the target per se, it re-evaluates the subject. It does not revolve around the original context. In fact, it draws back from it. Rather than accepting the situation, it tries to give a new viewpoint.

The reality is something like this: if you look around, you will notice that contemporary India has barely anything to do with the traditional, ancient India – for whose riches the British and all the rajas invaded us. Today, we are perhaps more westernised than some nations in the West – only to make that transition from developing to developed. I think that the authentic values and morals took the back seat. Similarly, we have also forgotten Sanskrit like an ex and just moved on.

Being a sportsperson, I know all that top-notch athletes hit a wall sometimes. You know you get sick of doing something repeatedly. That is why I go to the park and play with the kids – it brings out the innocent passion I had for games and athletics. I believe that the same thing happened with Sanskrit. People got sick of it, but no one gave it a twist or a stir. Ergo no more Sanskrit anywhere! Languages like Persian, Arabic and even regional ones like Tamil are all facing a similar danger – but in Sanskrit’s case, it’s much worse. Our education system should also be held responsible for this because we are miles away from classical studies. It’s all about the gadgets and gizmos these days.

Going to classes for learning French from class 5 to 8, I cherish every memory of them. What is more important? Being fancy or our traditional heritage? Take your pick. I think the key lies in the grassroots level where a 30-minute Sanskrit period daily in schools can be vital in bringing the language back from the dead. In this context, I take immense pride in states like Uttarakhand where Sanskrit is one of the official languages. Huge shout-out to the people of Uttarakhand!

Another issue I would like to address is that according to many people, Sanskrit is boring and is used in the regional books only. But you will perhaps be surprised to know that most of Sanskrit has nothing to do with the religion. In my opinion, it’s a spiritual language that also provides you the means of reaching your true, inner self. And in an era where foreigners are coming to India to go on their spiritual journey to find their true selves, don’t you think we should pave the path for them? Don’t you think it’s time to jump on the bandwagon? Don’t you think that it’s time to jump on the ‘Sanskrit express’?

I have no political agendas here – in fact, I tend to find humour in politics. But I will just take a step back to appreciate the ministers of BJP who took their oaths in Sanskrit. It sure does make a statement and help you be recognised by a few of us.

We reminisce so much about the old days – but hey, Sanskrit also counts among the old days too. Alas, one has to turn to the ‘greatest teacher’ (Google) to learn it today.

Imagine Mani Dravida Shastri (one of the most reputed scholars in Sanskrit) in Chennai sitting in his home right now pondering, “Man – who do I converse with? It’s almost as if I am alone.” Imagine being in his shoes for a moment – it’s similar to having a ‘rad’ Instagram profile but having no followers. Ain’t this relatable?

We just need to paint Sanskrit on a bigger canvas. Believe me when I say that it’s not an issue to be compromised with. Bring the language home already!

Finally, I would like to say ‘maya saha nartitumicchasi kim’. No, I am not going to tell you the meaning of this. Go figure it out for yourself; at least that way, you will learn a bit of Sanskrit. I think you will flip once you know the meaning of this.

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Featured image used for representative purposes only.

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