Thursday, 12 January 2012

Languages, books and the National Library of India

Langues, livres et la Bibliothèque nationale d'Inde

La Bibliothèque nationale d'Inde a plus de 22.65.000 livres et trois sur quatre sont en anglais. Il y a seulement 6.43.255 livres en autres langues Indiennes. En la section des langues étrangères, le chinois a 15.000 livres, le arabe a 12.000 livres le persan en a 12.000. On y trouve 5.000 livres en français et la section des langues slaves a 65.000 livres.

La bibliothèque possède 85.000 livres en bengali mais le nombre des livres en hindi est seulement 80.000. Le site web non donne pas de quelconque information concernant combien de livres dans la bibliothèque sont en pendjabi et télougou.

La condition actuelle en Inde le montre: bien que le gouvernement indien utilise deux idiomes - le hindi et l'anglais - officiellement au niveau fédéral; en vérité anglais est plus populaire et beaucoup d'indiens dans les le sud et l'est de la nation préfèrent utiliser l'anglais. Les livres à la bibliothèque nationale sont une autre preuve de ce phénomène.


Sometimes I wonder why don't they declare English our national language. My compatriots in South India and East India would surely welcome the decision; albeit North Indians (especially the Hindi speaking states) may not agree. Currently India doesn't have a national language. The Central Government uses Hindi and English but as you would suspect, Hindi is only nominally used. Perhaps they preserve it to use on the World Hindi Day. 

I found another illustration of this a couple of days ago, while I was browsing through the website of the National Library of India and from there I figured out that about one in three books in the library are in English. They didn't explicitly mention this fact but if of the 24,65,352 books in the library only 6,43,255 are in indigenous languages, you can safely think the rest aren't in Chinese or Russian.

Only 80,000 books in the library are in Hindi; even Bengali, a regional language, boasts of 85,000 books. But that's perhaps because the National Library is located in West Bengal.

Coming back home, I was really saddened to find out of all Indian languages they don't list the number of books they have only for Punjabi, English and Telegu. Perhaps that's a polite way of saying they haven't got much in Punjabi. 

It reminds me of a famous saying here in Punjab and it goes something like this:

If a Bengali were to suddenly get rich, he would construct a library in his house but if a Punjabi got lot of money overnight, he would make the flashiest of bars and have a collection of the most exquisite wines.

Perhaps the Bengalis took it literally. They gave the world the first non-European Nobel Laureate but that doesn't mean they have earned the right look down upon unruly Punjabis.

Turning to other Indian languages, Sanskrit has over 20,000 books which is huge when you compare it to only 500 books the Kashmiri section has. This makes me think do we really know the people we are - or at least claim to be - fighting for? After all we have fought four wars with Pakistan over Kashmir and now the territory is divided into three regions, one controlled by Pakistan, India and China each.

Here is the report card of other Indian languages:

Tamil: 57,000
Gujarati: 37,000
Marathi: 37,000
Malyalam: 34,000
Kannada: 32,000
Urdu: 20,000
Oriya: 19,500
Assamese: 12,000
Sindhi: 2,100

Impressive as it may sound to some, when you compare it with the Slavic language section that houses a decent 65,000 books you doubt if these languages are really indigenous or foreign.

There more more books in Chinese at the library than in Assamese and Sindhi; 15,000. That's probably because there is a China town in Calcutta.

Arabic and Persian have 12,000 each, next comes French with 5,000 books and Romanian has 2,000.