In 2005, I composed and performed a prayer at the inauguration of the Mumbai Festival, “Tuzha Soorya Ugave Aamhi Prakaashaat Nhaato”, written by Mangesh Padgaonkar and sung by 63 school children. That, in itself, is good news. The bad news was that after the 7 minutes of that song, apart from a spontaneous speech by Nana Patekar, for the next three hours, not a word of Marathi was spoken on the Mumbai Festival stage.
This is the situation everywhere in the Capital of Maharashtra. Mumbai is in Maharashtra, but Maharashtra is nowhere to be seen in Mumbai! Not a single commercial radio station in Mumbai plays a single Marathi song!! (You may hear a Tamil song here and there and quite a few Punjabi songs, but NEVER a Marathi song. When I asked a few of my friends working in these radio stations, they admitted off the record that ‘it makes the station look downmarket’.) Would you like to hear that your mother-tongue is downmarket? In Mumbai, you can’t buy vegetables in Marathi or even go from one place to another in Marathi.
This is a conversation that I had with a customer care executive from Vodafone on their Customer Care number.
I – “Namaskaar, Mala maajhya talk-plan baddal kahi mahiti havi hoti.”
Vodafone Customer Care Executive – “Sorry sir, we are not allowed to talk in Marathi.”
I – “Barobar. Pan mala Marathi bolaychi paravanagi ahe na?”
VCCE – “No sir. We can help you only if you talk in Hindi or English. We are not allowed to talk in Marathi.”
I – “Aho pan, Mumbai ahe na hi? Maharashtrat rahato aapan. Rajyachi bhasha rajyaatach bolaychi paravanagi nahi?”
VCCE – “Dekhiye sir, aap Hindi mein baat kijiye ya agar aapko English aati hai to English mein baat kijiye. We are not allowed to talk in Marathi.”
I – “Hich policy tumhi Chennaila hi follow karata ka?”
VCCE – “Ji?”
I – “Mi vicharal, hich policy tumhi Chennai kinva itar baaherchya rajyanchya shaharanamadhe hi follow karata ka?”
VCCE – “Sir Main aapko baahar ki koi jaankar nahi de sakta. Aap please Hindi ya English mein baat karenge to hi hum aapki madad kar paayenge.”
I – “Aho pan Vodafone Marathit bolanaryanna madatach karnar nahi ka? Maazha talk plan kay aahe evadhach jaanun ghyaychay.”
VCCE – “Dekhiye, kripa karke aap Hindi ya English mein hi baat karein.”
I – “Pan tumchya Maharashtra Goa circle madhale lok boltat ki Marathit. Mumbai madhech ka nahi?”
The Vodafone Customer Care Executive hangs up the phone.
I would really like to know whether Vodafone has the same policy of not speaking Tamil or entertaining customers who insist that they can express best only in Tamil.
In my own State I am told that if I continue to speak in my mother-tongue, which happens to be the official language of that State, I regard this to be an insult to my State, my people, and even to the Constitution of India which gives me a right to talk in my mother-tongue, at least in my own State. There seems to be no unreasonable demand here! It is no as if I am insisting that I should be spoken to in Marathi when I am in Ahmedabad, for example.
After this conversation I also asked a few of my friends to see if they faced a similar problem and they did. We have recorded some of these conversations. If what Raj Thackeray does is considered to be violence then even this sort of a policy is nothing short of violence against a language – the language of the State and the language of the single largest majority in the city.
That Marathi should face such a problem in its own capital is a matter of shame.
The question is not exclusive to Mumbai. The real problem seems to me to be the indifference of the Marathi people towards their own mother-tongue. The movements that go on in the name of Marathi only result in stray violence, arson, and a terribly unstable atmosphere. This prevents the common Marathi person from participating in such so-called movements. And that does not prevent Marathi getting a raw deal, especially in its own capital city of Mumbai.
I honestly feel that if there has to be a sane movement for Marathi as a language, it has to spring from the common-folk. Never was there such urgency for all the Marathi speaking people to come together and stand together. Before we tell the non-Marathi speaking people to respect Marathi, there is a necessity of sowing seeds of self-respect among the Marathi speaking people themselves. MARATHI NEEDS A SONG OF SELF RESPECT!
Labhale amhas bhagya bolato Marathi
Jaahalo kharech dhannya aikato Marathi
Dharma, pantha, jaat ek jaanato Marathi
Evadhya jagaat Maay maanato Marathi!
I have composed music for this poem by Suresh Bhat. I plan to record this song with around 300 singers and around a 100 musicians. The expense for this song can easily be sponsored by one or two sponsors, but doing that will turn this into a ‘commercial’ product, which is not the motive. If this has to remain a movement, it has to involve our participation. If at least 2000 people contribute – and I say contribute, NOT donate – at least Rs. 500 each, this expense of recording the song can be covered. If you participate in this movement, I shall be very happy. Please remember, that this is NOT an appeal for help. This is an INVITATION – an invitation to participate in this movement for Marathi.
This movement already has gathered around 400 activists from India and abroad and this number is growing every day. We plan to release this CD on the 1st of May 2009, on the Maharashtra Day. A booklet will also be released along with CD which will contain the names of ALL the contributors so that a signal will be sent to one and all that this MARATHI ABHIMAAN GEET was the result of 2000+ people COMING TOGETHER and WITHOUT any corporate backing, sponsorships, or political initiative. It is a common feeling of the common Marathi speaking person. The booklet will also contain authentic information about the SANYUKTA MAHARASHTRA MOVEMENT, which is not easily available to people of my generation and the coming generations. The language-wise reorganisation of States was done in 1956 and yet it took 4 years for the Marathi speaking people to get a State of their own. Thousands circle the Hutatma Chowk everyday without knowing its significance, and then question the necessity of knowing Marathi in Mumbai! Some blogs refer to Mumbai being “TAKEN AWAY BY MAHARASHTRIANS BY USING STRONG ARM TACTICS!” So it is a requirement that the authentic information about the SANYUKTA MAHARASHTRA MOVEMENT reaches every Marathi speaking person. Prof. Sanjay Ranade, HOD of the Dept. of Journalism & Mass Communication will be authoring this part of the booklet which will be published by MOUJ PRAKASHAN, one of the most credible and distinguished publishing houses in Maharashtra.
Every participant will get a copy of this CD and booklet delivered to their doorstep at no cost.
You may send your cheques or DDs favouring “Marathi Asmita”, 102, Triveni, Shuchidham, Film City Marg, Near Dindoshi Bus Depot, Goregaon (E), Mumbai – 400063. For any queries contact Mandar Gogate on 9820877279. You can also go to www.marathiasmita.org.
I urge every person who loves his/her mother-tongue to participate in this movement… and that includes AR Rahman who did his mother-tongue proud by speaking it on the Oscars Stage!
© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2007