Diversity ...of languages

By Vijaya Pushkarna

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks six languages pretty fluently. Before the BJP came to power under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Nirmala Sitharaman has given bytes to tv channels in almost any language they wanted. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but the fact is the Finance Minister is fluent in six languages-- apart from English and Hindi, she speaks Tamil, Telugu, Kanna and Malayalam.

The Budget revealed a bit of her language skills. Sitharaman used words and lines from five languages in her speech that was in English. Finance ministers in the past have delivered the budget speech in Hindi. Often the budget speech has more than number crunching and assurances of an "achche din" in some distant future. Every finance minister brings in some lighter moments into it on a day when most MPs are present. Not on the scale of the first day of the first session of a newly constituted Lok Sabha, yet Budget day reflects more of India than the government's expenditure and revenue statements. Dr Manmohan Singh once quoted Iqbal.

This year Sitharaman rubbed in the new found status of Jammu and Kashmir, quoting Pandit Dina Nath Kaul, the Sahitya Akademi winning poet from the state that became a union territory on Aug 5 last. Kaul was a leftist. The quoted poem called "Myon Watan", is about "My Country".

Hamara watan, khilte hue Shalimar Bagh jaisa
Hamara watan, Dal jheel main khilte hue kamal jaisa
Nau jawanon ke garam khoon jaisa
Mera watan, tera watan, hamara watan
Duniya ka sabse pyaara watan
(Our country, like the blossoming Shalimar Bagh
Our country, like the lotus blooming in the Dal Lake
Like the warm blood of the young
My country, your country, our country
The most beloved country in the world).

The choice of the poem complete with the mention of lotus too was not lost on anyone!

Later, she quoted  Avvaiyar, a name given to women poets in the  Sangam era Tamil literature. Sitharaman explained the poet had said it all in just three words. "Bhumi tiruthi Unn", meaning till the land and then eat. Tamil, incidentally is the Finance Minister's mother tongue.

She referred to the language of the people of the Harappan civilization. The hierogphyics had been deciphered. Three of them were “Takara Kolimi=Tin smithery”, “ Sreni “= Guild,” Sethi”= wholesale merchant, “Poddar”= Assayer of metal into treasury, indicating the richness of the civilization in these areas.
Tamil came in yet again into the Budget speech as she quoted from the Thirukkural, the definition of a good country, " Nalla Nadu". Freedom from illness, wealth, produce, happiness and protection (to subjects); these five, are the ornaments of a kingdom, she translated.
Then came the turn of the mother of many Indian languages-- Sanskrit. Sitharaman chose a couple of lines from Kalidasa's  Raghuvamsa. She used the lines to explain that taxes collected are for the welfare of the people, who get it back !

"Surya, the Sun, collects vapour from little drops of water. So does the King.
 They give back copiously. They collect only for people’s wellbeing"

Expectations heightened  even as the Sensex had fallen almost about 700 points !


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