By Biraj Dixit :
Just like that
Words. Are they a collection of sounds to convey a certain meaning or a collection of meanings encompassed in certain sounds? They are what you make of them. One often wonders why some sounds are so dear, some so detestable! So much rests on the mouth that utter words. Some are mere utterances to demonstrate power of speech; some are expressions carefully cultivated to show one’s power over speech. Some are nurtured crafts and some are simply art. Alas! The destiny of these powerful entities is that they ought to live in the unpredictable, unreliable human company and gain or lose from their wisdom or vices. While humans have always employed these wonderful sounds to achieve heights in whichever direction they choose, words, too, have been loyal companions, hardly resisting any degradation. A potent force these, humans and words! Ages of fine-tuning thought, vibrations, perception, rationale, logic, belief and sound and words assumed the sublime form of ‘shlokas’. Moment of thoughtlessness, debasement, profanity and words get ejected as a cuss.
“Speak well,” says a wise voice, “for then your thoughts will retain its inherent purity, and your actions will show the better you. Thus, you will become better.” For centuries, this wisdom has harnessed words, chiseled languages and cultivated civilisations. Good language, good thoughts, good people, good society – simple, solid fact of existence. Yet, now forgotten? Why? It is said that sentiments, thoughts, thought processes, notions, beliefs – in short - life of a period peeps through its art, literature and any form of creative musings. From the cave paintings to the ancient literatures, from the sculptures and paintings of the Renaissance period to the celluloid of the modern world and the OTT platforms and social media of a still newer world, depictions of life come across through various mediums. Hitherto, creators of each period worked painstakingly to depict what they wanted the world to see, hear and believe. It was their signature. It was also a legacy. By infusing a certain quality of timelessness into their creations, they tried to and achieved immortality. They wanted us to remember them thus.
Thus, we remember them. In all these periods, words, through the thoughts they framed and actions they derived, had a lasting impact on all pursuits. These human companions behaved just like humans, perfectly aping them. So, fine thoughts were engulfed in finer language granting a certain finesse to all activities. Raucous ideas sought vulgar words turning the language coarse and crudeness pervaded into the society. And all the while the time kept ticking, summarising days, events and societies into ages for historians to name them as dark or golden. In short, our words were defining us. At this very moment, too, we are making an age. Our words are defining us. Our depictions are creating legacies. Are our words pure enough? If the mode of the depiction of our age is the social media and the OTT platforms, will our future generations ever use word ‘golden’ to describe our age? Most agree that if anything our words are crass. The words that form our lingo seems too low on language skills. To an unfamiliar ear, it may seem as we only eject cuss words all the time.
Our ‘openness’ is stark in its nudity. Brazen is not always bold, it is often tactless. Disagreement, a hallmark of free society, can be frowned upon but to dismember it with such mindless urgency in sword-like words with sharpest edge, is so unbecoming in a democracy. As the world paid homage to the ‘Melody Queen’ Lata Mangeshkar, who departed recently for heavenly abode after leaving a treasure trove of unforgettable songs, the renditions played again and again, bringing us face to face with our legacy. Songs – one of the easiest yet most elegant depictions of a society’s refinement – also speak volumes through the words they emote. Lataji belonged to a ‘golden era’ – an era where fine words shaped ageless poetry which in company of soulful music found expression in near-divine voices. The outcome was a rich treasure-trove of ageless music enough to satiate eons of generations.
A legacy from an age called ‘golden era of music.’ Our songs – then and now – though unmarkable in their transition, still have an age between them. The words changed from velvet to vulgar in no time. Lataji’s famous anecdote of how a remark by veteran actor late Dilip Kumar saw her going through greulling sessions to master Urdu, is just an example of how people of that golden period venerated command over words and language. They did not allow a speck of anything untidy sit on it. They spoke well and thus created a golden era. How can we, children of a civilisation that has been magnificent in its languages and consequently majestic in all its creations, come to agree with this sullying of our skills? The degradation of language brings degradation to society, so our ancestors warned. How can we forget our lessons so quickly? Recently, an innocent question put by my niece left us flummoxed, speechless.
“Why should something as pure a story as Ramayan, need to be told as a Kaand – Sundar Kaand, Aranya Kaand, etc…?” For this OTT generation, Kaand simply means scandalous something. She had to be told that it is just a degeneration of a word which originally meant ‘episode.’ Many words assume different meanings with passing of time. Some allowance has to be made but not to the extent that we leave huge grounds for misinterpretations. Our society, obviously, is going through a lot of decadence where language is concerned. Not just the OTT platforms or the entire gamut of social media, our conversations with one another is also losing its finesse and fineness. And lot of it has to do with our increasing indifference towards the necessity of its refinement. Where language is concerned, we, as society, have stopped insisting that it be right. Be it Hindi, English or the many other languages that we speak, all have a great history, a great tradition and a great scope to further human development. We owe it to all of them. And to our own self, and for the legacy we will leave behind. For, if not golden, we should also not be relegated as one forming a dark age. n