The most memorable journey I have ever had in my life was when I was just a eleven-year-old. A pilgrimage package trip to the holy Badrinath (it feels so great to be named after Him), which included various other places along the banks of the holy Ganga such as Hrishikesh, Haridwar and the sangam of Alaknanda and Bhagirati rivers apart from Mathura, Delhi, Agra (Taj!!!)...whew! the list is long! I have never been spell bound for days together before or after that.
The temples looked new. The idols glimmered with radiance. Every where I went, lush green Himalayas blocked the horizon from my view. When we were in the foot the mountain range, the Ganga (and once Yamuna!) formed the foreground. When we were scaling the mountains (by bus of course!), we saw her flow beside us down below! The sun god would show its bright orange smile, often beyond the mountains. Peacocks were as common as crows in Delhi. The pinacle of all? Snow! For the first time in my life! The only sad thing about the trip was that I knew I can never feel that great again! Deam childhood! Once again!
One other thing that made the journey different was that for the first time in my life, I used my bookish Hindi language skills. In Utter Pradesh and (surprisingly) in Delhi, we frequently ran into people who do not speak or understand English very well.
When I came to the US for my master's education, I came across what seams like a traditional North-South language divide. I had some painful experience with closest of my friends calling me non-patriotic as a result. In another instance another guy from up north started speaking in hindi. I was held up in my own thoughts and wasn't listening. I said, "Pardon?". He frowned and said "Oh! You are not Indian?". I left the scene, without speaking another word. Till date I don't know if he was being rude or if he honestly thought that an Indian always should know Hindi.
Hindi is our national language. I accept it whole-heartedly. Should it be spread to all the nook and corner of the country? Sure. A common suggestion and a point of contention is that it has to be made mandatory in the educational system. Do I agree? Well, if thats the only way, yes. But I feel that its a little bit of a socialistic attitude. Its like saying, every Indian must know the fundamental rules of hockey.
My take on it is, every school affiliated to the state board or central board must be encouraged to offer hindi, the mother tongue and english. But I feel that exept for the medium of instruction the rest should be optional. As the largest democracy, it only makes sense to offer people their right (to learn the language they want) and leave the choice up to them. After all, most of the Indians choose to follow cricket over hockey because they have choice.
As a person born and brought up in Chennai, and as a person with more or less as many hindi speaking friends as tamilians, I have had the previllege of looking at both the sides of the coin with a fair degree of clarity. I feel that my suggestion will go a long way in solving the core reason for a needless difference of opinion.