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Codes of reality!

What is language!

Language as a sieve

To continue on this theme, there is another manner by which sieving takes place. Look at the profession of taxi drivers in India. In many places, it is seen as a socially degrading job. Again it is a matter of perspective. For the higher placed persons, it is a low quality job. For persons, who are literally on the lower edge of social standards, it is a great job.

Look at the personality of a taxi driver. Any person, who becomes a taxi driver in India, has to mould his personality as per certain social communication requirements. In most cases, persons who already have this personality would go in for this job. In the case of others, others would more or less mould them into that personality, through a particular regimentation effected by the use of certain specific indicant level words and usages. However a generalisation is not possible, as the effect can depend on the language. For, certain languages have more stinging feudalism in them; other may not have such sting.

Consider the case in Malayalam. Once a person becomes a taxi driver, he is a ‘driver’. He has to wear a khaki uniform when he is doing his job. This more or less identifies his profession and also places him in a particular indicant word level. Policemen would mostly address him with the most lowest indicant level words such as Nee, Eda etc. and refer to him as Avan. This shall be sharp contrast with the way they address another person who is say, a college lecturer or a government employee.

In most small towns and villages, drivers are kept at the lowest indicant level by the local business community. The only thing that can save them from the abyss in the word level is age.

However it would be wrong to say that drivers themselves are not comfortable with this level of social placement. For, they would be persons who are quite comfortable at this level of social functioning. Moreover, they would have persons under them to whom they are respectable ‘chettans’ (elder brothers).

So persons, who are intellectually and socially comfortable at this level, slowly sieve down the social net, and arrive at this profession. This is one affect of the sieving that feudal languages affect.

There is another kind of sieving also, that I may mention. It was observed by me over the years. In Malabar, where British direct administration was in place, bureaucracy was more or less quite honest at the higher level. Beyond that the stinging side of the vernacular feudal language was not apparent at the level of interaction with the bureaucracy for the businessman, like a Medical shop owner, an hotelier, a textile merchant etc. Successful businessmen were those who could exhibit pure business instincts and acumen. However, after long years had passed since Indian independence, the Malabar bureaucracy also became quite corrupt. Beyond that the higher level feudal content in Malayalam crept over from South Kerala to Malabar Malayalam. South Kerala had not experienced British rule, and the concept of social communication with the bureaucracy over there was quite filled with obsequious feudal content.

The officials could be addressed only as Sar, and the word Ningal (you) used in Malabar was not allowed. After around fifty years from the time of British departure, this feudal content came into Malabar also.

Now, in Malabar things changed. To become a good businessman, it was not good grade business capacity that was requisite. Instead only those who could exhibit acute servitude to the officialdom could survive.  To enforce their superiority, the officialdom also slowly started making more or more complicated rules and acts to complicate business licensing procedures. Actually these licensing processes were quite unintelligent and no honest business could survive if they were to function as per the rules. So that in a few years time, all businessmen who had functioned with integrity were wiped out, made to close down or simply made to bear the brunt of the official rules. 

A new breed of businessmen came into the field, whose only attainment was their capacity to show exquisite obeisance to officials like the sales tax inspectors, industries department officials, revenue department officials, drugs inspectors, excise inspectors, revenue department officials, village officials, panchayat (local self govt) officials and immensity of other inspectors.

These businessmen were quite good at giving gifts, paying money and giving any other help that the officials need. In no time, only those who were good at this survived. Others simply vanished from the scene or changed their attitude to adjust to the new social requirement.  

The feudal language had acted as a sieve.

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