The third event in my department marking the “Discover Languages Month” took place on Wednesday and it was a talk by a graduate student of the department Catherine Xavier who spoke about India and its “Plethora of Language and Culture.”
I learnt some new things about India at this talk, one of which was that the country – as large as it is in population and land area – had only about twenty-two languages spoken in official capacity. The biggest of them was Hindi which everyone spoke and understood, but there were so many others. Much of the talk was along the lines of mine: i.e a comparison of Indian and American cultures, their similarities and differences. And from the presentation, I found that India is not much different from Nigeria as I previously thought.
One of the things she skipped however was the subject of the Karma Sutra which I believe is one of India’s biggest export to the world, and the influences of the literatures of Salman Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul – the two biggest and perhaps controversial names in Indian/English literature. According to Catherine, they were names that always stirred emotions and she had left them out in order not to make people uncomfortable or be polarizing. I do not take it against her because it doesn’t remove from the breadth of the talk, which lasted an hour and dealt with so many other things including economy, taxes, eve teasing, transportation, speech patterns, greetings and interpersonal relationship of Indians in foreign lands, and many more. As conservative as the culture in India is, it still managed to have produced a deep and colourful legacy of sensual exploration of the human body and I’d have loved to have been able to ask about it during the event. I couldn’t. It was a nice presentation over all with many laugh-out-loud moments during the talk and during some of the video clips that she played.
I love it because it was a balanced presentation of the positives and negatives of the country, unlike mine of two weeks ago which was mainly a positive representation of myself and culture. Clarissa has already accused me of being too positive about everything I observe, so it is just as well. Many of Catherine’s points reminded of me of what Nigeria and India have in common as a society. Famous Indian people in the presentation were Mother Theresa and Mohandas Gandhi.