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Monday, October 6, 2008

Rama Krishna Govinda Gopala

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What is wrong with the above title?

Indian names when anglicized are appended “ah” sound at the end because tongues not accustomed to Hindi phonetics cannot pronounce soft “a”. Agreed, I am not linguist, and true explanation may be better worded, but reason has something to do with English speakers not being able to pronounce Ram (राम) but only Rama (रामा). English language also doesn’t have soft “t” and “d” unlike Hindi. So one may accept their limitation in pronouncing Hindi names, but why have Indians too adopted this practice? Name is a noun which doesn’t change spelling and pronunciation when translated, so clearly, our practice is either blind subservience to English version to sound sophisticated or indifference to our own cultural heritage. I bet both reasons are working simultaneously.

Tragedy of matter is that English pronunciation have entered into Hindi language too. What should have happened is that Hindi pronunciation should have continued in spoken and written English, specially for those who can speak such. I don’t know about you but I feel that titles to deities have purity in their local sounding names and translating simply kills the feeling associated with them. Mother Ganga has that joyous sound that Ganges cannot match.

Question may arise that whether Rama is actually English name of Ram? I cannot see how. Ashish will remain Ashish in Russian whether or not you can pronounce it, and if you cannot, you can mispronounce it, but it will still be mispronunciation. But question though remains, for historians and linguists to answer, for I admit ignorance.

Related question: Is there any other country of earth — I suspect there are, but very few — which has its name in English different than its name in its local language? Why did we gave up Bharat for India? Whatever travellers of history might have called civilization of Indus, we should have declared our name in our own language when we had opportunity, at independence. Of course, now Bharat, Hindustan and India have become synonymous, and somehow India doesn’t evoke that frustration which I associate with Krishna.

(I should give credit for this thought to my dorm mate Akshar Chandra who steadfastly refused to call Ram Rama and explained to me why. I hadn’t given much thought to it before.)

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