There are two English books that Indians are in utter awe of, i.e. Guinness book of world records and Oxford dictionary. Any entry in either from India instantly becomes a news, even if it is as absurd as most number of selfie portraits clicked together (no need to specify that India holds it) to addition of word “chuddies” in oxford dictionary.
I may have missed getting wiser about the latter, but a local FM station enlightened me about it while I was on the way to watch a panel discussion between young student leaders.
Entry of chuddies (in a rather mispronounced and plebeian slang form) in Oxford dictionary is just one of the many examples of words that English language has borrowed from us, so I don’t consider worthy of a discussion, but as I was riding the train of thoughts about words, when I reached the venue of panel discussion, I realised something far more interesting.
Oxford dictionary has, till date, acknowledge borrowing Indian words and adding them to the repository of word meanings, but have they realised that India has an even greater achievement to offer, as we have taken words from Oxford dictionary and have redefined their meanings!
The panel discussion I attended had “young” “student” “leaders” having a “discussion”, and looking at the people on the stage and what they were engaged in, that one statement had, in my personal opinion, re-defined four words of Oxford dictionary in a single swipe.
I am ready to accept that my claim about the event redefining the meaning of young, student and leader was possibly a subjective comprehension of my biased mind, so I would limit this discussion to, well, discussion.
If I look at Oxford (online version) dictionary for the meaning of word “discussion” as enshrined in it, it imagines that a discussion is “action or process of talking about something in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas”.
But, as I looked at what was happening on the stage, it was clear that discussion in India meant bedlam, chaos, mayhem, uproar, havoc, tumult, commotion, confusion, disorder, anarchy, furore, frenzy, din, babel, rumpus, fracas, hurly-burly, maelstrom and possibly a madhouse in state of pandemonium.
If I get off the train of sarcasm, I am really sad to see what we have done to not just to a fine word, but to one of the finest human achievements, i.e. human ability to converse with each other to find conclusions using dialectics.
There is nothing more defining us humans than our ability to discuss. We have come this far as a species because we are (or rather were) able to find a better way forward by understanding each other’s point of view through discussions, but we are now reaching a point where this uniquely human trait is vanishing, at least in public forums in India.
As a democracy, it is great to see that we are having so many public discussions, but what we are missing is that discussions need decorum to exist. What we have are shouting matches where no one is listening. With dialectics dying a million deaths across India in panel discussions, we are no far from destroying the very soul of our precious democracy.
We need to recognise this issue and save our democratic discourse from getting hijacked by cacophony, and that will be possible only when those moderating these discussions realise that they have a big role to play here, and that is not of agent provocateur but of someone who prevents emotional frenzy from clouding human reason.
Indian democracy needs a new set of heroes who can help India discuss, in the true Oxfordian spirit of the word.