Efforts should be made to translate the literary heritage of each state and union territory into each of the national languages of India. This will create a whole new education, employment and business ecosystem in the publishing and media industries, sensitising each Indian to the national and civilisational heritage they inherited and building a sense of unity and common purpose.
India is a nation of diverse peoples with at least 22 national languages and many thousand dialects. However, the learning, study, and use of these languages are gradually being diminished by the use of only Hindi and English as official languages in which the administration of the nation is conducted. Our children are taught mainly their mother language, Hindi and English, and so largely ignore the other languages and their literature. This leads to a reduced awareness of the cultures and heritage, even current concerns and aspirations, of other states and union territories of India.
To foster a greater sense of the Indian identity, it is useful for everyone to know and be sensitive to the concerns and aspirations of other Indians. However, here we find a great structural weakness that the literary heritage and media content of each national language are not available in the other languages to any significant extent. We tend to read the output of other languages mainly through indirect translations because we neither have bilingual experts in Indian languages nor are there enough employment opportunities for the few that exist. Sahitya Akademi undertakes translations of some regional masterworks into English and Hindi but these published works are not widely available.
Efforts should be made to translate the literary heritage of each state and union territory into each of the national languages of India. This will create a whole new education, employment and business ecosystem in the publishing and media industries, sensitising each Indian to the national and civilisational heritage they inherited and building a sense of unity and common purpose. It will encourage translators, interpreters, content writers and publishers by creating a whole new knowledge-based section of the Indian economy and generate revenue even from exports to the Indian diaspora and foster a better sense of belonging to our nation.
Mutual translations of literary works
A publishing company in Kolkata, for instance, could employ people from other states and union territories who know enough Bengali to translate their own literary works into Bengali for publication in the Bengali media. Similar efforts could be made in every other state and union territory capital. This will create a nationwide network of translation and publishing content, generating demand for learning and employment in those languages.
A beginning can be made with short stories and poetry, followed by longer works. The web-based publication will be the least expensive way to begin, with potentially the largest readership.
Popular magazines in each state and union territory could publish a translated tale in each issue from each of its counterparts, exposing its readership to the literature of every other part of India within a cycle of thirty months. Language chauvinism could begin to decline and be replaced by regard and respect for the country's literary heritage and contemporary output. This could expand into television and film content as translators would find work on film scripts so that cinema can be dubbed and released in all languages at once.
The development of accurate translation ability from one Indian language to another may take some years. In the interim, therefore, such translations may first be done in Hindi and English. This will ensure a wider readership as well as quicker output, as further translations into the UN languages would spread the Indian literary heritage across the globe.
One hopes it will bring Indians from different regions closer together by fostering understanding and knowledge about one another in the generations to come, and preserve the nation's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity in the years to come.
(The authors are retired ambassadors. Views are personal)