Linguists know, based on reams of research, that a form of [Proto Indo-European], the language, did arrive in India from elsewhere, becoming Sanskrit over time. That fact doesn’t have to diminish the ‘Indianness’ of the language. Sanskrit’s deep and longstanding cultural importance in the subcontinent is a strong enough connection. Its shared ancestry with farflung languages is just one of the many connections that have been made and remade over and over again in India’s history.
Sadhu Ram, the head of a lower-caste farming community close to Pokhra, says that although his family still lives in a mud-and-thatch house and largely depends on a small plot of land, two buffaloes and a goat for their livelihood, things are improving. “My grandchildren have things we dreamt of back in my days … they can go to school where they get a hot meal, they have better roads, modern water pump and a TV,” says the 74-year-old farmer.
On India: two links for my World Geography students
I have just begun a unit on South and Central Asia in my world geography course, and I have a handful of quick links to share. First, this week’s Economist features an extended section on Indian business which is well worth reading. Other than vague ideas about outsourcing, we Americans are pretty ignorant about both the history and the recent, rapid rise of India’s corporate giants, but our British peers have a much greater awareness of South Asia’s significance, in large part due to their former colonial ties to the region. Thus, in addition to The Economist, check out recent contributions by BBC Radio 4 business correspondent, Peter Day (e.g., “Made in India” from August 18, and “Consulting India” from October 15).
Second, in reviewing Indian newspaper websites, a pop-up ad serendipitously displayed an invitation to join shaadi.com, the “world’s largest matrimonial service”. In a region where arranged marriages remain common—for example, see the 2006 film, The Namesake—shaadi.com not only helps connect a global South Asian diaspora, but it does so in a way that bridges traditional and modern culture. While there is no explicit place to list one’s caste, the shaadi.com registration does require that users of the site enter both their religion and their “mother tongue”. Both those fields feature a pull-down menu of choices, and there is no better way to instantly appreciate the profound cultural diversity of South Asia than to see the long list of possible answers. Suffice it to say that the language field includes 16 different choices—and that’s just for the most common languages which appear above an even longer list sorted alphabetically beneath them. By comparison, the eleven choices for religion seems rather homogenous.
Harbhajan Singh (India) and Shahid Afridi (Pakistan) in a friendly, respectful exchange after their epic semifinal match in Punjab at the Cricket World Cup. If only the world of politics could emulate the world of sport.
Changes in “Human Development” since 1980. A half-century ago, South Asia and south-of-the-Sahara Africa ranked as the two least developed regions on Earth. While countries in both regions still rank near the bottom of the world development table, those in South Asia have seen their fortunes rise dramatically, while those in Africa—with a few exceptions such as Mali and Benin—have stagnated, if not declined. For the full 2010 report, visit the UNDP website.