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Saving local cultures in a globalising world

Staff Reporter

Jeremy Seabrook launches Sugata Srinivasaraju’s book

Bangalore: “As irrational as it may be, I feel strangely disturbed by India turning to the value system of the United States. But then again, is one really in control of his or her identity?” asked Jeremy Seabrook, eminent author and columnist, at the launch of a book, “Keeping Faith with the Mother Tongue: The anxieties of a local culture”, by writer and journalist Sugata Srinivasaraju, here on Saturday.

Speaking of the inevitable impact of globalisation on local culture, Mr. Seabrook said that his sentiment was, perhaps, “absurd”, if not absolutely “untenable”.

“After all, we in Britain have also been partly refashioned by the U.S. — 70 per cent of expressions in our media and in customary usage now have an American origin,” he said. “Those who think that we are agents in our acculturation are wrong,” he added.

Introducing the book, which explores the clash between local cultures and the homogenising impulses of globalisation, Mr. Seabrook posed some questions, tongue firmly in cheek: “If Kannada is the mother-tongue, what is its relation with the national language? Does Hindi then become the step-mother tongue? And English the mother-in-law tongue?”

Mr. Srinivasaraju said he sometimes wondered if, through the book, he was avenging his father’s “humiliation at the altar of English.”

“The world did not open up to my father because of his limited access to English… English extracts regret from the most marvellously accomplished,” he said and added that Nobel prize-winning Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez is also known to have expressed regret over not being taught English.

The book came out of his personal need to “reconcile the best of the two worlds — the global and local, cosmopolitan and provincial, the inside and outside. I did not want to have to choose — I wanted to be a good bilingual,” said Mr. Srinivasaraju.

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