Mani Shankar Aiyar Blames His English Education for ‘Neech’ Remark
The “neech” remark that Mani Shankar Aiyar made about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was hotly debated on primetime news by politicians and used during the Gujarat election rallies as a war-cry against elitism, was misconstrued and convoluted by all, wrote Aiyar wrote in a blog on NDTV.com.
Aiyar claims that his remark, which drew such ire that it was dubbed “inappropriate adjective,” was, in fact, a “double fault.”
The Congress leader wrote that his father was a highly educated chartered accountant and income tax advisor, who passed away when he was still a boy. But, his mother still ensured that his two brothers and him got an English education in the country’s “most expensive school.”
At home too, English was the lingua franca, my mother being fluent in that language despite being a Tamil scholar and poet who tried desperately to keep us in touch with our Tamil cultural roots. Friends would be amused to hear us conversing, she almost exclusively in impeccable Tamil, with me lamely responding in English.Mani Shankar Aiyer in a blog on NDTV.com
Not being able to speak Hindi without fumbling and even mixing up the genders is what Aiyar claims led to his “second fault.”
Aiyar built a good rapport with his school’s Hindi teacher whose Hindi stories Aiyar would translate into English, and the teacher would return the favour by doing the same with Aiyar’s stories.
Being a diplomat by default meant lengthy interactions and correspondences in English, which only changed after his stint in Pakistan.
I listened spell bound to him (and Sadhavi Khosla), my heart ecstatically racing at the faultless flow of their Hindi (never, ever an English word) and the deep spiritual and cultural roots that permeated the speech. I disagreed almost entirely with what they had to say but was mesmerised at the way they said it.Mani Shankar Aiyer
This is when he began speaking in Hindi, also beginning to appear on TV, but his language was never rooted in cultural milieu nor was it peppered with literary references and colloquialisms that were part of the parlance of his compatriots.
Aiyar writes that a friend and former boss told him what “neech” meant colloquially.
Aiyar concluded that it would always reverberate in his ears:
(Breathe In, Breathe Out: Are you finding it tough to breathe polluted air? Join hands with FIT in partnership with #MyRightToBreathe to find a solution to pollution. Send in your suggestions to email@example.com or WhatsApp @ +919999008335)
(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.)