Monday, November 10, 2008

Rescuing Cultures of India, From A to Z

In the midst of financial crises and technological advances, rescuing
cultures is not be forgotten.

"In an academy deep in the agrarian countryside of western India, five
students were writing briskly in ruled notebooks. They were in their
early 20s and newly enrolled, but there was no discounting the gravity
of their assignment: When they are finished, the world will have five
more documented languages," says an article in teh NEw York times
titled, "Rescuing Cultures of India, From A to Z"

The article says, "One word at a time, they are producing dictionaries
of languages with which they grew up, but which scarcely exist in the
rest of the world. These are oral languages, whose sounds have perhaps
never before been reproduced in ink.

"If we make this, those who come after us will profit from it," said
Kantilal Mahala, 21, taking a brief respite from his work on the
Kunkna language. "In my village, people who move ahead speak only
Gujarati. They feel ashamed of our language."

It is not only obscure languages that these students are trying to
chronicle and preserve, but also cuisines, sartorial habits and other
significant elements of rural culture. Like drivers heading downtown
at rush hour, the students see everyone else going the other way. A
swelling class of Indian aspirants from small towns and villages like
Tejgadh sees urban life and the English language as pathways to
affluence, security and respect.

Had it not been for Ganesh Devy, a former professor of English
literature who founded the academy more than a decade ago, the young
people in this rural community might have gone down that path. He
created the school, known as the Adivasi Academy, with a burning
question on his mind: Why do we wait for cultures to die to
memorialize them?

"There is a continent of culture getting submerged, and that's why I
wanted to take the plunge," Mr. Devy said.

With financing from the Ford Foundation and other philanthropic
groups, the Adivasi Academy tries to preserve a culture by steeping a
new generation of villagers in their own quickly disappearing

Read the full article at--

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