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Caught speaking Malayalam, Apollo nurses asked to resign


Menon said they arrived for the afternoon shift at 1.45 pm. “We greeted each other in the lift lobby in Malayalam and did not realise that the nursing superintendent was standing behind us,” Joseph said.”

Menon added, “We spent the entire day apologising but we were not allowed to enter the ward after that.”

The hospital’s nursing superintendent, Usha Banerjee, said employees were encouraged to speak only in English within the premises. “We cater to an international clientele,” Banerjee said. “In any case, speaking in native languages might jeopardise patient safety; we avoid talking in any language other than English while inside the hospital premises.” (via Caught speaking Malayalam, Apollo nurses asked to resign).

It gets worse … before getting worser?

The inside story on this one is worse. Apparently, whispers are that some of the supervisors at Apollo Hospitals do not speak Malayalam – and were peeved with the giggling and laughing nurses, chattering away in Malayalam. Imagined grouses and paranoid about being ‘insulted’ the supervisors came down heavily on this ‘misbehaviour’ by mandating that only Hindi and English will be used.

And then when the matter came to the NHRC and reached the media, they amended their orders – and under the dubious logic of ‘international’ patients, safety, et al, they tried smuggling in the rule that only English will be used.

The issues at stake

What is worth highlighting in this entire chain of events are the following: –

  1. Only Indian Express and The Telegraph (from Kolkatta) picked on this story, seemingly. No other mainstream media (MSM) ‘voice’ had anything to say on this story. Neither of the newspapers, did not quite know how to ‘deal’ with this ‘issue’.
  2. Some internet news aggregators were better with thaindian.com, with topnews.com and yahoo.co.in picking this story. Some internet forums discussed this – some in a half hearted manner.
  3. If India’s earlier ‘colonial’ masters had behaved in such a manner, it would raised the hackles of the entire country. But now, since the Brown Sahibs are doing it, it passes muster. How does colour make a difference, when an English speaking person, in a position of power, abuse their authority and insult people, using any other language? Does the fact that it is a Brown Sahib make the behaviour less objectionable?
  4. The ‘logic’ of English as an international language slides down the Indian throat – hook, line and sinker? Like it was pointed out,

It is often argued that India has developed and come up in the world so spectacularly because we have English. But then, how did the rest of the G-20 get there? Fifteen of those top countries have made it by functioning almost entirely in their own mother tongue and national language. For the remaining four — the US, UK, Canada and Australia — there was no choice, for English is again their mother tongue.

Clearly, India needs to take a stand – and do away with English. It will only benefit India.

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