distinguishing right from the wrong.
English may not be our mother tongue. But it is the language we have chosen to use in various fields of activity in India and have adapted it for higher and technical education. English is a jewel Britain left behind in our hands to be used to the best of our advantage. The Chinese are learning English and so do the Japanese. They are learning the language to perfection., voluntarily, appreciating its commercial value and international usefulness. Learning this language well must be considered an achievement, a matter of pride.
If you permit me a little digression, I can vouch for the good influence of English on Indian languages, particularly Tamil. Good handwriting, correct grammar, accurate spellings and appropriate punctuation marks insisted upon in teaching and learning of English, in those days, were transferred to the learning of Tamil also. We loved Tamil; we didn’t love English less. To us of the older generation of the 20s, 30s and 40s of the twentieth century language was a tool to be correctly used and the knowledge of any language was a proud possession. Language was neither a bone of contention nor a political lever. Nor a hindrance to ones patriotism. Being educationists and not politicians it is incumbent on us to learn English with grace and humility and enjoy knowing it well.
Bangalore: 5 June 1995 C.D.N
[ This is a part of a letter written to a professor of a famous engineering college in Tamil Nadu who had published a text book in chemistry for Engineering students, in collaboration with another professor. I happened to go through the book but was appalled at the grammatical and spelling errors through the two hundred and odd pages of the book. I was tempted to write to him drawing his attention to over eighty of the innumerable errors in it, in the hope he would at least acknowledge his oversight in proof reading,, perhaps, and promise to do the corrections in the next edition of the book, but I did not hear from him, naturally ]
85) Major General Sir. Hugh Wheeler of Cawnpore
In Bangalore we live off Wheeler Road extension. I wondered how this road got its name. And I came across two wheelers during my study of the British in India during the 19th century.
The first one was Major.General Sir. Wheeler, Commanding Officer of the garrison in Cawnpore at the time of the sepoy mutiny in 1857. Cawnpore had been a first class military station from 1775. Gen. Wheeler was among the oldest members of the school of Bengal Officers. He worshipped his sepoys; spoke their language and had gained full confidence and loyalty of his troops. He had spent over two thirds of his seventy-five years of life under the Indian Sun. Ever since he came to India in his youth he had never been to England on furlough even once.
When the mutiny broke out in Cawnpore on 5 June 1857, Gen.Wheeler who had full confidence in the loyalty of his men could not believe that his own men had rebelled. But he got ready to protect the lives of the Europeans in Cawnpore, a few loyal domestic servants attached to the families of European residents, Eurasians and some of the native Christians.
He couldn’t defend Cawnpore with the meagre resources of men and material he had available under his command and finally had to accept the offer of truce by Nana Sahib, the Rajah of Bitthur, once his friend but then turned the leader of the rebels. The General along with the people in the entrenchment were offered safe passage to Allahabad, another British station, by boats sailing down the Ganges. All the remaining Europeans in miserable condition, men women and children along with others left the garrison on 27th June for Chatichura ghat on the Ganges to board the boats that would take them to Allahabad. That is what they believed.
Gen. Wheeler had three children , a boy George and two girls Emily and Eliza, by his second wife Janaki whom he had rescued from an Afghan army camp during his campaign there. The European residents of Cawnpore did not take too kindly to Janaki being an Indian but Wheeler was faithful to her.