Why is a temple being built to the Goddess English in Uttar Pradesh? Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih speaks to the man behind this novel venture.
There couldn’t be a greater champion of the English language than Chandrabhan Prasad.
Prasad, a Dalit thinker, celebrates Thomas Macaulay’s birthday every year and was in the process of building a temple to Goddess English in a village in Uttar Pradesh until the construction was stopped by the district administration saying they did not have permission to do so.
Prasad was aiming to inaugurate the temple on October 25, Macaulay’s birthday, and still hopes that the construction will resume soon.
He says people may think his belief in English is bizarre and snigger at him, but the same people move heaven and earth to ensure their children go to the best English schools.
Prasad — who was introduced to the English language when he came to study at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh — is persistent in the belief that by revering Goddess English, uneducated Dalit mothers will make sure that their children learn English
Image: Chandrabhan Prasad, right, at the foundation laying ceremony of the temple to Goddess English
Photographs: Courtesy, Chandrabhan Prasad
‘It will be impossible to find a decent job if you don’t know English’
“Why should it remain the language of the privileged?” asks Prasad who remembers being discriminated by the upper castes when he was growing up in his village.
Dalits were made to sit separately at weddings and there was no Dalit child his age who did not eat roasted rats — the only Dalit meat.
In an interview to Rediff.com‘s Archana Masih he explained why English was important for young Dalits to get decent jobs and stressed that new methods were needed in social movements for emancipation because old tricks won’t do.
You say building a temple to Goddess English will help Dalits learn English. It certainly is not as simple as that.
If you advise people to teach English to their children, there is a chance it may not be taken. So I thought Dalit women could worship English as a goddess.
I tell them that you don’t have a goddess, you have Lord Buddha but no goddess, so English is your goddess because English was the language of your emancipator Dr B R Ambedkar.
My assessment is that if women start worshipping English as mother goddess there’s no way their kids will escape A B C D. So this can spread as a powerful phenomenon and have more effect than a campaign or writings.
It’s not that every child will learn English but once it comes into fashion it will transform lives because in 10,15 years it will be impossible to find a decent job if you don’t know English.
Image: Villagers watch the foundation laying ceremony in Bankagoan, UP