A Goddess in the Works: The Devanagari Script and the Internet Adil Jussawalla (Writer) “I’m interested in only

one thing,” says the Gujarati poet and publisher uresh !alal, “and that is to "reate new readers#” $he %&'year'old !alal is the author o( more than &)) boo*s, +, o( them poetry# -e also edits Kavita, a bimonthly journal o( Gujarati poetry and "riti"ism# .ne o( the ways !alal wants to "reate new readers (or Gujarati poetry is to put Kavita online# -a/ing brought out the journal (or 0% years, he would li*e to mo/e with the times# 1ut migrating online is an e2pensi/e proposition# 3or the proje"t to ta*e o((, !alal needs talented editors and more "ash, neither o( whi"h is easy to "ome by# -e says that, at present, there are no e'4ines published in Gujarati, though there are some online /ersions o( print maga4ines# “$here’s a lot to be done,” he tells me wist(ully, then emphati"ally adds, “but the (uture is online#” !alal’s language, Gujarati, is one o( &5 “s"heduled” languages spo*en in India# A s"heduled language is one that is mentioned in the ,th "hedule o( the Indian 6onstitution, indi"ating that it has o((i"ial go/ernment re"ognition# $he original "hedule, whi"h, along with the 6onstitution, be"ame e((e"ti/e on India’s (irst 7epubli" !ay, January +8, &59), had a list o( &9 languages# An amendment to the 6onstitution in &55+ raised the number to &,# $he &5th language, 1odo, was added in +))0# :/ery Indian language is widely spo*en in a parti"ular region o( India, but not e2"lusi/ely so# In the state o( ;aharashtra, (or e2ample, ;arathi is "ommonly used, but other languages, su"h as -indi and <rdu, are also spo*en by many# u"h metropolitan "ities as 6hennai ((ormerly ;adras), =ol*ata ((ormerly 6al"utta), ;umbai ((ormerly 1ombay) and >ew !elhi, with their large migrant populations, are li*ely to ha/e spea*ers o( all the s"heduled languages, and o( uns"heduled languages as well# in"e the business o( ma*ing a distin"tion between languages and diale"ts "ontinues to be problemati", estimates o( the number o( languages spo*en in India /ary, (rom the ;inistry o( :du"ation’s o((i"ial number o( 0+9 to the more e2tra/agant (and popular) (igures o( “more than +,)))” and “more than 0,)))#” $he Gujarati s"ript is a /ariant o( !e/anagari, whi"h is the "ommon s"ript o( (i/e outh Asian languages? ans*rit, -indi, ;arathi, >epali and Gondi# In the past &,))) years, the (orm o( the !e/anagari s"ript has "hanged /ery little# <ntil the mid'&5 th "entury, !e/anagari was used (or literary and s"holarly wor*s in Gujarati# $he /ariant that is now used uni/ersally in Gujarati writing was, until then, reser/ed (or writing letters and *eeping a""ounts# Attempts to adapt the an"ient !e/anagari s"ript (or modern purposes, su"h as printing, ha/e run into (ormidable, sometimes une2pe"ted di((i"ulties# .ne sour"e o( problems is the phonologi"al nature o( the s"ript itsel(# <nli*e the letters o( the 7oman alphabet, !e/anagari "hara"ters stand (or e2a"t sounds, whi"h, when they’re spo*en, are unmodi(ied by the "hara"ters that immediately pre"ede or (ollow them# 3or e2ample, the !e/anagari letter , "orresponding to the 7oman alphabet’s “A,” "an only be pronoun"ed , as in the (irst syllable o( the :nglish word “again#” 1ut while the “a” in

. the (emale prin"iple. pronoun"ed “om. its totality "onsisting o( its sound.” meaning a god or di/inity. .” must be"ome another letter. it is di((i"ult to tal* about the de/elopment o( letter(orms (or printing and typography in India without a (eeling o( regret and sadness# “$he letter(orm###has undergone so mu"h erosion and mutilation in the pro"ess o( submitting to the demands and "onstraints o( te"hnology####as to lose a great deal o( the original /igor and meaning#### “An integral i"on "annot be bro*en into its "omponents. "reating. (or the written word# $hus she li/es in e/ery ans*rit letter# Chilip 7awson’s boo* "antra "arries a remar*able illustration.” meaning “o( the town”@also imply a di/ine prin"iple at wor* in the language# imilarly. the only (orm o( printing at the time. a separate alphabeti" "hara"ter# 1e"ause o( these (a"tors. in e((e"t. the !e/anagari (onts a/ailable to newspapers and boo* publishers were e2tremely limited# $he di((i"ulty in adapting !e/anagari (or printing has also a religious dimension# In his boo* India’s Newspaper Revolution: Capitalism. is responsible. the smaller metal'"ast type(a"es. when the demand (or printing in !e/anagari grew. and thus its written (orm. and still be "onsidered the same# An image o( !urga (a power(ul goddess) is mu"h more than a "olle"tion o( many limbs#” $he graphi" artist’s lin*ing o( letter(orms to mantras and the alphabet to “an intended di/ine prin"iple” is parti"ularly interesting in the "onte2t o( !e/anagari# $he mantra . Politics and the Indian-Language Press. was (rustrating and time'"onsuming# 3or more than &9) years. and printers. its shape and its meaning#### “As mantras@sa"red prayer syllables@letters o( the alphabet lin* the worshiper to an intended di/ine prin"iple#### “With su"h a pro(ound history. 1 !!. is the basis (or the e/entual e/olution o( the !e/anagari s"ript# $he two "omponents o( the word “!e/anagari”@“de/a. the s"holar 7obin Je((rey Auotes an Indian graphi" artist’s obje"tion to reshaping an an"ient s"ript to suit metal type# “:a"h letter(orm is an integral i"on. many more than are (ound in the 7oman alphabet# 6hara"ters representing these /owels and "onsonants ha/e sometimes to be "onjoined to represent a parti"ular sound. ri"h in meaning and philosophy. many more "hara"ters had to be "ast in !e/anagari (onts than were a/ailable in the e2isting (onts (or 7oman letters# Also. a &5th "entury 7ajasthani painting.:nglish "an also be pronoun"ed di((erently@as in “(ar” (ah) or in “(ate” (ay) '' without altering the alphabeti" “a” itsel(.” is widely regarded among -indu belie/ers to be the primordial sound o( the uni/erse# ome also see the syllable “om” as a seed mantra (or the di/ine language ans*rit. with their "ontinuous head'stro*es and deli"ate dia"riti"al mar*s. !e/anagari has 0B "onsonants and &. whi"h shows “a sa"red umbrella (ormed out o( the ans*rit alphabet whose words are the dwelling pla"e o( the Goddess#” . in the Indian tantri" tradition. bro*e easily# -andset printing. # $o "hange the sound to the “a” in “(ate. entrepreneurs and 6hristian missionaries de"ided to do something about it.” it must be"ome # 3urthermore. /ariations in the pronun"iation o( the !e/anagari reAuire either a "hange in the letter or the addition o( a modi(ier# $o "hange its sound to the “a” in “(ar. and “nagari. represented as the goddess ha*ti. in one o( her a/atars. /owels.

” whi"h he presented in &55) at Asso"iation $ypographiAue Internationale’s $ype 5) "on(eren"e in . "omputer typesetting and o((set printing liberated Indian s"ripts (rom the old'(ashioned printer’s tray and were in no small measure responsible (or the phenomenal growth o( the Indian'language press during the period his boo* "o/ers# -indi dailies.The Devanagari Script (3rom 6:!A7.” has been Auite "riti"al o( printing that uses metal "asting. whose "ir"ulation (irst surpassed that o( :nglish' language dailies in &5%5. http?DDwww#"edar#bu((alo#eduDs"riptD!s"ript#html) $he graphi" artist =irti $ri/edi. :ngland. those new seeds ha/e (lourished# As Je((rey ma*es "lear. as it does.arathi. a /iolent reshaping o( the !e/anagari s"ript# 1ut $ri/edi has no Aualms about "omputer typesetting# In his paper “I"onography o( Eetter(orms. $ri/edi writes. “$he new te"hnologi"al de/elopments in typesetting ha/e (inally remo/ed all "onstraints whi"h inhibited the de/elopment o( !e/anagari s"ript#” 6ertain that the new te"hnology will restore the s"ript to its (ormer glory.2(ord. reAuiring. (or e2ample. outsold the latter almost three times o/er in &555# Will -indi and other languages in !e/anagari. $ri/edi predi"ted that “new !e/anagari seeds will sprout again#” In the nearly &B years sin"e $ri/edi (irst put (orward his /iews. li*e . whom Je((rey des"ribes as being “a"ti/e in redesigning Indian newspapers. (lourish in a "omparable way on the InternetF .

"laims that its mission is “to e2tend the sel('esteem o( . gi/en the tas* o( (inding a uni(orm "ode (or all the Indian languages.” but that is somewhat misleading# A""ording to Asho* hahane. “Indian resear"h is badly s*ewed# It has (o"used on reprodu"tion te"hnology rather than "ommuni"ation te"hnology#” “-ow.arathi di((i"ult# It is. te"hnology# In other words. the 6enter (or the !e/elopment o( Ad/an"ed 6omputing..arathi language in a 7oman s"riptF -ow "an you tell what a . ha/e been made by serious linguists in the past# $he idea is now being repeated by those who see romani4ation as a means o( "ommuni"ating on the Internet Aui"*ly and without (uss# hahane is horri(ied at the prospe"t# “ ound and s"ript ha/e di((erent parameters. the solution is romani4ation# Croposals to romani4e Indian s"ripts and. in"luding $u*aram#"om.” he says# “-ow "an you hear the .arathi# 1ut e/ery site I /isited. whi"h he has edited (or the last &+ years. they’d be resear"hing ways to ma*e . empowering Indian users to le/erage global'based . pages printed in !e/anagari ha/e been s"anned and reprodu"ed on the sites in their original (ormats# $he <# #'based resear"h site 6:!A7 "laims that “the pro(usion o( online resour"es a/ailable (or ans*rit.arathi poem sounds li*e i( you hear it in a romani4ed (ormF” hahane is "on"erned that those . de/oted to the belo/ed &%th'"entury .” he says# “In two or three years’ time we’ll be li*e the <# #” Get his bimonthly re/iew. in so doing.((i"e appli"ations in the language o( their "hoi"e#” . impossible (or him to send e'mail (rom . this "an only happen i( !e/anagari be"omes a more "omputer'enabled s"ript# -emant !i/ate insists this is already happening# Indeed. “the (irst lo"ali4ed produ"t o( its *ind and in"ludes a -indi language inter(a"e based on <ni"ode standards#” . is not online# Ei*e uresh !alal.((i"e -indi is. has been "reated using image'based.arathi shows that. has re/ised the "ode three timesH” hahane is e2asperated# -e (inds that non'"ompatible so(tware among Internet'users ma*es sending e'mail and atta"hments in . rather than s"ript'based. $u*aram#"om.((i"e -indi “in"ludes a -indi language inter(a"e and supports nine languages.arathi poet and editor -emant !i/ate is sure they will# “!ot "om "ulture will be part o( our so"iety. (eatures translations o( his wor* in se/eral :uropean languages# It also "arries arti"les and s"holarly te2ts on the poet in .y own sear"h o( Websites in Gujarati and . I "ould (ind only one that was primarily literary# $he site.aharashtrians to e/ery noo* and "orner o( the world”). “"an !e/anagari be part o( an internationally a""epted <ni"ode when we *eep ma*ing "hanges in our own "odeF In ten years. ma*e them mutually and internationally a""essible. he says.i"roso(t India has laun"hed . a""ording to the report.arathi poet $u*aram.. #$hida Nantar. (or e2ample. (or instan"e. the 3ebruary &. he doesn’t ha/e the "ash and manpower to ma*e it happen right now# .arathi a serious player in the digital world# .((i"e -indi# .b/iously. +))B edition o( the daily "he #sian #ge reported that . while a (ew ha/e a "ultural agenda (marathiworld#"om.umbai to his "ousin in >ew Gor*# 3or some. -indi and other !e/anagari'based s"ripts indi"ates widespread use o( the !e/anagari s"ript in the digital world. as the /ery pie"e you are presently reading was being readied (or uploading.arathi and .arathi spea*ers who ha/e gone to the <# # as so(tware engineers ha/e no interest in their mother tongue# I( they did. a translator and publisher who has spent some 0) years resear"hing "omputer'related appli"ations (or !e/anagari.” he as*s.

"an now be learned on the "omputer using 6!s. and also indhi. .arathi writers and literary journals (or at least ten years# -e sees no reason (or its not supporting e'4ines and India' based e((orts to publish online# hahane.arathi spea*ers li/ing in India and abroad# !uring his +))0 reading and le"ture tour in the <# #. he /iews this as merely a temporary measure and thin*s it won’t be long be(ore he will be able to use !e/anagari# -e says . li*e many others. whi"h uses the Arabi" s"ript# Will the >7Is’ demand (or writing in their (irst language "reate (unds that will help e' 4ines and online publishing in those languages ta*e o((F !i/ate says it will# -e mentions the <# #'based . on the other hand. uses romani4ed s"ript when sending e'mail.arathi. is adamant that e' "ommuni"ation in !e/anagari is bogged down# $he right "onne"tions. among them Gujarati. (or e2ample. too. many o( whom desperately want their "hildren to maintain lin*s with their (irst language and its literature# $he (ear o( losing (irst languages in pla"es where :nglish dominates has "reated (resh resour"es (or language learning# .any languages. ha/e to be made (irst# .aharashtra 3oundation. he says (or"e(ully.While !i/ate. was stru"* by the demand (or more Gujarati on the Internet# $he demand "ame (rom nonresident Indians (>7Is).arathi in its pristine !e/anagari (orm is well on the way to be"oming the dominant lin* between . -indi. whi"h has supported . !alal.

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