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Book Review By Adam Rizvi, New York, TIO: ” Glimpses of Indian Languages by Avik Gangopadhyay”.This book stands out because of the way it enriches the basic discussion with perspective from Script, Languages & history. Penned in a very informative lively and engaging style. Many people, including me, feel better at the mere sight of a book. That’s the thing about books. They let us travel without moving our feet. One glance at a book and one hears the voice of the other people, perhaps some dead for more than a thousand years. To read Glimpses of Indian Languages by Avik Gangopadhyay is a real achievement, it’s a voyage through time.
Across the world, different languages are used in different regions. In India too one can witness unmatched linguistic diversity. Before delving deeper, just a glimpse of the contents of Avik’s book focuses the searchlight on the most-spoken yet unwritten phrase, “language is culture and culture is language.”
There are not only various interconnections between the two but a lot of history. Language and culture developed together, influencing the lives of people just as much as one another. To understand one, one must understand the other.
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Language and culture go hand in hand, whether it is folklore of a certain region or simple day-to-day talk. Logically, there is a certain kind of relationship between language and culture. After all, both of these often define a person, their views, traditions, habits, and almost everything about their daily life and living.
The 252-page edition published by Evincepub Publishing, India, has been globally released in both soft and print versions. Glimpses of Indian Languages is a broad yet critical survey of Indian languages, aimed at a popular audience. It is organized thematically, with 17 chapters with relevant structural subdivisions. The psychological mapping of an experienced author, as Avik is, with 21 published books in English and Bengali, and 9 edited books, apart from writing regular columns in reputed dailies is quite evident from the content itself: the first 5 chapters initiates entry into the linguistic outline of Indian languages, factual details related to history and evolution of Indian languages, ancient Indian scripts, and the relation between scripts and languages accorded to classical India with elaboration ancient Indian languages, north Indian languages, central Indian languages, west Indian languages, east Indian languages, middle Indian languages, north-east Indian languages, modern Indian languages and illustrating Indus script, Brahmi script, Kharosthi script, Gupta script, Kalinga script, Vatteluttu script, Kadamba script, Kannada script,Telgu script, Grantha script, Tigalari script, Malayalam script, Tamil script, Sinhala script, Dhives Akuru, Sarada script, Landa script, Gurmukhi script, Khojki script, Khudabadi script, Takri script, Nagari script, Nandinagari script, Eastern Nagari script, Odia script, Devanagari script, Gujarati script, Santali script, Sankhalipi, Urdu script, and the expansion of Brahmic scripts.
Chapters 6 to 14 include the valuable database of all the languages and dialects with locations and speakers ( the 6th, 122 – page chapter, the treasure of the book), national and provisional languages, educational languages and language for wider communication, developing and vigorous languages, dispersed and shifting languages, moribund and dormant languages, threatened languages, nearly extinct languages, and extinct languages. This has been much-needed documentation for years, finally accomplished and quite understandable, why Avik has spent 17 years in completing this endeavor.
The last 3 Chapters coalesces the time past, present, and future. Avik does not evade the issues that surfaced from time to time, the aspects of language from social, national, traditional, and universal perspectives: the linguistic pluralism in India, the general indicators of Indian languages and scripts, and the most inescapable reality of the relation between language and culture.
Glimpses of Indian Languages is primarily a reference, rather, a volume designed for dipping into and browsing. Individual articles are written so they can stand by themselves. Real depth of treatment of an encyclopedia is of course impossible with such a format, but one can hardly get such a title browsing the internet. It is not surprising, therefore, that the work is strongest in the more applied areas. Many curious and intriguing pieces of information are presented. The scholar in Avik is keen to do justice to the title, likewise his previous works on Language Death, Diaspora and Trauma Literature, The Trans creative Psyche, Evolution of theories in Art and Literature, that had already earned him appreciation from Edinburgh University (Scotland, UK), Henrich Heine University (Germany), Sorbonne University (France), Indo Canadian Diaspora Confederation (Canada), Centre for Revitalization of Endangered Languages (NY, Canada), Asia-Europe Foundation (Singapore), Library of Poetry (USA), Raad O Barendra Bhasha Shongskriti Chorcha Porishad (Bangladesh), Varendra Research Society (Bangladesh), and Varada Sidhhi Peetham (India).
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The volume is visually not just appealing but positively enticing. Maps and tables, scripts, and graphs are used effectively, not decoratively. The illustrations are useful and informative as well as attractive. Glimpses of Indian Languages should be widely appreciated and should do much to improve popular understanding of the Indian cultural psyche through languages and linguistics.
Compiled and Curated by Humra Kidwai