Of Infosys and the medium of message at workplace

From ‘harassment’ accusation against Infy’s Indian staff in the US to the average newsroom lingo and AIR-esque Hindi of Team Modi, where does this arrogance of language come from?

anju

Anju Yadav | July 18, 2014 | New Delhi



A sense of déjà vu hit hard while reading a news report on Infosys being sued in the US. 

Infosys is an equal opportunity employer: that was the ‘strong’ defence offered by the Indian multinational giant, taken to a US district court for allegedly discriminating against US citizens who did not know Hindi.

The former employees have alleged they were "excluded" from work conversations by their supervisors and co-workers who "regularly spoke in Hindi" in front of them.

The lawsuit also said: "The harassment increased after Ms (Layla) Bolten complained that her co-workers were excluding her by speaking Hindi."

The case might take whatever turn and Infosys might be absolved of responsibility for the behaviour of its employees, but one knows what those four are talking about. Only Infosys could and should have done some cultural sensitisation exercise to prevent this.

Only, for a media (especially print) professional working in Delhi, the language of offence is Bangla. That is if one constitutes the miniscule percentage of non-Bengali, non-Malayali lot. 

Now, most Bengalis – unlike Hindi-speaking UP, Bihari types – are self-proclaimed custodians of “kaalchaar”, as a colleague recently mentioned in another blog post, and do not shy from protecting their language from Hindi or English onslaught. So, what do they do? They practice their mother tongue at all times. There is no dearth of colleagues in the media who do that.

And if one happens to head the department, woe betide the lone non-Bengali, they will hound your non-Bengali-ness out of the company before settling in to resume their discourse on kaalchaar.

In the Indian corridors of power, the English-types are running like headless chickens when faced with the chaste Hindi-speaking Modi brigade. 

Only yesterday (July 17), home minister Rajnath Singh gave the French and the Germans in their own currency when, addressing a meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry, he chose to speak in Hindi. The expats, media was told, were expected to have a working knowledge of Hindi.

What does this arrogance of language lead to? Why is it that we so easily forget the simple courtesy of putting at ease a person who doesn’t belong?
Sometimes, it is to hide one’s lack of knowledge – we also know it as ‘reverse snobbery’, practiced by, for instance, some Hindi journalists or the Infosys staff in the US, to show their indifference while they are itching to belong. 

Or, to ridicule the perceivably lower strata of those who you consider to be ‘downmarket’; a classic case being that of Bengali ‘culture’ versus UP ka bhaiya, or worse, that Bihari.

But why am I worked up every time I am reminded of a senior editor repeatedly putting me in the neighbouring state that is considered more backward than mine?

Being human, eh!
 

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