Bhojpuri not comparable with Creole
By M. Rafic SOORMALLY
Bhojpuri is not a ‘Creole language’ born in slavery. It belongs to the Indo-European/Iranian/ Aryan group with Bihari languages like Maithili, Magahi and Bhojpuri as a sub-group. It is spoken in Western Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh with around 150 million speakers worldwide.
Bhojpuri is a dialect of Hindi and it also interacted with several other languages such as Bangla and Persian and has a huge and rich vocabulary shared with Sanskrit, Hindi and Urdu. It is written in the Devanagri script like Hindi.
Politicians Lal Bahadur Shastri and Chandra Shekar, and writer Viveki Rai are famous Bhojpuri personalities. Bhojpuri cinema ranges from Gunga Jumuna (Dilip Kumar & Vyjayanthimala) and Ganga (Amitabh Bachchan & Hema Malini) to Sasura Bade Paisewala (Manoj Tiwari) and Udit Narayan’s film ‘’Kab Hoii Gawna Hamaar’’. Bhojpuri words have always been part of the Bollywood lexicon.
Had Mauritius distributed the hundreds of films produced in Bhojpuri and also attempted to make its own, the culture would have flourished.
The 1960’s Mauritius saw Bhojpuri catalogued as a village language, “langage bitation”, which some also referred to as “Motia Hindi” (vulgar Hindi), while “Broken French” was promoted as a town’s “modern” language under the name of Creole of European/Haitian import. Urban folks and villagers fell victim to such propaganda and shunned Bhojpuri in public while ignoring the politics behind it all. Indo-Mauritians started to lose their identity.
But, the Portuguese/Spanish term Creole is faced with a huge definition problem. A Creole can refer to ethnicity - a White European born in slave colonies such as Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mauritius.
It also refers to plants and animals in those colonies. Creole was also the spoken language imposed by the Slave Masters on African slaves in those colonies, language which they treated with contempt and through which they became known as Creoles, meaning those who speak Creole. Alternative names for Creole language in Mauritius are mind boggling – Morisyen, Kreol, Kreole, Mauritius Creole French…African-American Professor John McWhorter is promoting a “Creole Genesis Theory” according to which the first human language was a Creole and that there is allegedly a bit of Creole in all of us, without any empirical evidence.
Creole is necessarily based on a European language, such as English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. In freedom, liberated slaves left behind the language of slavery and moved on. They also interacted with other Mauritian non-African immigrants. The lingua franca that emerged was not Creole anymore but a Mauritian “sabir” or “patois” enriched with Hindi, Bhojpuri, Urdu, Tamil and Mandarin vocabulary and expressions, spoken differently in different parts of the island, but still French-based. It can be phonetically written in any script (Latin, Devanagri, Arabic).
A Risky Experiment
Academically speaking, a patois is spoken but not written and does not form literary works. By stripping it of most of its Asian ingrowths and outgrowths “épuration linguistique”, an ethnopolitical movement has, since the 1960’s, tried to revive the dead slave language by grafting it on to the evolving Mauritian patois, which they call “Kreol”, written by systematically butchering academic orthography and phonology through the use of a ‘new’ script called tantôt “Grafilarmoni” tantôt “Grafi Armoni”, now acclaimed by some as “prestigious” and allegedly deserving to be used and taught in our primary education system where children are at their most vulnerable. The Seychelles tried a similar experiment but it failed dismally. Although the term Creole is still used in common parlance, Creole was a spoken language of slaves local to the colony and rejected in freedom.
A fabricated language (since the 1960’s), called by any name, which teaches a child to spell “l’éducation” as “ledikasyon” and which butchers the French language can never be benefi cial for the child and should never be introduced in the school curriculum, even as an option.
Bhojpuri and Creole are not comparable languages. Bhojpuri is a fully-fl edged ancestral language of around two-thirds of the Mauritian population, with a script and literature which date back several centuries.