'English Devi' set to find more devotees in India
Lakhimpur-Kheri (Uttar Pradesh), Oct 29 (IANS) An eager bunch of
devotees await 'English Devi' in many towns and hamlets of India -- or
so it seems from the requests pouring in at the doors of those behind
a unique temple being set up in a village here to popularise English.
'We have received requests from our sister organisations in Tamil
Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra for setting
up this novel 'English Devi' temple,' said Chandrabhan Prasad, a
researcher at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who is the
brain behind the move.
Prasad chose the nondescript Banka village of Lakhimpur-Kheri
district, about 170 km from Lucknow, to undertake his dream project of
an 'English Devi' temple simply because of his old association with
'Way back in 1991, I had started a 'Dalit Shiksha Andolan' - a
campaign to promote education among Dalits; and Lakhimpur-Kheri was
among those few places where the response was tremendous,' he said.
'Even now, when I mooted the idea of setting up a temple with a view
to promoting knowledge of English among Dalits, one of my old
associates promptly offered to undertake the project in his native
village Banka,' Prasad added.
If Banka is in the spotlight because of this unique effort, it is the
Nalanda Public Shiksha Niketan there which gets all credit for making
Prasad's dream a reality.
Amar Chand Jauhar and his wife Nisha Pal Jauhar, who have been running
the only intermediate college under the banner of Nalanda Public
Shiksha Niketan in Banka, happily gave away 800 sq feet of land of
their institution for building the only temple of its kind.
The 'English Devi' deity planned for the temple is as unique as the
concept of the temple. The 'Dalit Goddess English', as the deity is
referred to, is cast more on the lines of the Statue of Liberty.
'It is three-feet tall, attired in a British gown and sporting an
English hat while standing atop a pedestal in the shape of a computer,
with a pen in one hand and a copy of the Indian Constitution in the
other,' explained Jauhar.
Said Prasad: 'We were hoping to complete this temple latest by October
25 when we had planned to hold a grand ceremony that would
simultaneously mark the birth anniversary of Lord Macaulay, the
architect of promotion of English language.'
Jauhar added: 'However, the work could not be completed, so we are now
hoping to see 'English Devi' installed in the new temple latest by the
end of November.'
Jauhar feels very strongly about English because he considers lack of
knowledge of the language as the biggest handicap to growth.
'You may have the best of degrees but unless you know English, you
cannot grow in today's modern world; and that is what I perceive as
the reason for continued deprivation of Dalits, who have been losing
out on account of poor English,' he pointed out.
The temple building that is now being given a final cladding of black
granite all around will have steps matching a computer keyboard.
Jauhar's wife Nisha Pal proposes to later have the granite walls
engraved with popular English sayings, besides a few physics,
chemistry and mathematics formulae to convey that this was a complete
temple of learning.
Asked why they chose this way to promote teaching of English among
Dalits, Nisha replied: 'Well, in any case we lay a lot of emphasis on
the teaching of formal English, but we could not think of a better way
to promote English learning than by making it a religious mission.'
'And you can see for yourself how the idea is being lapped up by the
entire media - local, national and even international! Don't you
believe that well begun is half done,' she added.
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