Balraj Sahni says:

Those days I was a teacher at Shanti Niketan. One day I went to invite Rabindranath Tagore for the annual Hindi SammeIan, when he started a discussion with me During the course of our conversation he asked, “Besides teaching what else are you doing over here?”

“I write stories in Hindi which are published in the leading Hindi magazines. During my stay here, I have written a lot and also earned a good name for myself.”

‘But your mother tongue is not Hindi. You are a Punjabi. Why don’t you write in the Punjabi language?”

I felt that Tagore was a narrow-minded, provincial man; at that time I did not realize that an artist must first be nationally known in the true sense of the word before he is internationally acclaimed.

“But Hindi is the national language. It is the language of the entire nation. Why should I write in any provincial language, when I can write for the entire country?” I said.

“I write in Bengali, which is a provincial language; yet, not only the people of Hindustan but people all over the world read what I write.”

“I am not a great writer like you, I am just an insignificant writer.”

“It is not the question of greatness or smallness; a writer has a relationship with his own birthplace, his people, and his language. It is only from them that he can receive the warmth and feeling of being one of them.”

“Probably you do not have much knowledge about the conditions prevailing in my State. In Punjab, we either write in Hindi or in Urdu. No one writes in Punjabi. Punjabi is a very backward language. If you want an honest opinion, it cannot be called a language. It is a sub-language, a dialect of the Hindi language.”

“I do not agree with you. The Punjabi literature or the Bengali literature is very old. Can you look down upon that language and call it outdated or backward, the language in which great poets like Guru Nanak have written?”

And then he recited a few lines of Guru Nanak’s, which I now remember by heart. But at that time, I was absolutely unaware of them. Those lines were:

Gagan mein thaal Ravi Chand deepak bane
Tarka mandal Janka moti
Dhoop Malyachal pawan chanwar kare
Sagal banraya phulanto Jyoti

Literally translated the four lines mean:
Nature in its own way offers arti (prayers).

To God the creator of the Universe
The sky is the thali (tray)
The sun and the moon are the diyas (candles)
The stars are the pearls
The fragrance from the Malyachal Mountain is the incense
The breeze sways like the chawar (fan)
And the entire flora blossoms luminously.

When Hindustan was fighting for Independence, it required one national language. The Congress was making tremendous efforts to make it the national language and encourage its growth and popularity. I did not think it proper to argue but I had utmost respect for him to listen to his words of wisdom.

I got up to leave.I had barely reached the door when Gurudev spoke words which troubled my heart for many years. But one day, suddenly, I realized that these words had much truth in them. He said:

“A prostitute, even after amassing all the wealth, cannot command respect, Similarly, when you spend your entire life writing in an alien language, neither your own people will accept you as one of them, nor will the people in whose language you have been writing. Before trying to win over outsiders, you should first win over your own people.”

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