Published: 27th January 2020
Meet this 97-year-old Padma Shri recipient who campaigned to make Hindi the national language
Dr N Chandrasekharan Nair is a noted Hindi scholar and the former head of Hindi department at the Mahatma Gandhi University
At 97, Kerala's Dr N Chandrasekharan Nair is probably the oldest person to receive a Padma award in 2020. That could be one of the reasons why we weren't able to get through to this scholar over the telephone. However, we caught up with his daughter Dr S Sunanda. Unsurprisingly, she says, "The award was long due. But, my father welcomes the award and accepts it wholeheartedly."
A noted Hindi scholar and the founder of the Kerala Hindi Sahitya Academy, Nair received the Vishva Hindi Samman during the Vishva Hindi Samelan hosted by the Ministry of External Affairs in 2015. He had actively campaigned to have Hindi declared as India's National Language.
Recently, the Home Minister Amit Shah had said, "There are several languages in India and they have their own value, but it is important for the nation to have one language that it is identified by in the world. If there is one language that can unite the country, it's Hindi." This had sparked controversy and many took it to Twitter to express their disagreement with a #StopHindiImposition. Sunanda, however, says that her father "doesn't want to impose any language on anyone".
Adding that he doesn't wish to get involved in any controversy, she shares an old video of Nair's with us. A devout Gandhian, he can be heard saying, "The reason why I push for people to learn Hindi is that, it is the best way for people all around the country to get to know each other. It is only for us to stay united. In a large and diverse country like ours, there is a need for a common language so that people get to interact with each other, passing a lot of hurdles."
Two years ago, Nair also instituted an award for the best PhD thesis in Hindi, from Kerala. "He's been asking a lot more students to pursue research in the language. This award was a step towards that," says Sundanda. Nair was also the former head of the department of Hindi at Mahatma Gandhi University.