[Background: Kannada, like probably many other Indian languages, has seen its days run out completely as the primary language used to store, record knowledge. It may have been due to several factors, but back to local view of the world: local news, local language, local perspectives and everything local has now been catching up. Even FM radios in the city have switched back to the local language as the primary language of broadcast. Well, is it time the local language is also used more and more to document knowledge? and to think back about those aspects of knowledge that stays beautiful when written in local language, the aspects that make people more comfortable with it to sit back and listen, or grab a book or news paper to read. Whatever is, people thronging in the local language communities on-line or otherwise would have certainly observed this change of discussing certain aspects of technology, science or software (that make their presence felt in everyone's lives) in local languages just because the conversations happen effectively. Localized software, support for languages on software has added up to this. These are most definitely good signs for that large mass of rural students who are primarily educated in local language and for those people who are more at comfy with their mother tongue. Since this percentage of population who are more at ease with the local language is more in the rural areas, towns and smaller cities, it becomes even more important to log technology, science or the basic knowledge surrounding it in local languages to spread it across the state, create awareness about the sea of change that is sweeping each day with new technologies, concepts and innovations. A good instance would be going about creating awareness about free software (free as in freedom) and the alternative it provides for a free world and about how the rural India could benefit from it.] It *is* a challenge to reach out to people from our own community, an informal community bound by a common factor - the language surrounding which we grew up. Although we were let down by numbers in terms of how many participated in the discussion, we had some excellent discussion about 'Writing Technology, Science in Kannada". The focus was obviously on using Internet to do that and gradually taking it from there to elsewhere, where Internet reach is minimal. The discussion happened at Center for Internet and Society, Cunningham Road on Sunday, 29th.
It seemed just any other Sunday when we left for CIS at Cunningham Road, with some anticipation about who all were going to turn up. We had invited people to the event at a short notice. We hardly had a week to announce the event, and adding up to that were three holidays in succession - Ugadi, Saturday and Sunday! But the Sunday turned special, very special as the day was spent in some informal but highly productive discussion on our favorite subject, with focus on our favorite hang out - the Internet. The first session was focused on writing in Kannada about software, technologies surrounding software. After a brief introduction to the session by me, journalist and friend NAM Ismail initiated the discussion. The discussion revolved around various things about how to write about software in Kannada. Ismail was very quick to point out about how translations needn't be very faithful to the textbook. Some words, for instance, could be used as they are - when the words themselves are widely in use. He questioned the attitude of translating technical terms to Kannada, by re-coining the words with Sanskrit. I would have killed to add that we now have the other extreme with people re-coining words with Old Kannada, but the discussion went on with several others chipping in with their opinions and voices. In all, though, majority were in agreement with using English words that are already in use wherever a substitution might add up to the confusion. Mentioned in the discussion was the confusion that the translation of BJP's "feel good factor" had created during last elections in Kannada media. The people in media forced themselves to translate the word and ended up confusing the readers, while decreasing their own efficacy in reaching out to the people with the news. The issue might sound trivial, but has a greater significance in terms of efficacy in communicating the information. There was continued discussion about the frequently faced problems, issues that stop or drive away people who have the awareness to contribute to the knowledge in local language from contributing. Ismail's question: "What would you call a projector in Kannada?" - did get a good number of nods about why it is necessary to focus on getting right the communication across rather than concentrating on keeping the language "pure" or conservatively "static". Free alternatives of some regularly used software, using local language on them and using them in local language were explored in between, whenever discussion about them surfaced. Nagesh Hegde, a well known writer known for his writing in Kannada on topics related to science and technology and highly respected for the creative journalist he has been for several decades, followed greatly for the environmentalist he is, joined in on the discussion during the afternoon session. Nagesh Hegde has inspired so many people with his simple, effective write-ups on science, technology. The fact that several enterprises of Prajavani, Deccan Herald group flourished during his tenure is undoubtedly attributed to him by journalists in the present day media, made his presence so much more special.
Ravi K Hegde, Executive Editor, Kannada Prabha also joined in during the second session. It started with discussion around writing about environmental issues in Kannada. The discussion soon rolled out towards the contribution data centers add to global warming, through to Google. Privacy issues were then discussed. Then came the discussions about RTI, the use of RTI (Right to Information Act) and the need of the hour to document it in local language, help out people in local language file RTIs and create awareness about it. Several free software alternatives were then again explored, with prime focus on GNU/Linux and tools related to Kannada, conversion utilities like Padma, and plug-ins that assist upcoming writers and journalists. The session concluded with a little discussion on how to log astronomy in Kannada, with a quick walk through at the end, of stellarium - a free software that makes desktop a planetarium.
During the discussions, Nagesh Hegde put out several vital points. One that stayed etched in my mind was what he said about the 'direction' people who're new to writing in technology and science in Kannada will need to take. Keeping it simple, trying new methods to better the communication is what he seemed to stress on rather than the traditional ways or following someone else's style of writing. Asserting how the technology can affect lives and also logging probable implications - social and political while logging the developments in technology is something that makes the effort worthwhile and interesting, Nagesh Hegde opined. Ravi Hegde was pointing out on how blogs on Internet do not reach those parts of the state where traditional media does. He was stressing on the need for the blog world to also enter the traditional media, TV and to try publishing information in books to share the information they've been adding on Internet. There was discussion on how community initiatives can happen utilizing the power of Internet, to reach each and every part of the state. It sounded something that could happen quite easily in future, considering that this event also gathered people who have come to known each other via Internet hooked by a common interest of local language and technology. The way the discussion stayed informal was something that amazed us. Usually, events and gatherings just end up being some kind of formal event where many people sit through the words of one or few distinguished people. But a discussion where everyone is free to voice their opinion and bring light to something important that wasn't considered earlier is just truly amazing. Many thanks to people from Center for Internet and Society for supporting us, and enabling us to organize this free, open and a not-so-traditional event. Thanks to all who participated with great interest.