The Hindi title of this eminently practical book by dear friend and fellow journalist Rajesh Ranjan is “Apna Computer Apni Bhasha Mein”. It means “Your Computer in Your Language.” It is a simple idea fraught with the transformative powers of the information age which the human race is already in the midst of.
The predominance of the English language in computers has long been remedied in the Chinese, Japanese and many other markets. The trend of what is known as localization of the computer technology has taken some time to gain ground in India. Rajesh, a seasoned journalist in Hindi, has been passionate about the need for localization as a vehicle to deliver the true potential of the computer technology to hundreds of millions of Indians who prefer their own rich languages to communicate.
Only those who use languages other than English get the full measure of how important this localization is. Rajesh’s book, published by the New Delhi-based Samayik Prakashan, is the first of its kind to get into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to achieve a level of localization where the language is no longer a barrier to the world opened up by informational technologies. For a gifted writer in Hindi, it seems a bit amusing that Rajesh should begin his writerly career with such a technical book. I have been urging him to become a fulltime literary writer for years now.
At its core this book is a guide to how to turn the computer into a tool of great utility in Indian languages. An advocate of open source software Rajesh believes that that’s the way forward, especially because the digital world has begun to replace the real, tactile world in many aspects of life. “I believe that open source software is the way to complete the remaining part of the Tower of Babel,” he writers. He hits the nail on the head when he says that the Tower of Babel-like situation is standing in the way of democratization of knowledge and information.
He speaks of English as a language of “ruling and exploitation” which makes the computer outside the reach of ordinary millions who do not know the language. “Open source is the path which everyone can traverse, where all languages are equal, whether spoken by millions or a handful few,” Rajesh writes.
It is remarkable that Rajesh has taken the step of writing an entire book about localization and open source software in Hindi as a means to the computer technology adopting rich Indian languages. As I said this is a simple idea which is fraught with a great potential to transform society. It appears that this has already become Rajesh’s primary passion. While I applaud that unreservedly, I equally hope that he also employs his considerable command of the Hindi language to produce literature of modern times.