'Amma' or 'Ammi' comes from the heart while 'Mommy' comes from the lips, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said today, as he urged people to communicate in their mother tongue.

Naidu, while addressing an event to commemorate the birth centenary of music legend M S Subbulakshmi, asked people not to forget their own language but said it was fine to talk in English when speaking to a foreigner. 

"Subbulakshmiji used to be called as MS Amma (mother). We have now weakness for English language. We now use mommy and or daddy... But, 'amma', such a beautiful language (sic), for a mother, comes from the heart or 'ammi' in Urdu comes from the heart, while mommy comes from the lips. So, Hindi, Sanskrit or Urdu or Telugu, we should always speak in our mother's tongue," Naidu said.

A Tamilian can speak to a fellow Tamilian in Tamil and a Telugu-speaking person can also communicate with another Telugu-speaking person in their mother tongue, he said.

Incidentally, Naidu, who served as a Union minister in the Modi Cabinet, before becoming the vice president, had earlier this year said it was important to learn 'Rashtra Bhasha' (national language) Hindi as most people in the country speak that language.

He had also stressed on the promotion of 'Matrubhasha' (mother tongue), and lamented that too much importance was given to English language in the country.  "I always tell people that one should never forget his or her mother, motherland, native place and mother tongue. Those who forget (these) cannot be called human beings, they are something else. So, always speak in your mother tongue.

Respect the language that has come from your mother's womb," he said at the event today.

"There is nothing wrong in speaking English, to Englishmen," he added. Naidu exhorted Indians to always feel proud of their heritage.

"Whatever has been bequeathed to us from our ancestors since time immemorial, it should be our duty, our 'dharma' to preserve it," he said, adding one should be pround of one tradition and cultural heritage.

Describing India as the "best", Naidu, famous for his witty one liners, said Indian culture and heritage, the country's family system and it value system were immensely popular across the globe.

"Unfortunately, even in India, we are trying to look to the West. But, the West is looking to us, and we are looking to the West... But, we are the best," he said.

He, however, said there was nothing wrong about imbibing something that is good elsewhere. 

Fanning the language debate?

The Vice President of India may have said that on a light note, upholding the importance of the mother tongue, but fanatics in the south may take it as an affirmative justification to what they have been doing over the language issue. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been the torch bearers in the language movement to use Tamil and Kannada to preserve their exclusivity from other parts of the country. And now, Andhra, Telangana join the league. 

Naidu's statement could well serve as a justification of removing Hindi from shops and metro stations, irrespective of the fact that both the states are cosmopolitan by nature and are home to thousands of migrant workers. People from other states residing here have particularly started complaining of facing racism and language slurs, pinpointing their origins. 

"It is really derogatory at times. Wwe all belong to India, then why this behaviour. The auto drivers and the bus conductors refuse to respond if we speak in Hindi. Some even have the audacity to ask us to learn the language before settling here," said Tanmaya, an IT professional in Chennai. Another software engineer in Bengaluru, Tanaya says, "It is we who add to the revenue of the state. What if my state of origin, West Bengal, started behaving in a similar manner toward all South Indians? But we are all encompassing and tolerant toward other languages. We respect their culture and language as much as we love our's. We are all part of India."

There is no end to the raging debate surrounding the language. But all said and done, it has to be understood that it is the respect for one's own language as well as that of the other's that counts the most.