Monday, August 17, 2009

Zabaan sambhal ke

Some months ago I was describing the savouries mom had made. I mentioned "Chakkilam".
JA and his wife(both tamil) gave me a puzzled look.

Surely they must know chakkilam? Every Marriage thamboolam includes it. We order it during Diwali from Grand sweets, those ones just melt in your mouth once you crack it with your teeth. We make it for Krishna Jayanthi. How could they not know it? I tell them it is a kind of Muruku , describe its twisty marks a little more. Oh,kai muruku? yeah, Chakkilam. JA says he doesn't know a Chakkilam. It is Kai muruku. In all these years, I never knew Chakkilam is a Telugu word.(I still have my doubts!)

For the first two years and nine months of my life, Telugu was the only language I knew. A Telugu that had evolved with 200 and some odd years of living in TamilNadu. There was a higher chance of a Tamilian understanding what I spoke than some one from Andhra.

On entering School, English got added as the medium of instruction. Hindi got added as the second language as dad worked for a bank and transfers could take us anywhere. School made i t compulsory to learn Tamil and sanskrit as second languages i.e with the same emphasis as hindi. Sanskrit, I dont remember much of it. We probably had only 3 classes per week. I couldnt escape hindi. I learnt it for ten years of my life. The national TV with its Circus, Fauji and Surabhi. Then there was also Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan. Sometimes Shashi kapoor, well quite a bit of good looking heroes. If you are staring at them on screen, you are bound to pick up the language at some point. I picked up Hindi more from these movies than from School.

Today, I can understand malayalam a little. I think I can pick up the basic words required for most of the Indian langauges. Two weeks in Bangalore I picked up a very basic Kannada.

But I am not sure I can call a language my own. Tamil, probably(Telugu doesnt stand a chance,though there was a point I thought that language sounded sweet). But inspite of 8 years of learning Tamil, I can read well but was pretty happy when I didnt have to write it anymore. I am not sure if I can write a blog in tamil(isnt going to reach the standards of this blog which isnt saying much).

After all this, does it sound bizarre that I end up thinking in few different languages. The other day as I was swirling in S's computer chair, I tell her, "I think R is lambi race ka goda". S asks," What?". oh may be it is Godi? I wonder. Till then we have been conversing in Tamil. Why the hell would I think of Hindi Phrase esp. when I am not sure of what ling to put? That's how the phrases come about in my mind. Some in hindi, Tamil and English.

I speak Hindi regularly at work with the friend from Delhi. Even though my first instinct is tell every one I dont know the language,, I can speak. Though I dont know when and why I switched to Hindi with her. It cant be secrecy, because that has to be English. Atleast then there is a chance that few Chinese and Spanish people might not understand. But we do converse in Hindi!

On the other hand, sometimes it is irrelevant the language I choose. Every one in my family speaks at a rate that is twice the speed of the general population. Our tongue is the concorde to your Boeing! My manager repeats what I say after I have uttered the exact same sentence.

After couple of our Initial meetings, P, my friend mentioned that he cannot follow what I just said. S butts in," Athu mudala apdi than da erukum, aprum poga poga seri poidum". (translation: Thats how you would feel initially but down the lane you would start understanding her). I am speaking in Tamil. They are tamilians. What the hell is there to pick up?

Couple of years ago, P mentioned, "eppo la nee solrathu ellam puriyathu,man. Munnadi puriyeve puriyathu, man". I should probably award him a graduation certificate. (P ends every sentence with man, I do it right back to him:))

Ofcourse I am not the reticent kind either. I have to speak and I will. Typically, an Indian is exposed to atleast two languages and sometimes three. I am sure I am a little odd but not the odd one out.


  1. I understand you!
    My language resume reads Bengali, Tamil, Hindi and English. I understand a fair bit of Malayalam (more that I care to admit), because of our ancestral heritage (there are some words, I realized are Malayalam, after my Tamil friends refused to accept it as Tamil)...I can follow a fair bit of Kannada, was able to speak enough to converse with Bangalore auto-wallahs in Kannada, but have forgotten it now... and this summer, I learned some German :)

    Sometimes, I am confused about which language should I think in, and switch languages in between sentences!

    Okay, this is turning out to be a "write in your own words, what Sachita tried to convey in her blog-post", so I should stop!!!!

  2. I am not sure if we always think in the language we are comfortable with. I speak better hindi than tamizh but I often think in tamizh or english. But with chennai tamizh, bombay hindi and english from school, I can't claim I know one language in and out I guess. I learned to read tamizh by grazing through pictures in vikatan and kumudam.

  3. Kaushik:
    more languages in your repertoire, so you get higher grade in language confusion.:)
    Palakkad tamil is malayalam only:)

    no necc. to stop and all, same prob, but diff. rant.

    noted the better hindi than tamil point.

    the prob. atleast for me with multiple langauge scenario is it brings my expressing abilities even down which isnt good to start with.

  4. let me join the crowd of multilinguals - when it comes to languages, i am a jack of all trades, master of none - variety! :) What languages do you folks dream in? I have to say it makes us adaptable..isnt that the word?

  5. UL:
    Adaptable is true. btw what are the lang. that make you confused as well?