Friday, September 28, 2007

Mother-tongue???!! yeah! I have a tongue!

When we moved to Pune, I thought we would be the only Tamilians ( yup, I am a tamilian who is sometimes harassed for being one, read this episode). But I am surprised to hear a lot of tamil in and around me and I feel really happy on hearing tamil :) .

No! I have no allegiance to a particular region or language. But for me, to speak in tamizh - means to speak with my family, feeling at home, something that comes naturally to me, of being extremely comfortable speaking my own language that flows easily. Of course, I can speak very fluently in Hindi ( I studied in a Central School, infact I learnt social studies in Hindi!! ) or English but to speak in tamizh means informality. I can let go of any formality and be myself....It makesit easier for me to relate to something that person refers to or explains.

I used to find it really wierd when S would speak to me in English when we were, he is not a 'peter'( a term used by tamilians to refer to someone who shows off that he/she speaks good english). In his own words, " Bloody hell, I think in English, so its difficult for me to convert to Tamizh and speak all the time". Now he speaks fantastic tamizh after more than 4 years of marraige, and the credit goes to you-know-who ( lots of people give me the credit)! :D

I remember that as a kid my mom used to help me and Anna learn to read / write tamizh by reading all the proverbs that would come in between commercial in good old doordarshan. She strongly believed that its extremely important that her children should know their mother tongue as well in addition to Hindi/English. Being a linguist herself, she can speak various languages easily which has helped her in so many ways to settle down easily in a new environment or to make friends with someone. Similarly, as I can speak Hindi fluently, it has been so easy to make friends or for that matter, survive in a non-tamil speaking city! Isnt that reason enough to learn more languages? Isnt learning different languages fun? The mushy side of me would always want to know how you say 'I love you' in a different language if I meet someone....

Unfortunately, some parents these days dont seem to feel the same way.The kind of emphasis english gets, I dont think any language does. I do understand the importance of good communication skills and of speaking good english, especially when it comes to your progress in career. But isn't it important to be able to understand what your loved ones speak at home, even if you have not grown up there?

I have always noticed how children of mixed parentage, for example, a child who has a tamizh mother and a punjabi father, who should ideally speak both tamizh as well as punjabi, in most cases can speak neither. Infact, I have met so many tamilians who are born and brought up in Mumbai, say "Mujhe tamil malum hi nahi hai....I am a typical Mumbaite"!....very proudly!!! Sadly, they dont realize that they are the losers!!! I feel like they dont have any real identity, neither here nor belongingness!!!

So, now all of you know I am a proud tamilian and my kids (when I am blessed with them!) will definitely speak/read/write tamizh, irrespective of where they are brought up so that their grandparents, relatives and others can speak to them freely. We will encourage them to learn different languages, and most importantly, feel proud of their roots!!