Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Rashtra Baasha

Like most Indians I can speak more than one language and identify with more than a single culture in India. I am Tamil girl brought up in Delhi have been able to speak up to the three languages (Hindi, Tamil and English) with relative ease. Needless to say this was not easy. With my parents bombarding me in Tamil and the rest of Delhi in Hindi, English was my safe haven. Hindi and Tamil came to be neglected a bit in my childhood and teen years. After 4 years in Pondicherry where I went to college and the endless jokes about my Tamil (that is another blog), my Tamil speaking skills have improved and is in relatively good shape. I am especially proud of this since I can not read or write in Tamil and the only way to I can improve my spoken Tamil is by constant use. My spoken Hindi however is another story.

I did not realize how much my already sub par language skills had deteriorated till recently when husband and I went visiting a couple from UP. I have now realized that the only time the onus of conversation is placed on my husband is when the language of conversation is Hindi else I am loudly expressing myself about whatever the topic of discussion is. This was one of those times. What with thinking in either Tamil or English and then having to translate it in my head into Hindi, the moments almost always gone and everybody is now talking about something else. On this occasion I resorted to listening, nodding and saying "haan haan barabar". Every once in a while I tried to contribute my 2 cents.

After M served us tea - thanks M ye chai bahuth achcha hai (acchi hai?)

Ling in Hindi!!! Cannot for the life of me remember whether a river is a she and a mountain a he. Not to digress but what would /should I do with say a toaster? I have entertained crowds with my total ignorance of the "lings" in Hindi.

And then

Thought in English - This wall hanging is really nice. It goes very well with what you have.

In Hindi - Ye (pointing now cos suddenly its a charade game) bahuth accha hain. Sab ke saath jaatha hain (the traveling wall painting).

Though I was not always this inept my struggle with the rashtra basha started early. In my eight class I had mixed fortune of having a Hindi teacher with a sense of humour. I am sure people with agree with me that this is a very rare breed. I have had/ heard of stylish English, art, sculpture teachers, passionate history teachers but the Hindi teachers were always a particularly bitter lot. They were without fail tough, unsmiling, strict graders and one of those few teachers who still believed in corporal punishment. Now Mrs Sikha was breath of fresh air. She was a middle aged lady with bright red hair as a result of ( or so I think) rather sporadic henna applications. Mrs Sikha would pick a pupil from class to read the passages and while most hindi teachers ignored my presence in class ( as they should) Mrs Sikha would always single me out for reading the passage. And while I struggled with some aid from a helpful fellow who whispered corrections to me Mrs Sikha would stare into space with a smile on her face and allow herself a small giggle only for my more ridiculous mistakes.

Most people I meet now are too polite to snicker at me and generally switch to either English or Tamil to make me feel more comfortable. This act of kindness has left me without any practice at all. But after my recent bolt of lightning type realization that I really cant speak the language well at all I have decided to practice up on my husband and all hapless Hindi speakers. Let this blog be fair warning. 

Very soon I might even be blogging in Hindi :).


Eternal Bliss said...

Good blog Aparna !! :) nice to read your experience !!

I had a similar one - Tamil base brought up in mumbai. Initially Hindi was tough to speak, but after marriage i speak only in Hindi to him as he is from Bombay! my Hindi has improved a lot for past 3 yrs ! :)

I talk to my mom, sis - tamil and hubby/friends - hindi. this way i learn both and can teach my daughter too !! :)

shobhasri said...

way to go apps! i will teach ya hindi. i think in hindi and translate to all indian languages. i have made timepass statements in tamil thanks to this

stringOfPearls said...

thanks beta.. i really do need help... sad it is

Charandeep said...

ha ha :)) your hindi, even with all its 'ling-ual' challenges, is really not that bad.

Your blog made me think (again) how strange and amazing it is that despite being from completely different cultural and lingual backgrounds, I've never felt the slightest unease communicating with Lokesh!

Vaise, it should be 'Rashtra Bhaasha' :)

stringOfPearls said...

corrected it :). Your communication is excellent with L. It is also because you both now speak a special language with its own special intonations and even vocabulary :). very cute