Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mother Tongue Monolgues

The pity part of us, Indians by far is the unwillingness to acknowledge that mother tongue is not inferior to a foreign language, English (sic).I see this queer disposition more in Mallus. The shameful matter is the vain belief that knowing and or flaunting even a limited skill in English where mother tongue would adequately suffice conveys a superior status.

Writing these feelings in English may be construed as one such vain vanity. But honestly it is not so. I acknowledge my education in the English language medium may have helped in acquiring a comparatively better skill in the language and consequently the comfort zone when using the language. However, how could I explain away the less proficiency in Malayalam, my mother tongue? The fact is I must confess and I regret is the matter and it peeves me to infinite extend.

When I opted for Malayalam as my supplementary language in college, it was a choice borne out of my not so great knowledge of Hindi, the language spoken by most Indians. Hindi was deftly confined to watching unfailingly the Hindi flicks of those days. It was not the love for the mother tongue perse that brought about the decision to choose Malayalam as the supplementary language. In fact I was also dissuaded by the folks at home and friends from opting for Malayalam and they warned me that it would be a handicap as the grammar is tough and marks are not easily provided by the examiners. Nevertheless I went ahead and it only makes me laugh and wonder how I could manage a first class in that language in my graduation. And there were just two first class holders in the language that year in the whole college. It even now makes me often believe that miracles do come about.

Do I deserve accolade? I would say a flat ‘NO’, because it is a crude reality that my command over written Malayalam and its grammar, the range of vocabulary in my repository is insignificant and average. I wonder if I could pen an essay in Malayalam without stumbling from spell errors. The simple reason is that I have read far less in Malayalam than I have managed in English. It is a sort of disgraceful feeling when a friend often chooses my blog posts to publish in the “Assisi” Magazine. Only because, I feel naked that I could not translate effectively what I blogged into Malayalam the language in which the publication publishes. So he selects the post and translates it with his aides.
It is a pity!

The knowledge of one’s mother tongue helps in the awareness of one’s roots, culture and tradition that are subsumed, though here mercifully I have not lagged. This vital aspect was compromised to a considerable extent in both our children. Their education outside Kerala and in a school and curriculum that gave little heed to languages (Indian) must be squarely blamed. Nevertheless as parents I wonder if I and C can absolve ourselves from the slip, however unintended it was.

Exasperating and glaring is the vanity that people show off and trivalise their mother tongue and try to be someone else that they are not and can never be. They go about their conduct as if they were born in the English country side and would prefer to sing “God save the Queen”, if only others would notice what they believe is their uniqueness. I’m not expressing any jingoistic thoughts and or outlook here. I have not seen any Europeans, (who also hail from much diversity- of language and culture like we Indians do), who be it a Dutch, French or a German, Italian or Nordic and who prefer to speak in English than their language when among people from their own country. But Indians prefer to cloak in a false vanity and flaunt English ways even when it is not necessary and even  to a fellow country man.

 Recently, I recommended a guy for a placement and I was also present at the time of the preliminary discussion with the prospective employer as the later was known to me. The fellow began to reply to the queries of the employer in his (tamilised) English while the later was careful to understand the boy’s Tamil background and was conducting the interview in Tamil. I was feeling a bit awkward as it was glaringly rude and seemed annoyingly insistent use of English. The employer did not keep his irritation in check for long and asked the fellow why he was answering in English when he was spoken to in Tamil. Why is this so? Are we equating nobility and finesse with knowledge and exhibition of our prowess in English? The colonial mindset refuses to go away. Indeed there is a lot of cultural impact upon a colonised society than when while being the usurper. But we prefer to be more English than the Brits.

There are kinder- gartens and preparatory schools where spoken language is forcibly English and kids (read parents) are penalised and fined if the wards speak in a vernacular tongue; the maid who earns livelihood doing domestic chores would want her child to call her “mummy”. I was once travelling in a taxi, incidentally the taxi driver’s little son aged about five or six was with him. The taxi man was pointedly speaking with the little fellow in English as broken and raped even by lay standards. The boy was sure to pick up the half-baked and distorted spoken language as real time English. Why? Why so? I cannot understand. I feel awkward and irked by the social usage of -grandma, brother, sister, aunty, daddy, mummy and so on. And believe me many believe these usages are help to showcase their supposed superbia and their belief that their status is enhanced and noticed. Sometimes I wonder if my thoughts are “Rip van Winkle” like!

I feel that the fascinating aspect of the English language is that it assimilates and blends unto itself languages as diverse as it can get. That brings to it richness. It is certainly a language which is a hybrid language and that does not make it less in wealth than the languages from which it liberally borrowed. Each language has its flair and uniqueness. To deride ones mother tongue is unenlightened. And to believe the mother tongue is piddling shows pathetic ignorance, vainness and is certainly naiveté.

I guess the true identity is in understanding and knowing ones roots and that, the mother tongue alone can help. Folks from Kerala would be familiar with the spectacle of Mr. Prakash Karat the Communist Party ( CPM) General Secretary  orating  on stage in English and sometimes aided by an interpreter . Ironically the gentleman cannot speak to his flock – the Malayalee proletariat in their (his) mother tongue and has to seek the help of English. His roots with the place of his birth and that of his fore fathers were severed early in his childhood.


jijo moolayil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jijo moolayil said...

അനിൽജി, കുറിപ്പിനോട് പരിപൂർണമായും യോജിക്കുന്നു. എന്നിരുന്നാലും, ഏതോ ഒരു കുഗ്രാമത്തിലെ മൂന്നാം തരം മലയാളം മീഡിയത്തിൽ പഠിച്ചുവന്ന എന്നെപ്പോലുള്ളവർക്ക് മുഖ്യധാരാ സമൂഹവുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെടേണ്ടി വരുമ്പോഴാണ് മാതൃഭാഷ ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നവന്റെ വ്യഥ മനസ്സിലാകുന്നത്‌. ആ തമിഴ് കുട്ടിയുടെ ആന്തരീക സംഘർഷം അറിയണമെങ്കിൽ അവന്റെ സ്ഥാനത്തുനിന്ന് നമ്മുടെ സമൂഹത്തിന്റെ മനോഭാവത്തിലേക്ക് നോക്കാൻ കഴിയണം. കോളനിവത്ക്കരിക്കപ്പെട്ട മനസ്സുകൾക്ക് എന്നെങ്കിലും വിമോചനമുണ്ടാകുമോ?!
അക്ഷരത്തെറ്റുകളും ഭാഷാപ്രയോഗത്തിലെ ന്യുനതകളും ഉണ്ടായാൽ പോലും ഈ കുറിപ്പെങ്കിലും മലയാളത്തിൽ ആകാമായിരുന്നു.

Meera Sundararajan said...

I envy you!! Among the Dravidian languages, after Telugu, Malayalam is the sweet one. I have read translations of lot of Malayalam literary works. I wish I could read them in the original version.
I did not learn to read or write my mother tongue in any formal way. The reason was that we were away from TN and in the north. I did learn to read and write Bengali and Hindi. Hindi was my second language but i find that with increasing and constant use of the English language I am losing touch with these two languages. I cannot remember the last time I read something in these languages. Primary education should be in local language. I think there is a very exclusive school in Kerala called Pallikoodam which is Malayalam medium until the 5th standard ( I think it is run by Arundhati Roy's mother). We take to English but we do not express ourselves well enough in that language either. We just do not value languages..

KParthasarathi said...

I feel not knowing one's mother tongue is no impediment or infra dig.Life can go on smoothly.But then the cultural roots with the place where born is severed.Though born in Tamil nad I took English medium and had Sanskrit as second language.Though I speak and write Tamil at home,I cannot speak before an audience because what I speak is colloquial.
In the evening of my life,I regret in have not read or be able to understand easily the erudite and abtruse Tamil devotional literature like Azhwar pasurams,Tirumandiram,
Kamba Ramayanam etc without explanatory books.Though late,I spend my time on Tamil literature.
But again it is all in one's interest and nothing should be imposed.Language is after all a medium of communication and can be anything.No need to feel ashamed in not knowing one's mother tongue

BK Chowla, said...

Knowledge of spoken and written English is no excuse of not knowing one's mother tounge.
But,aren't most of the states switching over to the state UP in Hindi..TN in Tamil etc?

Daniel said...

I had great difficulty in learning Tamil in school, cannot write a small sentence without any mistake (the script really was complicated). Most of my class mates including me didn't regret making mistakes in Tamil and making mistakes was also considered as a fashion statement. But if we did such mistakes in English, it was considered as a big embarrassment. I think I should start reading Tamil newspapers and magazines.

rudraprayaga said...

Njaan oru kugramathile malayala madhyamathil aanu pattichathu.randaam bhaasha Hindi aanu.pakshe ente key-board-l English aksharangale ollu.

So I write in English.I prefer both the languages and even Hindi,though I have not attempted any.Iam a lame in all these,still I walk through their pavements.

Your narration is enticing.

Musings said...

@ Jijo,

firstly, the Malayalam fonts are not working in my computer. I have tried all my fancy skills to get the matter sorted. I guess I need to get some help.With spell checks and grammar corrections blogging in Malayalam or any language supported by the software will not be a problem. However I do not know how many fellow bloggers would bother to translate the blog to English and read it.

The tamil fellow was someone I knew over the past six odd years and it is very much in his being that speaking in English even where it may not be necessary will do good to his status and what impression he can create about him.
I do not opine that when you deal with your mother tongue you must do it with literary erudition. But the fact is my knowledge of Malayalam is much less than the language I often work with.

Colonisation happened a generation or two before our time. I wonder how long will the mindset persist in us.

@ Meerasundarajan,
Surely we have to give more respect for the mother tongue, while at the same time being liberated with the knowledge of English which certainly helped us as a nation to be better than some others.

Yes Pallikoodam is a revolutionary school in many sense.My daughter did her 11 th and 12 th there and that I see helped her much more than the ten years she spent in the boarding in the Anglican school in Ootty.

@ KParthasarathy,

I feel more than ashamed , I must correct that I feel of lost opportunity and regret.

@ Bk Chowla,

The switching over to regional languages in place of English is another classic case of parochialism and shortsighted. It is based on misplaced ideas and political compulsions.

@ Daniel Peter,
Making mistakes in ones mother tongue is of less significance. A misplaced concept.

@ rudraprayag,

Yes you too arelike some of us another example.
However I cannot understand the rejection of mother tongue which is now a fashion

Renu said...

In India education is equal to English.But I think mother tongue is totally different..for me speaking in Hindi is a delight and i miss it in Chennai where I have to converse in English as I dont know Tamil..

I love Hindi and every other language comes second to it...
English makes life convenient...

....Petty Witter said...

Sorry but I couldn't compare this to us Brits who expect the world and its wife to speak English. And if you don't understand us feel it is simply a matter of repeating things more slowly and increasingly loudly until you do.

anilkurup said...

@ petty Witter,

I loved your comment.

@ renu

Knowing languages perse is a fantastic thing.hat I cannot understand is the step motherly effect that is given to the mother tongue.

rudraprayaga said...

What you have pictured here is really worth-speaking.Now only I could view it at the fullest.The purpose of languages is communication,still one should not forget the mother completely.You have uniquely touched the details.

Ramakrishnan Ramanathan said...

Well articulated and completely true. We Indians are severely afflicted by this English speaking malady. We blame the colonial rule of a few hundred years for this.Sure they did a lot of damage. But the English left our shores 65 years ago. But our colonial mindset hasn't changed. We educated Indians are unparalleled hypocrites.

Insignia said...

Master English and you have 200% more chance in getting a better job - isnt this what our elders often fed us.

I should be so ashamed if I have to admit Anil. Being born and raised in Bangalore as a 3rd generation Tamil; my tamil is so bad that people think I am speaking Kannada. My kannada is anglicized and so is my Hindi.

Having had Eng as first language till 10th, was not comfortable to opt either Hindi or Kananda as first language in 11th and 12th. And my native tongue; I have learnt to read it watching TV. But not fluent though. Pathetic and I feel bad when it is true that folks knowing Eng have better chances for jobs

Happy Kitten said...

A very late comment:

Could learn to read and write Malayalam only since the school had it as the third language and hence not much.but the books/stories that I learned then had a lasting impression on me..more than English..but alas! that was all...I regret not having learnt Malayalam like English. As for my children, they do not have it in their curriculum but were taught during vacations. Daughter picked it up and can read and write a little but not son. My only relief is that from start we ensured that they speak only Malayalam at home.

Wonderfully expressed as always..would love to read you in Malayalam too.