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.