Bilingual

This is about that little kid whose name is Chinmaya. She is 2 & half years old and she lived with her parents and grandparents in the ground floor of the two storied house in which my sister lived with her colleagues. In fact it’s not Chinmaya who lived in my sister’s house but the other way around. (I mean, she is gon’a inherit that house some day, isn’t she?). Well, but Chinmaya is unaware of the little fortunes that the future has in store for her. Not just these but she’s unaware of one more thing – something that’s a cause for severe discord in the supposedly adult world. And what’s that??? She’s bilingual and that too without her own knowledge.

Being born in a border District called Mangalore, Karnataka, India, she has been exposed to two languages- Kannada which is the native tongue of Karnataka and Malayalam which the lingua of the native Keralities are used to. And when she speaks she often weaves both these languages in one intricate thread to construct her sentences. For us, if we are unfamiliar with either one of these languages, it’s very difficult to, or even impossible at times to comprehend what she’s talking about. Sound’s funny, or rather fascinating, isn’t it?

Now, I’d take you to an incident in my life – Once I got lost in a major Metro in my country and all that I knew was the name of the bus station that I had to reach to catch the bus back to my lodge. Being in India, the land of multi languages and multi ethnicity, I was privileged to the knowledge of speaking in some of the regional languages. Unfortunately I was never before exposed to the native language of that particular state and hence was handicapped in this respect. I wondered, standing at the middle of nowhere in that big city, how I can seek for help. Fortunately or unfortunately, to be more precise, I came across a Traffic Cop. “Who else can help me better?”’, I thought. And happily I went and tried making relevant enquiries to that Cop in a language spoken in the neighboring state. The Cop gave me a quizzical look and I thought he didn’t understand what I asked him. So I tried speaking to him with the little knowledge that I have of our National Language – Hindi. This time his stare transformed from the quizzical one to a much hostile one. I got scared but I knew I didn’t have an option. Again I tried asking him the same thing – “Can you please tell me which is the way to the ###### (no intention to mention the name of the bus station because I’m now not in any authority to offend anyone) bust station?” – This time in English. Guess what he did? He just walked away leaving me standing at the middle of the road like a frog ran over by a truck.

Is it because he didn’t understand any of the languages that I spoke to him in? Obviously not. After all, even if he didn’t, the message that I was trying to convey to him was rather obvious ‘coz I was repeatedly mentioning the name of the bust station. What happened to me on that day is very clear to me now, which was rather confusing to me then.

INTOLLERANCE to other languages other than his own native tongue – Yes! That was it.

Later on some good soul took pains to understand what I was asking him and helped me with the directions to my lodge.

A few days back I saw a customer picking up a fight with a shop keeper because both were disagreeing to the language that each of them spoke. It would have gone to even a battle of fists if not for the timely interventions by the few who were standing around and who had some kind of the right sense left in their brains or mind or what ever…

And this is not a rarity in any of the states, save a very few, if you are an Indian and you’re visiting a state, the native tongue of which you do not know.

But it’s fascinating enough to see all this linguistic fanatics taking all the pain to talk in English to the touring foreigners to our land. Sure, India IS a land of contradictions!!!!

And what was I saying about Chinmaya? I think I lost the thread and flow of my thoughts. So, let me conclude by saying, as usual – “and she lived ‘happily’ ever after…” Or rather – “and lets all hope that she would live happily here after…”

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