Sunday, February 21, 2016

Connecting with Kannada

21st February is International Mother Language Day and our blog is hosting a 2 day celebration of languages. A series of blog posts by people from different walks of life - sharing their thoughts on languages, memories and more. International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

This post was sent by Janhavi Lakshminarayanan. Janhavi is an editor, author and reviewer living in Bangalore. She has translated stories from English to Kannada for Pratham Books such as "August na ondu dina" and others. She loves children and stories, and runs MyMitra Childrens Library. Founded Vimarsha Charitable Trust, for people with special needs. She teaches creative writing in Kannada and English.

“Innondu kathe helu...” I would plead my sisters for one more story every night, even after listening to numerous stories. Tired and sleepy, she would tell me one last story. There were five princesses. Their names were Ka, The, Mu, Gi, Yi, and Thu. ‘Kathemugiyithu’ in Kannada means, ‘End of story’. Only then would we sleep! I grew up in a large and closely knit family, with few close friends. Most of the stories I heard were from grandfathers, my own, as well as others’!

But my passion for English took over when I found a library near my house. I became an avid reader. Basically a quiet person, I buried myself in the fairy lands, and joined the Famous Five on their adventures. I used to also read the few Kannada books that were published in those days. I even learnt to read and write Tamil since my paternal family live in Tamil Nadu. Telugu came naturally as my closest buddies were Telugu speaking. Thanks to the television and Bollywood movies, I learnt Hindi too. But just like most of us, I had to concentrate on studies when I came to high school.

“Tell me one more story amma,” my child would plead every night. It’s like history repeating itself, except that they wanted to read and listen to stories in English. We lived in the US for several years. My children were born there. As I read stories for them, I too became a child. I was amazed to see the ocean of books and authors in those massive libraries! That’s when I reconnected with children’s books with a greater passion. The array of stories was mind boggling!

We returned to India in 2005 with a five year old and an 18 month old. It was my dream to start a library for children. So, MyMitra Children’s Library was born. I also wanted to introduce my children to Kannada books and stories. We scouted every book store in Bangalore. But it always left me feeling disappointed. I only found stories that I used to read as a child. Not the ones my children could relate with. I could not find attractive books for toddlers and beginning readers in Kannada. My children were not fortunate to have grandparents or any other relative who would narrate stories to them in Kannada. Although they learnt Kannada at school, there was a lack of love for the language. Schools insisted on English so much that my Kannada speaking daughter changed completely in a year!

That is when I realised that Kannada language was slowly fading. I wanted to spread and share the beautiful language, but didn’t know how. The universe probably heard my wish. In August 2012, I was introduced to Pratham Books by one of my dear friends. I jumped at the opportunity to review Kannada books for children! I loved the contemporary stories and the style. Ever since I have been hooked! I even worked on a few Kannada translations. It’s a reunion with my mother language for me.

Now my vision is to introduce simple and attractive books and stories in Kannada for young children, even toddlers and to bring back the love and pride of Kannada in children, our future. Parents and educators, let us unite and revive Kannada!

“Innondu katheyannu helona banni.” Come, let us tell another story.

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