Sunday, February 21, 2016

My Baby Tongue

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 Preeti Vyas. Preeti Vyas is the CFO (Chief Fun Officer) and founder of FunOKPlease Publishing India (2011), a publishing company that creates books for the curious little Indian. Thebcompany focuses on creating original contemporary Indian content for children and its catalogue of 15 books include popular titles such as Toto the Auto, Your Turn Now and 366 words in Mumbai and Brown like Dosas, Samosas & Sticky Chikki. Preeti spent most of her childhood reading books and most of her adult life reading to children along with buying, selling and publishing books for children! Preeti lives in Mumbai with her husband author Amish and her 6 year old dinosaur expert son Neel.)

My mother tongue is Gujarati. My mum is a Parsi and dad a Gujarati. So I grew up speaking a sweeter version of Gujarati, the Parsi dialect. As I grew and spent more and more time outside home, my usage of my mother tongue became less and less frequent. I conversed with my siblings and friends in English; my grandparents had passed away and the only link with the language remained my parents.

Post graduation studies abroad, marriage to a North Indian and 13 years of working in corporate India, ensured that I spoke only in English and conversational Hindi. Increasingly I found myself speaking with my parents also primarily in English.

Then at age 34, after ten years of marriage, my son was born. And the most magical thing happened. As I held my precious newborn baby in my arms and spoke to him, I found the words pouring out of my mouth were not English but Gujarati. I was amazed. With each passing day, I found all these Gujarati words, phrases, songs come tumbling out like a flood! So many of these I didn't even realise I still remembered.

I realised that I could suppress, neglect or even abandon my mother tongue. But when I wanted to express the deepest love I had ever experienced in life, the only language that could do justice to that purest of self-expressions, came from my heart- my mother tongue.

Gujarati isn't my mother tongue, it's my baby tongue!

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