Monday, February 22, 2016

Reading My First Gujarati Novel, I Felt As If It Was The First Book of My Life!

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 Himali Doshi. A language lover, Himali has worked as an education and community reporter, exploringthe communities in the city of Ahmedabad with DNA (Daily New Analysis) newspaper. Currently, she works as a Content Developer with the reputed e-commerce retailer. She calls herself an unbiased feminist who loves writing on any topic that empowers women in the society.)


I could not understand Devdutt Patnaik, a famous mythologist, when he said,“English is an inadequate language to express Indian ideas.” But, today, I do!

Are we raising culturally confused kids? Or, are we too trapped in the vicious circle of cultural clashes and not able to identify the middle path? Let festivals like Navratri or an occasion like marriage come in a family, and you will see parents exposing their kids to the rich culture of Gujarat, from ‘Patan na Patola’ to ‘Garvo Gadh Girnar’! Dancing to the tunes of devotional garbas (traditional Gujarati folk dance and song), they will boast about the kind of heritage, traditions, customs, the value system we inherit and the need of its preservation by the younger generation.

However, the child who gets stunned at the vibrant display of colours and rhythms finds it difficult to grasp and internalize these occasional sermons. The child who was learning to take his first baby steps in this world, was first taught to say ‘A’ for ‘Apple’ and ask ‘How are you?’ and not ‘Kem cho?’ finds difficult to cope with the two extremes that exists in his world.

Something similar happened with me. In my case, I could not blame my family, as it was my grand-father and mother’s utmost wish that I should grow up to be a kind of person who is just not fluent in Gujarati but also explore the finest nuances of its rich literature. Unfortunately, call it peer influence or my inability to comprehend the significance of learning one’s mother tongue at that young age, I left Gujarati language as a subject in seventh grade and instead took up Hindi and Special Hindi. A decision I am still regretting!

This regret dawned on me when I joined a new workplace in August 2015. A colleague with whom I share a desk is an ardent fan of Gujarati songs and literature. We both love mythology. Our long discussion on the character of ‘Krishna’ and his life is what led to the start of our friendship. She recommended that I read a book ‘Krishnayan’ in Gujarati written by Kajal Oza Vaidya. In this novel, Krishna and his relationship with three important women in his life – namely Draupadi, Radha and Rukmini are given different shades and interpretations altogether.

In a quest to understand Krishna, I purchased this book in Gujarati even though the English translation  was available in the market. And, I cannot express the kind of emotions this novel evoked in me. It was my first Gujarati novel and I felt as if it was the first book I was reading in my life! Every single Gujarati word on the paper gave me goosebumps and a kind of euphoria that I have never encountered with any other novel reading before!

Gradually, she introduced me to some of the gems of Gujarati literature like Ankit Trivedi, Khalil Dhantejvi and Bhikhudan Gadhvi. These days, amidst the dull office work, when we shell out few minutes to refresh ourselves, we take refuge in the shelter of the mellifluous Gujarati songs, discuss the beautiful lyrics and our interpretation on the same. Understanding my mother tongue has been a life changing experience indeed. It helped me overcome the murky past and balanced me as an individual. I couldn’t thank my colleague enough! Thank You!

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