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 Vikram Sridhar. While keeping a full time job as an IT professional in the country’s tech capital, Vikram spends his evenings telling stories to children and adults, a medium which has helped intertwine his interests in performing arts and wildlife conservation. Vikram is also a co-founder at Tahatto, a theater company based in Bangalore. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.)
Stories we heard make the world of today and stories we share make the world of tomorrow
What do we get in return if we ask for the following words ..Jhal , Pani , Neeru , thanni , vellam, agua jhol , maji , wasser …. It’s the same water .
What started as sounds long long ago so long ago became words over a period of time and what we identify with personally as my language , my mother tongue ..the language that my mother or mother land speaks which I hear for the first few years of my baby life :)
Today we do travel across the world for vacations, jobs, eat different cuisines but that one idli-vada or chappathi-butter chicken brings a lot of emotion .Where is the root of that craving? So is the language that we heard for the first few years and goes on for a long time . There is a saying in Tamil which says : ஐந்தில் வளையாதது ஐம்பதில் வளையாது (Which character or habit that you cannot change at 5 years old you won't be able to change when you are 50 years old) which I am tweaking a bit to say ஐந்தில் கற்றது ஐம்பதில் இருக்கும் (what I learnt at 5 will still be there at 50). And so is the mother tongue which I am sure we never learnt like English where we learnt the alphabets first. That is the power of the oral languages that we learn by hearing and speaking .
Born in Chennai, I did my Engineering and Management studies before donning the hat of a Theatre Practitioner and Oral Storyteller. English has always been the medium of education for me except for the first 3 years of my life. I never studied Tamil as a part of my curriculum.Oh yes , I come from the bottom most state of India , Tamil Nadu . And the as the name says I speak Tamil or in the literal sense தமிழ் (thamizh) .
While being academically good (I am not patting my own back!) , there was a certain way in which I spoke English . House was always ‘ouse’ for me ... home was always ‘om’. While being corrected many times , the feedback which fell on m was MTI (Mother Tongue Influence). While few teachers tried to always correct this, over years that became the way I spoke. And yes, if required I have a switch that puts the American accent on. There were times when pronunciation was a bother . And as time progressed I found this other language called Hindi entering my life .
Like many south Indians who learnt the hindi numbers through the ‘Ek, Do, Teen’ song I knew just that much . By the time I could get a hold of one language another one started penetrating my life . And the best part was I had Hindi as my 3rd language and still managed not to learn a single bit of it. Blame it on my learning laziness . Later in life, one of the reasons I chose to join the hosten even though my home was not far away was just to mingle with people who spoke the most spoken language of India. I pretended for a while that I knew the language and got stumped by my classmates. I realized it was easier to say I don’t know :).
And this MTI was still following me. Corporate life brought me to Bangalore. Another language entered my life - Kannada. By now, I had started loving languages and didn’t look at them as heavy material being pushed down but as a simple way to know people and the history of the land .
When Theatre and Storytelling happened it was the same MTI that became my strong point. I take my stories with a very strong MTI and I am proud of it.
Today I look at my country as a beautiful landscape of languages, cultures, scripts and history that is bound by this love for the mother tongue which has a strong oral tradition. The love that I continue to share as an storyteller. Though I use English as that is the language of today, I cant do without Tanglish, Kanglish and Hinglish.
Today a child draws many languages from the mother, father, society .. mine was just one in the growing years. I look back at a rhyme that I used to hum all the time during my childhood days:
அணிலே அணிலே ஓடிவா
அழகு அணிலே ஓடிவா
கொறித்துக் கொறித்துத் தின்னலாம்
Anile anile odivaa
azhagu anile odivaa
korithuk korithu thinnalam
So, today I am going try talking to my parents in Tamil without mixing any other language and listen to them share their story. Will you try that with your parents or children?
Stories we heard make the world of today and stories we share make the world of tomorrow.