The title I gave for this article might make you wonder about the content of this article under the topic – ‘Mother Tongue’. You might think I gave this title to attract the readers. But actually, I will be describing a few events during my journeys from one state to the other in this article.
A journey always becomes smooth when we have best of passengers traveling with us. I usually don’t find it very difficult to start a conversation with anyone even if I don’t understand my co-passengers’ languages or vice versa but knowing the language does give an extra advantage to us to mingle with others and relate with strangers.
As you all know, I am basically from Cuttack, but for work, I live in Kolkata. So, whenever I travel from Kolkata to Cuttack or vice versa, the languages that I know have always come to my benefit. Let me explain how…
Once I was coming back from Cuttack without a confirmed ticket. That train had compartments with sitting class, not sleeper class. All I had to do was to stand and travel for 7 hours till Kolkata. But I was asked to sit down by my fellow Odia passengers as I was speaking my mother tongue. And when the train crossed Bengal border after Balasore and Bengali passengers boarded the train, I had to leave their seats after being scolded by few Bengalis. I would have anyway left their seats without being taunted but because I was a stranger with a different mother tongue, I was unable to relate with them. That time I was very new to Bengal and didn’t know Bengali at all. These issues are very common but I am not going to project the issue here… What I want to highlight is – a language gives us a face, an identity to be accepted or rejected by people around us.
Afterwards, once I picked up Bangla and started speaking it fluently I never had such problems. I become a Bengali when the train travels through the state of West Bengal and I become an Odia when the train travels through Odisha. I was able to speak with Bengalis and laugh with them. I could do the same with my fellow Odias as well.
Last time, what happened, I had my seat in the middle of a three-seater with two males sitting on both sides. On my left there was a Bengali gentleman and on my right, there was an Odia boy. All three of us became very friendly towards each other. The Bengali gentleman was a medicine stockist and the Odia boy was a Medical Representative. And I knew a few of the medicines which I usually have, so we had a discussion on medicines. During our discussion, I said jokingly, “See, one of you is Bengali, the other one is an Odia and I am a mixture of both Bengali and Odia…we all are somewhat related to the subject medicine…” And all three of us laughed heartily.
And my journey through the two states was never boring…
Now, you must be thinking that I have deviated from the topic. I started speaking about learning languages instead of my mother tongue. I haven’t.
If we closely observe ourselves then we will realise that when we keep conversing in different languages, we don’t forget them but if we literally stop conversing a particular language then we slowly forget it.
When something becomes our day to day affair, we get accustomed to it forgetting all other things surrounding it. It happens with languages too. When we stop the journeys of speaking different Indian languages and become stagnant around our so-called official language, ‘English’ or ‘Hindi’ then we tend to forget our regional as well as the mother tongue.
I will end this article with an example…
These days, I find it difficult to write Odia. Can you believe it? I got highest marks in Odia in class 10th. But I am unable now because I write and type only – English… English… and in English.
We should not stop the journey of travelling from this state to the other in speaking languages or else we will fail to relate with our fellow Indians, our neighbours.