Language works as the means for the verbal and non-verbal expression of the complex nature of human emotions and ideas. Specifically, the MOTHER TONGUE gives an iconic distinctiveness and dignity to an individual.
Languages spoken in India belong to several language families, 78.05% of Indians speak the Indo-Aryan languages and 19.64% Indians speak Dravidian languages and 2.31% speak Austroasiatic, Sino-Tibetan, Tai-Kadai, and a few other minor language families and isolates. After Papua New Guinea, globally India is having the highest number of languages, consisting of 780. And each of these languages represents a particular set of ethos, norm, and lifestyle. Among these, I can be bracketed as an “ODIA” and my mother tongue is known as “ODIA (formerly recognized as Oriya)” which belongs to the classical Indo-Aryan language family. Odia is considered the 6th Indian language to be designated a Classical Language in India on the basis of having an original literary history since 10th Century A.D. According to 2011 research on Indian languages, there are 55 million Odia speakers globally and from them, 37.5 million are the natives.
Since October 2010, crisscrossing to different parts of eastern India, it’s been hardly a week for me when I have never spent a full day with a person of the different mother tongue. Though Odia is the mother tongue for all Odias, regionally there is a stark difference of the pronunciation and meaning of same Odia words. Since the last decade, we have been experiencing the effect of rapid Globalization and speedy Migration. The Economic Survey of India 2017 estimates the size of inter-state migration in India to be 139 million. Hence, navigating through the everyday challenge of preserving the mother tongue is well-expected! But HOW?
In the lucrative makeover of Globalization – Urbanization – Modernization, we upgrade our lifestyle, which can be well-applauded BUT alongside we must be grounded to the bliss of our cultural inheritance and linguistic communication. From dawn to dusk, it is only communicating through our mother tongue that gives us the joy of homely feel.
I have an Odia brother from my hometown here in Kolkata, we only meet once in a month at Church but the way we greet each other is epic. Despite the sensitiveness of our setting, we never miss greeting each other in our mother tongue, saying “Banchichu? (Are you alive?)”. Even if we are at a far distance, we convey the same greeting nodding our head in a very peculiar manner, which of course only we can understand. Our greeting might sound silly, and to some culturally disrespectful but a simple word in mother tongue and the love in the smile gives a familial touch.
Another day, I was chatting with one of my friends from my hometown. Initially, he responded in English but after a couple of chats, he said, “Bhai, aame Odia, English re kana paain katha hauchu! (Brother, we both are Odias, why to chat in English!)” Yes, often though we belong to one place and are quite comfortable in our mother tongue yet just because we are grown-up men and are living a sophisticated lifestyle, we tend to use foreign and official language in our personal chats.
To meet our professional discipline and respecting inter-state migrating cultural presence, the use of official language is quite necessary. But whenever we are at home and among the people of our culture and language, we can be specific in using our Mother tongue. Let’s be original and relational.
Once I took a cab for the office and I was busy with my phone. I didn’t know that the driver is an Odia until he spoke to his wife over the phone. While he was talking to his wife, I was able to figure-out his home-town from his accent. As he ended the call, I asked him in Odia, do you belong to Odisha? Surprisingly he replied, Yes Sir, following a counter question – you are also Odia, Sir? Till he dropped me at my destination we had a good time and finally, when I reached my destination and paid him the fare, he simply refused. With a hearty smile, he said, “Sir, we are from the same place, we are brothers, how can I take money from you! The time we spent is more precious than money, thank you very much, Sir.”
Refusing a few bucks is not the concern but the sense of belongingness and connecting heartily using our mother tongue was delightful. We never met since then but the time we spent and the love we shared become apparent in our heart and that’s what the bliss of mother tongue is all about!
Let’s resolve not to quit using our mother tongues in the modern era.