“How are your eyes, Amma?”, I asked over the phone.
“No Amma, we are not eating much rice these days. We have limited our diet due to health issues”, replied my mother-in-law.
It wasn’t that she had not understood my question. I realised that she had merely misheard my question. I repeated the query, this time with child-like clarity to which she replied appropriately and we continued the rest of our conversation heartily.
Its a joy to converse with my parents-in-law everyday though miles separate us and our respective mother tongues seem to pose barriers. But, we do not allow linguistic barriers to obstruct the unalloyed outflow of love that emanates from the deep recesses of our hearts.
On one of my visits, my mother-in-law and I got into packing goodies for relatives. At a particular point, forgetting that I am still an infant in Telugu, she gave me a series of instructions in Telugu. I kept staring at her, unable to decipher a word and then went on to do the things exactly the way I had been doing before. She stopped me unapprovingly and said, “Oho…no, not like that.” I looked at her blankly and then we both burst out into peals of laughter.
No doubt common spoken language helps articulate the message of the mind, but understanding the human heart resonates beyond the horizons of spoken and written language.
I enjoy my father-in-law’s hearty laughter each time I ask him, “How are you, Daddy?” The other day, I asked as usual. He replied in his usual style, “We are well, Amma. God has given us enough strength to go about our daily activities. That is enough for us.” “No, Daddy you are not well. What happened?”, I asked with concern. He seemed very surprised and asked, “How did you know?”, as he went on to admit that he was indeed unwell, having been out the whole day in the scorching summer sun the previous day.
The linguistic diversity across the length and breadth of India is one of its unexplainable precious assets that binds hearts and encapsulates the mind. Having had the exposure to people of many Indian languages, I didn’t think interacting with my South Indian in-laws would pose a problem for the East Indian me. We enjoy a bond of love that expands way beyond our linguistic limitations.
On one occasion, my mother-in-law said, “Please learn Telugu. I want to talk a lot with you.” “You can talk Amma, I can understand koncham koncham (little little),” I replied. She laughed and shared a similar experience from her job days when a team of Hindi-speaking North Indian supervisors had visited her workplace and started conversing in Hindi and she had replied in English, “I know Hindi thoda thoda (little little).”
I can go on sharing several such anecdotes as a testament of our bond of love, but I would limit myself to just these for now as I attest the fact that the language of the heart is nothing but the language of love, which when built upon creates unshakeable towers of relationships, but, which when nibbled at, gradually causes relationships to dissipate into thin air.