MOTHER TONGUE-HAECCEITY THAT FUELS CULTURE

Born in a Sikh family, I managed to grasp the basic vocalizing skills required for my mother tongue Punjabi. My uncle once taught me to read and write Punjabi as well, but at that point of time, I didn’t give it much importance only to regret later.

My grandfather was a learned man. He was a polyglot and was well versed with English, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. He used to write articles for various magazines and newspapers in these languages. I used to think that one day when I grow old, I will also learn many languages, but I couldn’t because I never tried.

My grandma, on the other hand, used to ask me not to speak in mother tongue, just because she feared that I may lag behind in school and may not be able to cope up with other children. So, I hardly spoke to her or anyone else at home in Punjabi. Though, I was well aware of this language, because all the elders in the house used to communicate in mother tongue only.

My father, however, used to emphasize speaking in English, that being the universal language. And I used to tell him that in school, we were already conversing in English, so at least at home, give a break!

It’s only after I cleared my X boards that I started talking to my grandma in Punjabi. I was hesitant initially, but the more I spoke, the more confident I became. That’s how happens with every language.

After my marriage, when we went to Shanghai, we were amazed to see the majority of the people didn’t know how to communicate in English. Being the world’s second-largest economy, people didn’t know English! We had troubles initially, but later on, it was fun. People of our age group and the elderly usually didn’t speak or know English so they would ask their school going children to be translators for us. At that time, I realised that no matter how much expert is a person in his/her native language, he/she must also be open to learning other languages, especially English, which is used globally.

We moved to Karnataka last year from NCR and chose CBSE board school for our elder son so that in future if we change the city, the board remains the same. However, recently, the state government has made the rule of making Kannada as the second language to be taught, replacing Hindi, (the first language being English). Currently, it’s being taught as the third language, where difficulty level is very low. With this news, we were initially perturbed, but later on were relieved when our son’s school agreed to continue Hindi language also, without changing its level. Children pick up languages so well and I am glad he’s getting exposure to a new language here. People often boast of schools teaching international languages, but I guess it’s always better to learn our regional languages first. However, making a particular language mandatory should not be the rule. In fact, the children should be free to choose any language at their will.

Culture should not be imposed. It has to be imbibed. As parents, we should speak to our children in the mother tongue more often. My son tries to speak in Punjabi with my parents and I encourage him to do that because that way he will become more confident as a learner. Who knows he might be a multilinguist one day!

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THE BLISS OF MOTHER TONGUE

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.

LANGUAGE OF HEART

Mother tongue holds great importance in a country like India wherein every few kilometers the language changes. The Mother Tongue is usually the first language a child hears. This is the language in which our parents talk to us.

I stay in Maharashtra state in India. The mother tongue of the people here is Marathi. I have picked up a little of Marathi in the few years that I have stayed here. And it has been my personal experience that if I speak to a Maharashtrian in his native tongue that person’s smile is a bit wider, I get a little bit more warmth from them or if I use it selfishly the file moves quite a bit faster in the Government Offices.

If you are staying in a metro city or any other cosmopolitan city, one thing you must have noticed. Here we usually have a mixed crowd, people belonging to different states and hence having different mother tongues. In a party or get together if two or three Bengalis meet they automatically switch to the Bengali language oblivious of the fact that they have effectively cut everyone else out of the conversation as others can’t understand or speak Bengali. This is true for any other mother tongue be it Tamil, Gujarati or Punjabi etc. We have to usually point it out to them and bring the conversation back to Hindi or English which everyone can understand.

Why does it happen?

It is because the mother tongue is the language of the heart. If we meet someone having the same mother tongue as ours we feel a natural kinship with that person. There are a certain closeness and our mind without realising switches to talking in our mother tongue.

There is another side to the coin though. With inter-state, inter-religion or inter-caste marriages being very common in our country now, the kids of such marriages are now having dual mother tongues. I have seen children who are fluent in both the languages and I have also seen children who speak neither of the two and only speak in common languages like English and Hindi.

Another thing is that our children now mostly study in English medium schools. The young parents these days in a bid to make their kids excel in school and talk to their children solely in English. The child becomes very fluent in English but looses out on developing a close relationship with their mother tongue.

I am not judging any of the parenting styles, I just hope that the bond of the heart and the mother tongue remains strong and doesn’t die out.

JOURNEYS THROUGH TWO STATES

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.

Stay Blessed!

THE TONGUE THAT SPEAKS THE HEART

Language is the vehicle of expression and the heart is best expressed in one’s mother tongue. When we are talking of mother tongue, we need to carefully understand what it connotes. According to UNESCO, India is the ninth most linguistically diverse country of the world, Papua New Guinea being the first with 840 spoken and 12 extinct languages. The Indian Constitution recognizes 22 major languages, written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects! Quite understandably, India doesn’t have a national language. However, Hindi (which is spoken by a majority of Indians – especially in the North, North West, and Central zones) and English (which is considered to be a common medium) are the official languages of India.

The vast diversity of languages read, written and spoken in 29 States and 7 Union Territories, make India a multi-lingual diversity along its length and breadth. The country has seen zealots strive to preserve the linguistic identity of their respective regions with their sweat and blood. With increasing cultural exchange and migration, people have developed a tendency to learn new languages. While this is welcome, it is also essential to preserve one’s parent language.

In 2010, with the death of the last Bo person, the Bo language spoken in parts of Andaman Islands became extinct. A language erased from the face of the earth! The scripts of the Indus Valley Civilization have not been able to be deciphered till date because it has not been possible to decode the codes that the people of that time used. The detailed history of an entire civilization remains a mystery, apart from what has trickled out of the painstaking research of some historians!

If we wish to see the diversity of languages along with the rich foliage of culture and ethnicity survive the tempests of the centuries, we need to ensure that they percolate down the generations. ‘Mother tongue’ has been so labelled because the developing foetus in the mother’s womb starts learning to recognize the sounds and speech patterns of the mother’s voice and is able to differentiate the mother’s sounds and other sounds after birth. That’s why you must have observed babies stop crying as soon as they hear their mother’s voice, no matter how desperately others would be trying to pacify it.  

In a multi-lingual country like India, passing the mother-tongue down the generations is a big challenge in the present day, especially with too many interstate and cross-national marriages seeing the light of the day. And so, either the couples decide to use a common medium of communication or get into frequent conflicts. I have heard of many such couples arrive at the verge of a divorce just because each of them want their children to learn to communicate in his/her mother-tongue. These are critical cases – with the issue in question being seemingly trivial but having serious ramifications.

The human brain is wired to receive, process and learn multiple languages during the stage of language development. The more the number of languages acquired by a child, the more cognitively flexible s/he turns out to be. The ideal time for training in multiple languages, wherever desirable, are the very early years of life. 

While it is a drawback to stick only to one’s vernacular, its a handicap of similar nature to learn unifying/common languages without knowing one’s mother tongue well.

In the present world scenario, in a diverse country like India, in my opinion, children need to be taught three languages – regional language according to the State they belong, Hindi – which is a unifying language within the country and a language for international communication. No matter how globalized the world becomes, the tongue that speaks the heart expresses the best!

STEPPING STONES TO AN EFFECTIVE APOLOGY

Whenever a delicious dish is served to me, I finish it within no time. I usually take 5 – 15 minutes to finish my meal. After each good and satisfying meal, I tell my wife, “It takes so much time to prepare a meal, but we finish it within 5 or 10 minutes.”

Let’s calculate the time of preparation of a delicious meal… She goes to the market to buy vegetables, meat, spices, rice etc., which takes around 30 minutes. Then she chops them into the right pieces and washes them clean, which takes around say, 25 minutes. Then she marinates the meat for another 30 minutes… Then she starts cooking the meal which takes another 15-30 minutes… garnishing and serving take another 5 minutes… Total time taken to prepare a good and delicious meal is 2 hours. And I finish that same meal within 15 minutes, maximum.  

An apology is that kind of meal that is offered by the person who has done wrong, who prepares it to make it presentable, acceptable and satisfiable for the receiver who has been wronged.

An apology is not a magic word called, ‘Sorry’. I know, my friend Prabhjot in her article talked about three magic words and the word ‘Sorry’ to be one of those three which needs to be taught to the toddlers. Yeah, that’s true…it’s a magic word for the toddlers only. Kids don’t understand the gravity and they needed to be made understand with the words they are acquainted with and magic is quite a catchy word for them. But in the real sense of it, an apology is not at all a magic word but a painstaking expression and action of a person which is offered wholeheartedly to another person.

I will share an experience that my wife went through when she was working in a school as an assistant teacher. There was a teacher who asked my wife to get out of the classroom rudely for some reason. My wife was extremely hurt and approached the higher authorities. The matter was dismissed when that teacher apologised my wife by saying sorry. But my wife still remembers that. She definitely has forgiven her but the hurt was there as a memory. They are not toddlers, they are adults and just an insensitive ‘Sorry’ has no magic in it to restore the relationship or friendship whatever it was.

How then, an apology should look like? What are the stepping stones to present an effective apology?

I was reading an article lately on Psychology Today, my favourite web journal. That article talks about a study that discovered six components of a good apology. They are –

  1. Acceptance of Responsibility.
  2. Offer of Repair.
  3. Expression of Regret.
  4. Explanation of what went wrong.
  5. Declaration of Repentance.
  6. Request for Forgiveness.

I arranged the points or steps exactly how the study explains.

But I have compressed the whole idea into three very easy steps:

Remembering & Regretting about the PAST

Realising & Repenting in the PRESENT

Requesting & Recuperating for the FUTURE

Let’s discuss them one by one…

1. Remembering & Regretting about the PAST:

I usually get irritated when my mistake is reminded. I say, ‘Past is past…forget it’. But it won’t be forgotten unless I have regretted about it and owned my mess to clean up. My apology is not meant to silence the person who’s hurt but a reminder of my past mistake.

Accepting responsibility is the number one and the most important of all in this category. Accepting that I have made a mistake and making it clear that I am at fault opens up the gate to communicate with the person who is hurt by me. We should always be careful about the ‘BUT or Excuses in Apology’ as warned by Avinash in his article.

The article that I had read on PT, gives an example of two statements which I want to state here for all of us to learn – say, “I’m sorry I said hurtful things” rather than saying, “I’m sorry if you were hurt by my words.”

Accepting responsibility is like garnishing and the smell of the meal a host offers to a guest. It is the act to confirm that I remember what I did, regret about what I did in the past and ready to held responsible for it fully.

2. Realising & Repenting in the PRESENT:

Ranjandini, in her article mentioned about the language of apology, I think that aligns with the expression of regret which is as important as realising and repenting which has to be undertaken by the defaulter one after the other, in the present time when he or she is standing in front of the wronged. Preeta made it very clear that one should apologise if he or she really have a realisation of his or her wrong doings. And the language of apology or the expression of remorse is well extended only after a true realisation.

Secondly, we all know that wrong can’t be corrected, a scar can’t be made clean later, damage can’t be undone but they can always be reduced, comforted, made up, bound up by offering a repair. It can be by writing an apology or clarifying things with the people involved in the damage because of my words towards the person who was hurt or paying compensation and so on… Repair can be done only by a true repentant.

3. Requesting & Recuperating for the FUTURE:

A reconciliation or restoration of relationship is possible when our apology is accepted by the person who was hurt by us but unfortunately, this is not falling on our part of actions as it is solely dependent on the other person. But an effective apology always requires the defaulter to ask forgiveness from the person against whom the wrong had been done. When we face denial our ego may challenge us to take a step back and stop thinking of bending down to complete the whole act of apology and reconcile the strained relationship but we should remember to own the mess by taking responsibility of our wrongs.  

In conclusion, I just want to give stress on the subject of apology by quoting what Prerna said in her article – “every human commits sins and mistakes, so every human should seek forgiveness”, but we should always apologise in the right time – as early as possible. Kalpana, lost the opportunity to apologise to her father because she didn’t do that before it’s too late.

So, friends, before its too late let’s move our feet on those slippery and difficult stepping stones to complete the process of true and effective apology and restore our friendship/relationship. The Bible says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion“. If our confession is true then our apology will be effective. 

Stay Blessed!

THE ‘BUT’ IN AN APOLOGY

All of us deal from a common platform Apart from God, No One Is Perfect. The sting of imperfection is deeply rooted in us since we were conceived and its shackle accompanies us till death. Some of these infections were credited in our heredity, some are the adverse effect of our environment and some are the byproducts of our thoughts. Altogether, irrespective of the intensity of our mistakes, we human sin and hurt every now and then, so THE NEED OF APOLOGY IS INEVITABLE in our life. Usually, as our mistakes are unveiled, we apologize but it is always backed by a BUT!

“Yes, I accept, I have done wrong and I apologize for that, BUT……

While chatting with my friend, unintentionally I hurt her through some inappropriate words. As a result, she was upset on me although I never intend to hurt her. Both of us were not in a good state of mind. In the meanwhile another friend phoned me and after hearing my upset tone he enquired about me. I shared him everything in detail and he replied, Bhai (Brother), “first of all, do not defend yourself with ‘But I never intend to hurt her’, accept that you went absolutely wrong. Wear her shoes and see how much hurtful are those words. I think you need to apologize her without using your excuse word –BUT.”

Often this is our story, we apologize but with an excuse. As we have no option left to hide our sin, situationally we were forced to accept our sinful act but intentionally we don’t. We look for a defense to advocate our mistakes and by raising an excuse we just roll the dice of blame on the other person/situation and tend to gain sympathy. Do you think we have apologized?

Sir Benjamin Franklin says,

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse”

Giving excuse along with an apology does not fit to exact nature of an apology, moreover, it is an inner approval to the sin committed and is the symptom of recurrence. An excuse along with apology is the tactful defense of our Self-righteousness and antagonistic nature to correction. It is the sheer reflection of self-aggrandisation. It is such a grievous state of life where transgression is visible yet our inclination deceives us to take it for granted.

An apology is the realization of the transgression in mind, verbal confession of the transgression, a lesson to rectify the trespassing of the holistic boundary in a relationship and a humble attempt towards the restoration of the brokenness.

God says,

“Confess your sins to each other, forgive one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Apology brings healing and strength to the relationship but when the BUT and IF spine it, It Won’t Work.