If you ask my dad, “Which month does he dread the most?”, his answer would be “May” According to him, that is the most expensive month of the year, because we were all born in May, their wedding anniversary, the month when we plan our annual holidays and the month when I go on serios shopping spree!
But if someone were to ask me, I HATE APRILS. I simply hate the month April. I wish God had skipped this month and jumped to May straight. I have my reasons; the UAE summer knocks at my door in April, the medical check-ups’ get due this month, and I am unemployed and looking for work (…again every single year!!!)
“You know what is the biggest problem that you have?”, my friend asks as her eyes roll in a clear state of exasperation and fingers drawing circles on the coffee mug. Wow! I didnt, in my 24 years, know what my biggest problem in life was, so asked her. “You dont speak Arabic“.
This rang several bells inside my head, I have had this same conversation with someone else, somewhere, two years ago but that time, my biggest problem was (supposedly), that I dont speak Kannada.
“Maybe you should join some Arabic class“, she added nonchantantly.
Maybe, or maybe not. If i join an Arabic class, scrap my way through and get a passed certificate; will that change the person I am? Well I am a 24 year old Indian (Malayali- they will ask me, where in India am i from?) who speaks Hindi (acceptable to them), Malayalam (my mother tongue, of course) and recently passed an Arabic course (really!!?) The fact is, even if I go in for a crash course, I still remain that 24 year old Indian who passed an Arabic course.
Language is connected to culture; which I agree to. But can you understand a culture (or maybe be a part of it) by just living with it for a major part of your life and not speak that language? Possible?
I have lived in Bangalore for five years, i feel the pulse of the city but I dont speak Kannada. And didnt understand (two years before) why I would need it, if I wanted to work in an english daily there. My argument then was, language is just a medium to communicate. Animals communicate, do they have any culture issues?
But over these two years I have realised something; a collection of words used to communicate (in a language) has meaning and the power only when you understand the emotion that dwells in them. And to understand the emotion of a language, you need to know the culture. And you get introduced to the culture when you know the language (a case of the ‘who came first, egg or chicken story’). Language is not just to communicate, but to connect with people. I would never be french if i speak french, but I will understand the french.
“There are a lot of malayalam channels, radio and tv here. Try there?“, she asks as she signals for the bill. Naa, they would never take me. I am a malayali, feel malayali and speak malayalm at home; but they would never consider me one. “Why is that?”, she now looks staright into my eyes, surely taken by surprise. I am one of those corrupt malayaless, according to them. I have lived my childhood here (in UAE), received no formal training in my mother tongue, read english translated versions of malayalam literature and have not spent a sizeable amount of time in Kerala (in years). For them, I dont understand the feelings of malayalees away from home (really???). And I dont know Kerala and Malayalam (and they explain it to me in malayalam). So does the above stated understanding of my language-culture, stand null and void here, in my case? I dont know. Maybe that is why most NRI parents force their kids into engineering and not media; they know their kids dont belong anywhere and wont understand any culture.
“But what actually happened? I thought it is a huge project and you were so happy“, she asked as the car engine started. It was a big project, but they thought it works better if they close it down!!!