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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I wish I were there

Dad receiving President's Police Medal for Distinguished Service from Dr DY Patil, the Governor of Tripura on 26th Jan '10

I remembered the last time Dad received a medal. The whole family was present, including uncles, aunts and cousins. Most accomplishments are considered individual efforts, but my father always acknowledged his family, specially his wife, on occasions such as these. This time even Mom couldn't be around. She is a headmistress now and had to hoist the flag in her school on Republic Day. After that, she tried to make it to the Assam Rifles grounds for the ceremony, but missed it.

There are a lot of families who wish their kids to move to greener pastures but progress comes with a price. I have missed weddings in the family owing to academic commitments. And I am sure they have missed me.

We might have as basic amenities what some people would consider luxuries, but I miss the warmth of affection only a mother can give, the moments in conversations I can have only with my father, and the secrets I can whisper only to my favorite cousin.

Indulging in these fond memories is in vain though. Home, as I knew it as a child, isn't there anymore. We have moved to a bigger house. Most of the younger ones have moved out and have settled down in different places scattered all over the globe. An occasional green icon on a chat window or a phone call reminding me that we share something in common.

There is nothing much I can do, except choose to be with someone who can be family to me. I wish I had the emotional range of a teaspoon or never had the spare time to miss my family. It is true no one spends the entire life with us except ourselves. Thank God for my friends.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Friday, January 08, 2010

Mind your language

Years ago, I had to write an essay for my Bengali class: 'Aami Ingreji bhasha keno pochndo kori na' (Why don't I like the English language) The teacher, Mr. Kapil Bhattacharjee, had even asked us to compare it with Bengali and conclude why we loved it over English.

It was tough. At that age, probably the toughest thing I was confronted with. Can you ever say whether you love your mother more than your father?  How can you compare two languages- both of which have taught you to think and speak your mind? I looked upon it as a challenge. SKD had once opined that the purpose of a composition is to bluff convincingly. The trouble was - where to start?

I was taught in an English medium school, my best friend in Kindergarten spoke Hindi off class hours, and I had the toughest time spelling 'chair' in Bengali for my mother in Standard II. However, in Standard V, I borrowed 'Dhaatri Devata', one of the prescribed textbooks for ICSE exams, from my elder brother who was in Standard X. The fact did some rounds in my family, courtesy : my eldest maternal aunt, and I was hailed as some language prodigy. The plain truth was that I simply got curious about the story on seeing the cover page illustration showing a man behind bars and a woman visiting him.

I own a copy of Geetanjali I bought at a Bangladeshi grocery store in Somerville. I'm crazy about those Uttam- Suchitra starrer romantic classics, where the protagonists merely stare at each other and everything is conveyed. I love Bengali food and I don't think I can ever give up my 'maccher jhol' (Fish curry and rice -stereotype favorite of all Bengalis. But I  do know some Bengalis who don't like to eat fish.)

Does these attributes make me a true Bengali? Any Indophile, thuri Banglaphile can do that, and yet retain his/ her identity. Then, why if someone who does not do it will not be a Bengali in the true sense?

I will always be a Bengali. It is the identity I was born with. I love my mother tongue. It is one of the sweetest signals my auditory nerves transmit to my brain. But if I'm confused or excited or upset I will blurt out in English, because that is what I do. Take it or leave it. Don't judge it.

P.S. About the essay
I finished writing it with some help from my paternal grandfather, who was an authoritarian on languages. (I regret not learning Sanskrit from him.) He usually checked my essays when I finished writing them, but this time around I managed to squeeze a few pointer- about Michael Madhusudan Dutta, about the inconsistent phonetics of English and so on and so forth. It was one of the toughest essays I wrote at school.