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.