Language and Culture


Indian Bloggers

 

When I first came to US and made friends with Indians from different states, what struck me was that they all knew Hindi. Whether a person was from Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, or any other state, they could understand Hindi and their own native language well. I was probably the only exception, coming from Haryana. I knew just two languages – Hindi and English. So, when my friends would try to explain some native word to me, it would often happen that the true meaning was lost in translation. Because for some words, there was no exact equivalent in Hindi or English. I would often muse on the nature of language – it was a window to that world in which it was spoken. It was a reflection of the culture to which it belonged. And a knowledge of a different language meant that you became more familiar with its culture too. Most of the people make efforts to teach their kids their native language here. And interestingly, the Gujarati community is so widespread and present here, that many websites (school/business) have options to translate their page in English, Spanish or Gujarati. Isn’t it amazing?!!!

Hindi is the official language of India but is not the national language. The primary reason for that is the presence of a multiple of other languages in India. Imposition of one language over the other is not a fair thing especially when all other languages are part of our nation too. Monopoly of one language can ruin the diversity that our nation advocates. It would be akin to making the rainbow only one color, and thereby destroying its very identity.

I agree that to understand one’s culture and traditions, language is the key player. To be able to communicate in one’s mother tongue, to be able to understand and exchange thoughts and ideas through the language of our ancestors is a sign that we are carrying forward the legacy bestowed to us. It is good to know your roots. And that is the reason I insist that my kids learn Hindi. But that’s because Hindi is my mother-tongue. My friends teach their kids the language they speak, because that is part of their tradition, their culture. To say that they don’t speak Hindi and are therefore in some way neglecting our Indian culture would be wrong. All languages have their own place and significance in the history and culture of our country. Together they define what India is. Hindi as well as non-Hindi speakers have a place of equal importance and an over-emphasis on one can be detrimental to the very essence of the others. So for me, a healthy interchange of ideas, a harmonious unison of cultures and traditions that define us is a must. No monopolization or tyranny of just one language – I stand for diversity. People in power often misuse things in the name of culture when they accuse innocent people of neglecting or slighting traditions. What they are doing in effect is creating a wall that will isolate, that will segregate, that will exclude. For any culture to progress, exclusion is not the key.

प्रान्त अलग

भाषाएँ अनगिनत

अपनी भाषा तुम पर क्यों थोपूं

चलो विचार कुछ ऐसे रखें

तुम सीखो कुछ

मैं सीखूँ कुछ

अस्तित्त्व तुम्हारा कभी न बिगड़े

और मेरी भी पहचान न बदले

रंग भरें तस्वीर में ऐसे

जैसे नील गगन में सजता

सतरंगी वो इंद्रधनुष

प्रगति होगी तभी मित्र

जब जड़ें उखाड़ें नहीं किसी की

और नींव को अपनी दृढ़ रखें

तुम सीखो कुछ

मैं सीखूँ कुछ

भाषाएँ संवाद करें

स्वर-संगत संगीत सजे

 

Written for IndiSpire Edition 159

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

HomegoingHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How do you think did I get this scar? Yaw, one of the character in the novel asks his students. The latter come up with various replies. They are all speculating and when they are done, they ask their teacher Yaw for a finite answer. Yaw replies, ” I was only a baby. All I know is what I’ve heard.” This is perhaps one of the most important motif of the novel. What we hear or what is passed on to us is a matter of half-truth…..like the half-caste who stands neither here nor there. Yaa Gyasi’s novel is a sweeping saga of family history through generations. At times, one tends to get lost in the maze of trees that stand tall in the story – opposing pillars that are part of the same soil but that are drifted apart by powerful forces of greed, racism and prejudice. The story of two sisters Effia and Esi give way to multiple currents of thoughts. Like a river that runs into different directions, separating at some point from its own water, and then perhaps meeting at some other point, the saga too takes us to distant locations. But the stone, the symbol of the past, the connecting link goes along too – as a token or a reminder. It is the memory-keeper.

Another significant strand of the story is that the narrative of slavery is not one-sided in the novel. There are moments when victim and perpetrator meet, and become accomplices in crime. This re-emphasizes the fact that history is only a story – the dominant one is that which is spoken by those in power. It will only be partially true. Much of it will be a fabrication or a cover-up. When Marjorie writes her poem, it pinpoints to this very complicity –

We, two, wade.

The waters seem different

but are same.

Our same. Sister skin.

Who knew? Not me. Not you.

Those interested in understanding history as fiction, history as mere stories whose truths ought to be interrogated will find Homegoing a compelling read.

View all my reviews

Blind Men and the Elephant


Indian Bloggers

 

 

There is an old story about an elephant and the blind men who touch it at different places to ‘perceive’ what it is. Each blind man comes up with his own ‘interpretation’ of what he touches and claims it as ‘absolute’ truth. They argue from their own stand-points unwilling as well as incapable of understanding the other ‘versions’ of the same ‘reality’. 

हाथी है या कोई दीवार
दांत हैं ये या कोई तलवार
आँखों और बिन आँखों वाले
सच्चाई कर रहे टटोल

आधा सच और आधा झूठ
आधी छाँव और आधी धूप
ये भी संभव वो भी संभव
सत्य-असत्य के बहुत हैं रूप

सीमीत दृष्टिकोण हैं लेकिन
दम्भ हमारा अपरिमित

That is what we are – a conglomeration of subjective realities, perceived truths and restricted understandings. We fight for what we ‘think’ is the only absolute reality because at some point, it is impossible for us to step over and reach beyond that point.

There is a very interesting incident in the candid and touching memoir titled An Unquiet Mind  by  Kay Redfield Jamison. The memoir chronicles the author’s struggles with manic-depressive illness. During the time-period when she is fine, she gives therapy to a blind man. After many sessions, she starts getting the feeling of what it is to be blind. She feels that she ‘understands’ it completely. One day, he asks him to come to his tutorial session in the blind reading room. Jamison reaches the place and realizes “with horror that the room was almost totally dark. It was dead silent, no lights were on, and yet there was half a dozen students bending over their books or listening intently to the audiotapes…”. It was “one of those moments when you realize that you haven’t understood anything at all, that you have had no real comprehension of the other person’s world.”

Can we go beyond our own subjectiveness to make sense of the world in ways that might be incompatible or even contrary to our previously held notions? I think it might be possible but very difficult. For we are better off in our comfort-zones. We do not want to give ourselves an uneasy moment.

That is why ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ will remain matters of contention and debate. We will always see the elephant in parts, because we are all blind in one way or the other.

 Linking to #Indispire153

#ContestAlert by funkaar.in – Deadline approaching…

Hey Bloggers

The deadline for the #Contest being held by funkaar.in is approaching. The prompts are based on #Music. Please pitch in your entries by December 25th, 2016.

The deadline has been extended….It is Jan 20th, 2017 now.

It is a verified contest. And best entries will win the assured vouchers.

To see the details and submit your posts, click on the following link

Funkaar #MusicDilSe Contest

 

funkaar-contest-image

Aao ree suhaagan naari mangal gaao ree

Atul’s Song A Day- A choice collection of Hindi Film & Non-Film Songs

This article is written by Arunkumar Deshmukhh, a fellow enthusiast of Hindi movie music and a contributor to this blog. This article is meant to be posted in atulsongaday.me. If this article appears in sites like lyricstrans.com and ibollywoodsongs.com etc then it is piracy of the copyright content of atulsongaday.me and is a punishable offence under the existing laws.

Today I had originally lined up another song from the early 50s, to continue with my discussions on the melodies of the decade, which I called ” Melody Yatra of the 50s ” sometime back. However, I changed my mind and considering the oncoming Deepavali, I am discussing a beautiful song ( both to listen and see) from the film ” RAM RAJYA “-43.

Ramrajya 43 was an offering of Prakash pictures of Bhatt brothers. In 1942, they had made film “Bharat Milap” and the pair of Prem Adeeb and Shobhana…

View original post 2,294 more words

Blogging Contest for all Bloggers – Amazon Vouchers to Win…!

Ronald Reagan said, ” Life is one grand sweet song, so start the music.” Many have compared life with music. The highs and lows of life are like the ascending and descending notes of a melody. Happy or sad, peppy or poignant, when the notes unite, they create a harmony. The result is the songs we sing, the life we live.

I am sharing the link below for an exciting blogging contest being held at Funkaar.in. The theme of the challenge is related to music quotes given as prompts. Bloggers who write the winning entry will win Amazon vouchers.  

For details of the contest, please click on the following link – www.funkaar.in/contest.html

#MusicDilSe Singing Contest by www.funkaar.in

Good luck to everyone who will participate….!

Do spread the word….!!

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#InfertilityNotATaboo – Brave it out, You are not alone

Write Tribe has come up with a topic not many discuss – Infertility. Couples are reluctant to talk about it because they feel depressed and hopeless. They also want to shield themselves from prying eyes which only want some food for gossip. Yes, it is our society that has made it impossible for couples who are struggling to have kids, to live peacefully. There are expectations everywhere, and there is always talking behind the back.

Years ago, with lack of knowledge, it was always a woman who bore the brunt of it all. It was always ‘her’ mistake. There was something ‘wrong’ in her if a couple could not have kids. No body questioned the husband or the son-in-law. Just like Eve had been held responsible for Adam’s eating the apple, it was as if only the woman was at fault always.

Not much has changed despite education and medical advancement. Woman is still held largely responsible for childlessness. Men with their inflated egos, and their mothers with their flawed and misplaced prides, refuse to even consider male infertility a possibility. The result is that many marriages break, couples are torn apart and ignorance prevails.

Infertility is not a bane. Just like any other ailment, it too is a medical condition that can be corrected through expertise. But to be cured, it needs to be first recognized. In many cases, it is left un-diagnosed owing to superficial pride and bloated egos. Statistics reveals that male infertility is difficult to diagnose and cure due to various reasons, despite the fact that it is the underlying cause of couple not bearing children in almost half of the cases. Men wear this thick cloak of masculinity and become touchy when asked to be tested. “Nothing’s wrong with me”, is all they can say.

But it does exist. And in order to seek help, one needs to come out and talk.

 

सींचा कोमलता से मैंने 

क्यारी में न फूल खिला 

सब बगिया को दोषी कहते 

माली को क्यों भूल गए ?

 

Infertility Dost

 

Image Source

Gitanjali Banerjee’s Infertility Dost is there to help you #OpenUp. A “regular, middle class woman” who struggled through a long and tiring period of infertility, Gitanjali has decided to bring it out in the open and discuss. She is blessed with kids now but her journey has not been easy. She realizes how important it is to be able to confide in someone, to be able to get the right help and the right care. That’s why, the name may sound like an oxymoron. Infertility has not many ‘friends’ (dost) but a whole lot of nosy critics. Gitanjlai intends to reach out to those in need to give them love, care and the required medical assistance.

You can help Gitanjali too.

Share, write, discuss.

Be an Infertility Dost !

In my circle of friends and family, there are a few who have had trouble bearing children. Some were successful and some were not. But in most of the cases, they have kept it quite. A relative of mine underwent a long and painful surgery without even confiding in her parents. I often wonder why she did so. Perhaps, she did not want to raise their hopes because she had already struggled with this for almost her entire married life. Now in her forties, she must have felt that is would be even more difficult to conceive. Or perhaps, she wanted to protect herself and her husband from unwanted questions. Whatever the reason, I respect her need for privacy on the matter.

The need/desire for children is something natural. But I feel strongly that as a human being, we have no right to pass judgement on the lives of others. We ought not to comment, criticize, give unwanted and often senseless advice to others, especially on personal matters. If someone confides in us, we ought to respect that decision and act in their best interest. Often, with lack of knowledge, we can kill someone’s hopes. We have no right to do that. The best solution is to help the friend in need be seeking appropriate medical help when necessary rather than just trivializing the issue or spreading rumors about it. Words and mentalities hurt in unimaginable and irreparable ways often.

Representing Infertility – Letting it out

For my post, I have picked the issue of ‘representation’ of ‘infertility’ in literature and film. I have chosen a short story written by a writer whose thinking was way ahead of her times and a movie that is contemporary to us. In the former, the saga is one of despair and anguish, and in the latter there is humorous rendering of the issue and lots of hope. Both try to bring the topic out for discussion. To solve a problem, one first needs to see it, accept it. Progressive minds often help in exposing and articulating a subject that others will usually try to hide. And therein lies hope. When writers and film-makers pick up controversial topics, they are doing much more than just seeking attention. They are coaxing people out of their comfort zones to think, and interrogate.

Female Infertility – Depicting Injustice through Irony in Amrita Pritam’s बू (Stench)

It would have been a cozy night if I had not decided to read anything. But my kids were sound asleep and I yearned to read something thought-provoking. Looking through my collection of books, I came across Amrita Pritam’s collection of short stories in Hindi, titled सत्रह कहानियाँ  (Seventeen Stories). I randomly selected a story titled बू (Stench). As I flipped the two pages of this short story, my heart broke. It was fiction, yes. But it was a fiction that was a reality for many many couples out there – childless couples.

The story revolves around a childless couple Guleri and Maanak. Seven years into marriage, Maanak’s mother has given up hopes on her daughter-in-law. As Guleri goes for a visit to her parents’ village during harvest time, Maanak’s mother brings in another woman to replace Guleri. Maanak’s protests are feeble, voiceless. He has tried to stop his wife from leaving but is incapable of standing against his mother. He marries again. A few days later, Maanak’s friend announces the death of Guleri. She has set herself on fire after hearing about Maanak’s marriage. Maanak is shattered. In the meantime, his second wife gives the much-awaited news. Maanak’s mother is blind to the agony her son is going through. Guleri’s death has had no impact on her. She places Maanak’s new-born son in his lap, hoping, in fact almost certain, that the child will knock in some ‘sanity’ in his son’s mind. But the moment Maanak stares at the little bundle lying in his lap, he screams in despair, “Take him away….take him away….he stinks of kerosene…”

The story ends.

Pritam’s story left me pondering on the many aspects she had touched here. She had picked up a topic that not many would be comfortable to discuss or even acknowledge. The male protagonist was depicted powerless and the woman in the house was, ironically enough, a heartless mother. She wanted her son’s child so badly that her own maternal love was overshadowed by her greed.

Who was the culprit here?

The mother?

The society?

Or Maanak?

Or all of them?

Yes, all of them. Maanak was not a man enough to brave the storm. Or perhaps, secretly he too yearned to have a child and thus gave in to his mother’s demand. His mother was a victim of the society she lived in, which looked down upon childless women with disrespect and hatred. The society considered woman only as a child-carrying vessel. She ought to be discarded if she did not function well.

Pritam’s story highlighted the rampant injustice of our society through a flawless use of irony.

That a woman was instrumental in bringing about the death of another woman, was a significant element of the story. It reflected what actually happens out there to countless women who are unable to give birth, who are unable to fulfill the greedy desire of carrying the lineage.

It highlighted one more thing – #Silence.

Had Guleri and Maanak been able to talk about this to someone, and also to each other, the ending would have been hopeful. But the inability to confide even in your partner pinpointed the extreme helplessness of living in a callous society.

Male Infertility – Talking Taboo through Humor in Vicky Donor

Vicky Donor was an instant hit. Audience laughed heartily. Everyone seemed to celebrate the ‘Aryan’ boy’s immaculate intelligence and good looks and the doctor’s discerning eye. Babies came. There were smiles everywhere. Was it just a feel-good movie meant to earn bucks for the film director? No. There was much more happening. Director Shoojit Sircar had managed to bring a #taboo topic out of the closet. In a society which failed to even concede to the fact that male infertility existed, the movie managed to make people laugh and accept it as a reality. The last scenes were meant to drive the point home. There was hope for everyone. And for those who could not bear children on their own, there were alternatives like artificial insemination and sperm donation. Interestingly, the protagonist who made parenthood a possibility for many out there, ended up having no child of his own. But the movie ended not on despair. It gave the message of hope and happiness.

Children, or no children, a couple could still find happiness and love in each other. One had to just be ready to accept.

And that was for me the most beautiful message from the movie.

For some, it may not work but still…..

There are so many little kids, who for some reason or the other have been separated from their family. They yearn for love. They long to belong. They ache for that gentle affection that only parents can give. You can be their parent. One does not need to bring a child biologically to the world to feel that love and sense of belonging. That attachment can come from being together, living the high and low moments of life together.

Please do not give up hope. Adopt a child. Sponsor someone’s education. Give someone a reason to smile. Become someone’s reason to smile. Don’t care about the society which frowns upon your decisions. It is just not worth it.

दूर कहीं पर पनप रहा 

एक फूल अकेला गुमसुम-सा 

बगिया छूटी जाने क्यों उसकी 

जाने क्यों उसका माली रूठा 

तुम प्रेम स्पर्श से पुलकित कर 

उसको गर फिर से महका दो 

मदमस्त सुगन्धित हो जाएगा 

सूना आँगन भी तुम्हारा 

This blog is to #SpreadAwareness about Infertility through Infertility Dost, India’s first website that facilitates couples to brave infertility with support and knowledge. You can find other links  on Write Tribe.