I am not a spoken language person – that meaning that I can read a myriad of languages, listen to people speaking them and make sense, but when it comes to communicating I am fluent in only 4-5 ones. They say it has something to got with the brain alignment, I am just happy that the cause wasn’t the lack of the organ, itself!
My introduction to North Indian languages was since ever owing to birthplace and there lay the first dubiety I guess. At home, while the folks spoke Hindi / Bengali / English, people around me stuck to Urdu, Punjabi / Dogri (Kashmiri) and thus I picked up what my mother still fondly refers to as “khichdi language”. It was all good, till the said gibberish last for long enough for my parents to refer to a professional therapist and he asked my confused baby brain to be spared and only to introduce me to one common language – Hindi.
I grew up most comfortable communicating in Hindi / English, thinking in English and turning to Bengali for comfort and literary pursuits. Educational institutions inspired me to pick up Spanish and the niece made sure that I had the basic German 101 covered. Urdu and Punjabi, but refused to leave me. They were like the patient kindergarten friends who would have waited patiently for you to come back and look for them, long after you have moved on from the city that gifted you them, and when you don’t would have found you on social media and shared a vivid memory to let you know, that you were never off their minds (haven’t you had such friends ever?).
They both waited patiently as I devoured Satyajit Ray, Suchitra Bhattacharya, Shirshendhu Mukhopadhyay and Mahesweta Devi. They understood my love for Premchand, Dinker, Mahadevi Verma, Harivanshrai Bacchan and the like. They never complained when I turned to Kafka, Vikram Seth, Gabriel García Márquez, Neruda and more… they knew I was preparing for them.
Then through a burst almost I discovered Amrita Pritam and the long forgotten love affair was kindled. I was drawn to the verses like Pawar would have written “मुट्ठी भर जुगनू सूरज के ज्योति-कलश पर थूक गये” – I gave myself to it despite knowing that probably I haven’t analysed the end. I discovered Urdu too that way, to me the mundane Kabir ke dohe opened a door to a world where I could interpret and understand much beyond what merely the letters said. They spoke to me, those words knew me and my expressions of love.
Then stepped in Zafar Ali Khan, Akbar Allahabadi, Manto and the bookstore owner at Prithvi Theatre stands testimony to my camping at his store because I was suddenly enamoured by the addiction. Gulzar and Akhtar’s triveni still does the magic for me in my mundane days and my weekend always have a trace of Pritam or Iqbal Bano.
It is wonderful how you absorb so much at birth, only to have follow up years with no trace. Suddenly but you discover newer things, sceptical of their position in your life, only to have the realisation that you have encountered them before and that it was all in Nature’s plan to re-introduce you again, maybe when you can better appreciate the presence in life.
Nature does that with everything right? For everything that we lose, let go or leave behind, the things that really have a connect somewhere whisper to us…
मैं तैनू फ़िर मिलांगी कित्थे ?
किस तरह पता नई