What’s your mind’s language?

Hello, here is a piece written a few months ago.  This post is dedicated to all those who are in the (good) company of this author!  Share your story too.

By South Indian standards, I am a bilingual.  I was born into a Kannada speaking family living in Andhra Pradesh, hence I am a bilingual.  South Indian standards, because one would anyway learn the other two languages – Hindi and English at school.  So I could not stop laughing when I recently ran through an article on Time that recognised the benefits of gaining knowledge in a language other than the Mother Tongue.  ‘Most of those American kids know only English!  How sad,’ I felt.

Most people know at least three, and an extra language is not an exception.  People like me are more commonplace than you – no, even I – would expect. They get along with their lives happily like many others; only at home they watch more channels on TV than the rest.  It is time Tata Sky realised this; once an uncle blasted a helpline operator – I vividly remember, her name was Janaki – that Tata Sky required us to pay extra for each channel and it was outright unreasonable.  His language count is five.

But, judging from personal experience, there seems to be a general curiosity about the lives of my species.  How did your parentsknow two languages?  How did you learn?  Don’t you ever get confused?  Valid questions, all of them.  I shall attempt to answer, and finally the title of this post, but for now, an anecdote:

After my II standard, I was taken my Aunt’s home in Karnataka.  There I found myself, one day, in a gathering – I recall it was a summer camp (a fancy name for crash courses in computers, high-speed mathematics and other similar things).  All kids were introducing themselves; then came my turn.  I told them my name and that I completed II standard.

“Where do you live in Dharwad?”

You see, I didn’t know the address.  So I pointed at my cousin.  He explained.

“You are from Andhra Pradesh, so you know Telugu, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And Kannada?”

A nod.  That was too much for them.  They were utterly flabbergasted that somebody who is yet to enter third standard knows three (actually, four) languages.  Well, to be honest, they did express some surprise.  As I was trying to digest the situation, two salt drops silently escaped my eyes.  I was promptly asked to sit, which I did.

Perhaps that was the first time that I realised there is something special about the whole business.  People, later in life, asked several questions and related the anomaly to things, like caste and its sects, etc which I didn’t like either.  However there are many delightful things at my home: wife talks to husband in Kannada, and husband replies in Telugu.  Children talk in Telugu between themselves and to parents, yet magically shift to Kannada with grandmother and visiting relatives – not that they don’t know Telugu.  All worship, cooking and eating was done in the Kannada way, only I grew up to be a Telugu guy to whom the other language remains an ancestral relic.  And for the title, I really don’t know. Do you know yours?

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