Friday, February 17, 2012

Mother tongue

I cherish my mother tongue, and the fact that I am a Malayalee even though I can’t read or write which, contrary to conventional wisdom, is not uncommon. In Ceylon where I had my schooling I spoke Tamil and Sinhalese, you have Hindi as well as Marathi and Guajarati in Mumbai; in Malaysia, people speak three languages. The idea of a ‘mother tongue’ is a highly romantic and nationalist one. My multilingualism enabled me to understand different cultures, and to write in English as opposed to Malayalam, I also picked up a smattering of , French and Bahasa Indonesia: Aspects of Language and culture widen our perspective, and makes us feel at home everywhere, not just in our hometowns. Every language and their cultures is an open window on the world, fundamental to understanding the universe. This is in contrast to the grim attachment to roots advocated by some people. Trees have roots; I have legs, and believe me, that is a huge advantage. I f we can be easy with ourselves we can be easy with other people irrespective of color, caste creed or language.

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