i have been with hansa, gissy and kavi since yesterday, dubbing for their film. we are para dubbing hindi over the kashmiri. and thats forced me to confront something thats been niggling me - hindi, or any regional language and its place in our schools.
hansu's hindi is very very good. i seldom go wrong with the grammar, my vocabulary is that of good spoken hindi, but thats it.i enjoy writing in hindi, in the institute i always wrote my dialogues in hindi, they were never translated from english, and since i read more hindi literature than ever before in those three years, my writing flowed pretty decently in hindi then.
and yet, both hansa and i would keep struggling with phrases and words. and the simple truth is because we think in english, we stumbled over civil society, pious, not in vain...( juhi ofocurse gave me a little lecture saying that civil society was a western construct so there was no hindi word for that...but then thats another debate).
it was natural for me to speak to sanah in hindi since the time she was born. it was natural for my parents, it was natural even for george who speaks malayalam in his home, simply because he has grown up with hindi all around him. so sanah speaks in hindi. with a smattering of marathi and english. i read most books to her in english, and a few hindi ones that i manage to pick up on every delhi trip.
now to come to the point of this post, whats really eating me up - george and i went to some kind of an open house at sanah's school. it was not an open house, more a one sided presentation. all was well until they came to the list of dos and donts for the parents. most were functional and practical things, fine, and then there was this cheeky 'do' sitting smug at the bottom of the list- do speak to your child only in english, it will be easier for the child to communicate.
i dont like the fact that i am sending sanah to play school, so what if she has a blast, so i had set my ample bottom in the chair with a lot of edginess, and then this! i was deeply offended, but decided to let it pass because one- -they gave the parents no space to talk, and two, let them set their dos, and i will do what i do!
but what could be the reasoning behind such a ridiculous thought???
the other day my mum commented that sanah hardly speaks in english, we should be talking in english as much as hindi. and i wondered about it, but there is english all around her. is there a chance that she will not pick it up as she has hindi and a smattering of marathi. every now and then i would speak to her in english just to check and realised that there was not a moment of incomprehension.why would there be, there is english ALL AROUND HER! infact, hindi is more of a conscious effort, and i wish there was more marathi and malayalam and punjabi around her. and i wish we would make the effort to surround her with these languages.
but for a school to request parents to cut out all other languages and stick to english? how absurd is that! tomorrow if sanah is subjected to some interview at some crummy school in english and she answers in hindi, she will be out of the reckoning i guess. in a country like ours to not ask a child how many languages she knows, and instead to pretend that only english exists is insane.
i see little meha rattle away in hindi, gujrati, english and sindhi, and she is two months younger than sanah. imagine a school that insist her parents speak only in english to her, cutting her away from knowing four languages!
i grew up with english and hindi all around me. completely confident about expressing in both languages.
george grew up with malayalam at home, and hindi all around when he was a goregaon boy. hindi was spoken even in an english medium school. and at some point he became a bandra boy, that meant hindi was pretty much cut out of his surroundings. was he anxious about slipping into hindi i used to ask him.
for those who know bby, bandra boys and girls were the uppity english speaking types, and goregaon and other suburbs meant you were a vernacular type. the townies ofcourse spoke english and so did the juhu ones.
i was from andheri, oblivious of these coded distinctions when i joined college, and spoke, thought, dreamt english. as did every one else in class, from borivali, ghatkopar, thane, colaba, or bhendi bazaar. and that was because we all went to an elite college, where the privileged english speaking types from across the city went!
in the setting where sanah is growing up, infact it will be an effort that she has access to good hindi, to hindi books, hindi rhymes, poetry etc. hindi film songs will surround her, but nothing else.
and replace hindi with marathi, punjabi, malayalam...she will be further removed from these languages that she should claim as her own.
when ramani or sarada visit they both break into tamil while speaking with sanah. madhavi prattled on in telugu when sanah was four months old. she said something quite lovely, when i see a child i find it hard to talk to her in a language other than the one i grew up with...and i remember thinking thank god sanah will be surrounded by so many languages.
my theatre teacher would make us listen to the cadence of each language. we were always chided because our hindi would sound false when we would slip into the 'english rhythm'. listening to my voice played back today i could hear the wrong cadence in every second sentence. and dubey's voice played back in my head - mother sister curses in hindi, marathi and english and then, surabhi, sur pakdo...har bhasha ki apni sur hoti hai...(i dont know how much theatre i learnt but my cuss word vocabularly rocks!),
the musicality of a language, will i even get to that with sanah?