An Unfamiliar Language

21st February is International Mother Language Day and our blog is hosting a celebration of languages. A series of blog posts by people from different walks of life – sharing their thoughts on languages, memories and more. International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

(This post was sent by Divjyot Singh. Divjyot has been writing poetry for some years now, a graduate of Lucknow university, he believes poetry to be his medium of creative expression, he has dabbled into playwriting, his radio play “for a piece of paradise” received recognition at BBC international’s annual radio play contest, his poems are eked out from life and its un-ending reservoir of emotions, Divjyot lives in Lucknow.)

It still sounds different
After so many years
Languages, they haven’t
Reconciled, albeit, assured
They coexist in pleasant

Maataji as I used to call
Her, my mum’s mother
More mother to me than
Her, years ago carried
On dry leaves and withering
Paper a god-his hymns
Across an unsure border

In a casket of Urdu roiled
The nectar of Gurumukhi
She had it entombed in
Her belly, the rioters went
For the bosom first;
So she believed

“Between a few miles
The languages changed”
She spoke with palpable
Hurt, obscenities in Urdu
Were fluently replaced
By threats in Hindi, yet
Fear remained unchanged

“It was confusing to
Cling on to an identity”
But for the prayer book
Shriveled, torn, bedewed
By colorless fear, I wouldn’t
Have been able to hold
On to my sanity

Time is a bearer of
Voice, not a slave to
Periphery and countries
Soon years drifted as clouds
Would, family took root
Stems grew, flowers

Mornings took birth
In a new courtyard
The days, its routine
Remained unchanged
For Maataji, nor did the
Prayer book, safe in a
Satin pouch from Karachi

I watched in awe
As she un-knotted
It, careful to take out
The same prayer book,
Pages frayed by now, only
Faith to hold together
Its ageing rhyme

Bowing and kissing
The gutka before going
On to recite hymns in
Gurumukhi, her voice
Sure of each syllable,
Softly serenading god
In a language alien

To me, she read: 

“Ek onkar satnam karta purakh
nirbhau nirvair akaal murat ajuni saibhang gurprasad”.

Each word drawing me closer to
An unknown god, prayed to in an
Unfamiliar language.

Today as I try and draw
Words from memory’s
Verse, they paint an
Unforgettable picture
A picture of Maataji’s hands
Skin tender and un-taut
Embracing a ten year Old’s.

“Would you like to pray
With me” she questioned
Indeed Maataji, but I do not
Know how to read Gurumukhi
I professed, smiling she
Handed me a prayer book
This one an English translation
And we recited together:

“Ek onkar satnam karta purakh
nirbhau nirvair akaal murat ajuni saibhang gurprasad”.

Image Credit : jasleen_kaur

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