to start this post for International Mother Language Day.
Unfortunately, I read Malayalam poetry only in school and mostly because
I had no choice but to. So let me begin again, with a little more
lot more than I should have. I watched comedy that everyone in my
generation continues to quote from (anything with the actor Srinivasan
in it, really), the arthouse stuff (on TV during late afternoons when I
would have just returned from school), the thrillers, ‘family’ movies and well, just about anything I could get my hands on.
relationship with Malayalam – the language I grew up speaking – has been
hugely influenced by Malayalam cinema. I discovered the existence of
many, many words from just listening to Malayalam songs. Sometimes I wouldn’t even know what they meant because some of these songs are loaded
with high-flown poetry but they still felt delicious against
the roof of my mouth.
mother tossed vegetables into the tawa, I heard this very familiar tune
on one of the Malayalam radio channels. I knew I hadn’t listened to this
song in years, but I seemed to know most of the lyrics to this song and
I had no idea how. And all of a sudden, there was this flood of
imagery: of this young man and woman splashing about in a beach, dressed
as if they were going to play cricket (strange but true). Within
seconds, I remembered more such details and ended up finding it on
Youtube. It’s hard to explain how I felt watching the video (and yes, they
were wearing white gloves, knee guards and hats) – because I tend to
read a lot about memory, nostalgia and so on – but I was deeply moved
and elated. Since then, I find myself going back to this song every
other week, especially because of its very poignant lyrics (and bonus:
subtitles in English).
day feel so sentimental about Malayalam, and it surprises me every time I
do. Like the first time I called my husband’s phone (we had just met
then) eight years ago and heard his caller tune:
then, I hadn’t yet discovered that he could speak fluent Malayalam. Or
that we’d laugh a lot harder while speaking in Malayalam (as opposed to English).
up in Kerala, I never felt particularly attached to my mother tongue.
It’s only after having moved away, that I started to appreciate Malayalam. And while I’ve made several sincere attempts to read
Malayalam literature – with very little success – it’s really through
cinema and music (film and independent) that my relationship with
Malayalam has grown stronger. In fact, I often worry if I’ve turned into
one of those old uncles I was once so scornful of, singing Malayalam
songs late into the night, with moist-eyed sentimentality.