Brick by brick, of one word and then the next, heard from here and there, we build up our lives. We grow flowers of memories from the languages we are exposed to since we were born. Languages we grow old with are the most intimate and sacred part of us. They are our assurances, our cries, our boasts and our mirrors.
As kids.. Heck as toddlers, we don’t stop to think that the ‘papita’ we are munching down on is somebody else’s papaya. Or someone else’s ‘parangi hanu’! We only learn eye rolls and snap judgement for anything other than an ‘English fruit’ as we ‘mature’.
There’s no denying that English plays the role of that nice uncle or aunty in our family. That well-liked relative due to whom we all can get together with our divergent tongues and spend some time with each other more or less on the same page. Even if we go back to grumbling about each other in the words and the combination of languages we’re most comfortable in, English did its work and unified us for some time. And that’s how it should be. English should unify and bridge. Not isolate, shame or mock.
Our mother tongue and our local languages have spoken for us all our lives and I feel it’s our turn to speak up for them nowadays. I can almost see them wandering speechless in the dark spaces around the popular language limelight in the hopes of being acknowledged and called upon. Let’s treat them well, and be proud to use them in our routine. Let’s not be aghast and defensive when someone asks Priyanka Chopra if Indians know how to speak English, when in reality we know so many more. Our insecurities are showing. Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Kannada, Bengali, Assamese, Manipuri, Punjabi.. Whatever you speak, show it off. They all have beautiful textures and essence. They have nurtured our minds and lives in crucial ways. And that’s not something to hide. That’s something to marvel at.
I leave you with a short video of Denice Frohman who performs her poetry on Accents. Our languages and our accents guide us home.
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