The Kannada conundrum

It has always been that either my complete name or my face makes people guess and, as an instinct response, makes them speak the language they believe could be linked to my lingua franca.  And that has been everything, except the real one.

Perhaps there are many others like me who have a name that does not reveal their identity in terms of religion, caste. To add to the confusion some faces force people to assume. When I was in college, people would often approach me and ask: Are you an Anglo-Indian, Gujarati, Muslim and so on. I never objected to this guessing game since I found it amusing and thought it added a certain mystery to my persona.

Off late though, since the way I way dress up, I have been spoken to a number of times in Hindi, and when I replied back in Kannada, the coconut vendor or bus conductor and the flower seller would be taken by surprise.

Recently, an attendant at a cash counter in a mall asked “Kannada ata hai kya?”. When I snapped out of the thought I was engrossed in, I questioned: “Barutte, adare Kannadalle keli nange baruto illuvo anta?” I have nothing against the national language as it is one of the languages I speak and use everyday.

What bothers me is when people assume I do not know Kannada and speak only English. Even autorickshaw drivers look at me differently when I respond to them in Kannada. I have often discussed with friends that they should speak in Kannada, for, others might respond in the same language.

But some of them would quip, saying Bangaloreans take pride in speaking all languages and can even sense what linguistic background others are by simply sizing them up. By this logic they conclude that Bangaloreans are cosmopolitan.

While all this might be true why don’t we speak in Kannada to the person in front of us and if they don’t understand then we could always switch to another language. Maybe that would make us Bangaloreans more understanding in speaking a variety of languages while not abandoning our own. Else, the opportunity of speaking this state’s primary language will be lost to us.

So while Kannada Prasara Parishath takes pride in teaching lakhs of students over the years their month tongue, what we as citizens can do is not to impose the language on others. And yet we must make an attempt to speak in Kannada as often as possible -- if not at the workplace, at cafeterias when among friends, with shop vendors, the bus conductor and, of course, with people who enjoy speaking Kannada.

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