A tongue in need

A Bengali acquaintance was peeved that her neighbours asked her to learn Kannada.

A young couple working in the IT sector set a record of sorts by speaking non-stop on the journey from Bengaluru to Chennai, thus beating the record set by my siblings and me during a similar trip a few months ago!

The topic of their heated discussion was the fact that their ‘Kannada gothilla’ seems to not cut much ice among the local people, particularly the bus conductors and drivers. I was extremely tempted to butt into their conversation and have a debate but my grown up children’s strident, “Amma, what’s itching your...” stopped me, and hence this piece.

My tryst with Bengaluru has been going steady from the 70s as my maternal aunt used to stay here and we have been frequent visitors to the then amazingly pleasant Bangalore. Weather wise, it was such a stark contrast to Hyderabad and Chennai and a haven for us cousins. From then to now, I have seen the city change, both climatically and in the people’s expectation from the ‘so-called’ outsider.

‘Kannada mathaadi’ is a new phrase which was not so often heard before. As a fact of matter, my aunt knew only a smattering of Kannada despite being here for 30 odd years. Having said

that, I believe that like all good people who feel frustrated when their goodness is taken for a ride; Kannadigas too must have started feeling that their generosity is being mistaken as weakness. Considering that the youngsters belonged to the northern belt of our country, the tale of woes sounded rich coming from them!

We Indians believe in the adage, ‘Be a Roman when in Rome,’ when it comes to learning of foreign languages. A student going to Germany pours over German. I agree that we cannot master all the Indian languages depending on wherever our work takes us. Nevertheless, it is not kosher to blame the locals for the love for their language and their expectation that you attempt to learn a few phrases. I must confess that my Kannada is primitive at its best. I also must confess that this is the only place where they admire you for your effort rather than your felicity to speak.

A Bengali acquaintance was peeved that her neighbours were asking her to learn Kannada. I could not help asking her if the same was not true of her own state or mine? This recent rise in resentment among Kannadigas is the fact that people who belong to different states do not mind speaking in their own tongue over the heads of the localites without as much as an ‘as you please.’

Hyderabad, too, was another place where a person could survive without knowing Telugu in the 70s and 80s. During my last visit there, I noticed a palpable change. Despite the world becoming smaller, the clamour for the learning of th local language seems to be growing louder. Whatever be the reason, learning of a new tongue depends a lot on the ability of the person to do so, combined with right attitude.

To rest, if you wear the pride of your land on your shoulder, allow others to enjoy the said pride. Don’t belittle their expectation from you, particularly if you are planning to spend some considerable time in the adopted land.

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