For the love of Persian

A couple of years ago, I got a mail from a young Tamil woman. She liked a Persian article of mine that had appeared on an Iranian portal. Surprised, I mailed back asking whether she knew Persian. She replied in chaste Persian that it (Persian) was as good as her mother tongue!

Her Tamil Brahmin parents from Madras went to Tehran nearly three decades ago. She was 5 years old then. Her father taught Industrial Chemistry at Tehran University. He was fascinated by Persian mysticism of Jalaluddin Rumi, Hafiz Shirazi, Jami, among others. But he had read all Persian mystics in English back home in Madras. He always wanted to learn Persian and read Rumi and Hafiz Shirazi in original Persian but he hadn’t got an opportunity. He thought that his young daughter must learn this lovely and poetic language because a language learnt at a young age can be mastered rather easily with all its nuances and idiomatic idiosyncrasies.

Being of an ideal age to learn a language like Persian, his daughter picked up the language very fast and started to converse in it like a native speaker! She got enamoured of Persian so deeply that when her parents left Tehran for Madras after fourteen years, she stayed back in Iran and did her Master’s in Persian and later pursued her PhD on Persian mysticism. She wrote her thesis in Persian, too! Currently, this young Tamil woman teaches modern Persian at a prestigious university in England and contributes to Persian publications.

I was fascinated by her journey thus far. In this age of rabid linguistic chauvinism and the ever-increasing attitude of ‘other people’s language/s’, this Tamil Brahmin lady fell for Persian and spoke it with a consummate ease. Language indeed doesn’t belong to any community or ethnic group. Yours truly speaks Persian better than native speakers and writes mostly in it.

Every time one learns a new language, one gets a new soul because a language widens the horizons of an individual. It also deepens one’s perceptions and sensibilities. We’ve developed language stereotypes and flawed ideas that South Indians can never speak Hindi or Urdu.

And here, a South Indian Brahmin was speaking impeccable Persian sans any accent. This erudite woman also speaks flawless Urdu for which she came to India and spent a couple of years in Delhi, learning it from a maulavi at Dariyaganj in old Delhi.

It’s time we encouraged our youngsters to learn new languages and not restrict themselves to just their mother tongues. Alas, they don’t even know their mother tongues properly. They’re inarticulate in all languages and this saddens me no end.

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For the love of Persian

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