Alone, but not lonely.

Sometimes during a conversation, attention drifts away from the topic of interest, to something very mundane. It can be a question, sometimes an exclamation. On rare occasions, it has been a compliment and rarer still, it has come to me as an insult, served hot and garnished well.

It is the ubiquitous issue of the ” mother tongue”.  So where do you come from? Innocent question, which deserves an equally innocent answer. Apparently not clear enough. But what is your mother tongue? In a nice mood, I say Tamil, on the days I miss my Appa, especially. In a caustic mood, I say Telugu, that’s what I grew up speaking. If you catch me in a weird mood, I’d probably say Hindi or English.I am surprised at how such an innocent question could always catch me off-guard, leaving me tense, nostalgic, lost and identity-less, all at the same time.

As a child, Tamil was what I spoke at home. Just at home. I learnt to read and write, appreciate poetry and speak it, all thanks to Appa. Everywhere else it was Telugu or Hindi. Adolescence did not prove to be a big problem with the what re, no ya, cool re! what only fad keeping me far away from an identity crisis.

Marriage brought with it some issues. It was difficult to identify myself with a typical Tamil family, they actually lived in a town that spoke Tamil, and not some “X” language! And I realized none of my Telugu friends identified with me either! To them I was always a ” tamilian”, ” aravvallu”. Where do I go from here, I remember thinking. It was too late to go back to one of these cultures exclusively. I was equally addicted to Yugaadi Pachadi and Nei Pongal. My language was peppered with illai and ledu in equal measure. I enjoyed ramadasa krithis  and oothukkaadu venkatasubbaiyer songs.  To add to all the confusion, I was teaching French too. It would be foolish to believe that language has no effect on the way we live. So where exactly would I be?

Over the past few years, I have jumped at occasions  to speak in Telugu, spoken Tamil in ways that my Appa would be proud of, and ache to speak Kannada like a native. I look for Tamil from certain people, from whose lips it sounds like my Appa’s speaking. My heart longs for Telugu’s sweetness and dwells in Tamil’s rhythmic beauty. Kannada’s prosody, so unlike so many other languages I’ve heard, attracts me. Yet, my steps towards her are babyish. Am I afraid of losing myself once more? Is it is a subconscious desire to belong somewhere, no matter where,  just to feel terra firma? Or am I  trying to defend my own slowness in picking up the language?

I wouldn’t know. One thing’s for sure: I am neither a tamilian nor a telugu. I am neither south-Indian nor north-Indian. I am alone at the moment, but I definitely am not lonely. Think of it this way : A child asked to choose between his mother and father, always chooses both. Just like I’d always choose both Telugu and Tamil, both of which make me who I am today….

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One thought on “Alone, but not lonely.

  1. மிகவும் அழகான பதிவு. ஒரு கருத்து. அன்னை என்று நாம் பொதுவாக எண்ணுவது இந்த பிறப்பில் இந்த உடலுக்கு அமைந்தவளே. ஆனால் சற்றே கூர்ந்து நோக்கின், இமய மலையில் அமைந்த பனித் தூளிலிருந்து இந்து மாக்கடலில் விழுந்த ஒரு துளி நீர் முதல், எங்கோ காட்டில் எரியும் அனலில் இருந்து வீட்டு முற்றத்தில் ஏற்றி வைத்த விளக்கு வறை…இப்படி அண்டத்தில் அனைத்துமே அன்னை தாம். எனவே ஓர் அன்னை வயிற்றுப் பிள்ளையாய் உணர்வது மட்டுமே அடையாளம் அல்ல. ஒரு விதத்தில், பல அன்னை வயிற்று பிள்ளையாய் இருப்பது (அல்லது இன்னும் மேலாய் அன்னையற்று இருப்பது) கூட அடையாளமா இருக்கலாம். அவ்வடையாளத்தின் பெயர், விடுதலை! 🙂

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