Saturday, 7 April 2012

Hail barbarianism

Sometime ago, I was travelling from Tambaram to Chennai Park in the local train. A lady and her kid got into the ladies compartment. They looked rather worse for wear. Not financially sound, I would say. As soon as the train started, the kid began to cry for his father. “Daddy enge, daddy enge” (or is it enke? loosely translates to ‘where is my father’). While the older ladies in the compartment were busy cajoling the kid, I was left to ponder the kid’s vocabulary.
I have observed this in Tamil Nadu as well as Kerala. Even poor uneducated people want their kids to refer to them as ‘Dad’ or ‘Mom’. Honestly, what is wrong with good old ‘Amma’ or ‘Achan/Appa’. While it is perfectly fine to adopt good things from another culture, what good is obtained by referring to your own parents in a foreign language?
My reasoning is that these people somewhere have an underlying inferiority complex. They do believe in the supremacy of the white guy and his culture. So while their kids refer to them in that language, they feel elated; uplifted.
I am by no means a cultural fundamentalist. (Believe me; I have been unfortunate enough to meet such people). I would never say that Malayalam is the best language in the whole world or that it is better than English. Comparing two languages/cultures is pointless. After all, how can we compare uniqueness?
I can understand sending children to English medium schools, as I very well know the perils of being Malayalam medium educated. It was not easy and has left me with some inferiority complex wrt English; but decided to live with that.
But it still hurts me, when educated people take pride in speaking distorted Malayalam. I love my mother tongue and sort of dread the day when Malayalam becomes a dead language.
The other day, I was complaining to my friend about all these. She said “what’s wrong abt that? My cousin and her husband, both keralites and settled in Kerala, talk to their child in English only.” “Why?” I was curious. “Because they want their kid to be able to speak fluently in English. There is a huge difference between kids who speak English @ home and those who don’t “.
Hmmm. I decided then and there that I am probably living in the wrong place @ the wrong time. I was reminded of a quip by a Malayalam poet, Kunghunni Mash.
(Because I wanted my kid to learn English from birth itself, I arranged for my wife’s delivery in England!)

Disclaimer: having said all these, if people get a kick o/o their kids addressing them as ‘Dad’ or ‘Mom’, it is none of my business. After all, this is a free world.