Bilingual DilemmasAugust 4, 2008
Actually, I can speak four languages – Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and English (Yes, I count this as a separate language that I know!). But English is only for Business. Since, I can speak English well, Am I an Englishman? A look in the mirror confirms otherwise. Am I then Hindi? I guess not – for I can speak only broken Hindi.
We are then left with two more – Tamil and Telugu. Both are dominant languages of South India. As long I was in Chennai, there was no problem. I was a Tamilian outside my house and Telugu inside. But when I came to Bangalore, I had to answer one tough question – ‘Are you Tamil?’ It would have been easier to answer this – ‘Are you from Chennai?’ But no, you are asked the other question always. Sometimes, I have blinked for as long as 20 seconds to answer that question.
Forget others; my real problem comes when my heart asks my mind – ‘Are you Telugu or Tamil?’
Though my mother tongue is Telugu and we speak Telugu at home, I was born and brought up in Chennai in Tamil Nadu. My second language in school was Tamil and it was one of my favorite subjects. Outside my house, I always used to speak in Tamil.
Many of my classmates were Telugu by birth, but no one bothered to enquire. In fact, one of my bench mates for a long time in college was Telugu and had studied Telugu as a second language – in Chennai. But we always spoke to each other in Tamil.
Tamil is a very rich and an absorbing language. Living in Chennai for three generations means you are almost Tamil. Almost.
When I came to Bangalore, my PG (Paying Guest accommodation) house owner introduced me to my future room mates and said that they were also Tamil. I insisted that I was Telugu. He then spoke to me in Telugu for five minutes. That was all he needed to convince himself that I was Tamil indeed, as he had earlier thought and spoke to me in Tamil henceforth.
Watching cricket matches could be boring sometimes. But with a big cheering crowd in my PG and 20 overs limited fast paced matches, watching the IPL was fun. One of my PG room mate was born and brought up in Madhya Pradesh (Chattisgarh, to be precise). His mother tongue was Tamil. This guy was supporting Chennai Super Kings (CSK). I decided that if this Madhya Pradesh (Now Chattisgarh) born guy could support his ancestral town; I better support Hyderabad Deccan Chargers. Or maybe even the Bangalore Royal Challengers, as I am currently living in Bangalore. But to my (and my fellow and ancestral city mates) dismay, neither of the teams blasted. The Madhya Pradesh (Chattisgarh?) supported CSK went right upto the finals! Of course, I decided to support CSK in the finals and you saw what happened! Call it luck – Bad Luck.
When I went to Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram?) to my colleague’s house, his mother asked me the same question – ‘Are you Tamil?’ Looking at the confusion in my face, my colleague volunteered – “He is Telugu”. To which, his mother replied – ‘But he looks like a Pandi…’. I later came to know that Pandi is a loose reference to Pandiya Nadu and that Malayalee’s use that word to refer to Tamil people in general, much like how North Indians use ‘Madrasi’ to refer to South Indians in general!
The icing in the cake came when I over heard a couple of Telugu guys speaking about me – “Some new Tamil guy has joined in our PG it seems….”
So, I use this medium of Blogging to tell everyone in Blogsville – “Naan Thamizhan ille nu yenga sonnen?….. Thamizhana irrundirunda nalla irrukkum nu than solleren”
PS: I am not going to translate the last sentence to any other language. If you can understand it, it was meant only for you. J