1. One of my earliest childhood memories is related to my great grandfather reading a newspaper one morning. I must have started learning Hindi reading for he decided to test my skills. He was wearing glasses and reading it in the drawing room of our grandparents’ house where we used to live. Since he chose to test my skills for reading the title of the newspaper: it’s obvious that such tests hadn’t been conducted before. There’s no way to produce any corroboration for what my exact age was.
2. I read it aloud using the image on the front page, just below the title . I had only begin to read when I saw that image and thought it was an easy way out. It wasn’t. I read ‘Naav Bharat.’ Naav is a synonym for boat in Hindi which was there in the image. He immediately corrected me saying “Nav not Naav.” Nav in Hindi means new and Bharat is for India. In my very first test of reading I was cheating. Using an easy way out with the imagery available. The late old man was barely literate used dialect of Hindi prevalent in his region.
3. In another such event my parents were residing besides the aforementioned house in a rented room and I once visited my grandfather. He took me in the house and then as I was talking about my father he used a word which was new to me. To indicate that he didn’t feel responsible for my father- he said “Hamne tumhaare baap ka THEKA nahi liya hai.” It was obviously used only to tease a young child.
4. Theka was too much to interpret. I had heard thela. Thela was a moving vehicle with six wheels. Biggest vehicle on road. Thela is also used for wooden four wheelers pushed by peddlers. As soon as he uttered the word- an image of a truck was created in my mind. It stayed as one confusing word thela/theka, until I knew better.
5. Thela or thelo is also used as a verb which means: topush. That’s why hand pulled or pushed wooden vehicles are called by that name.
6. I sing a poem for my kindergarten student. This was learned a very long ago by heart. The story in the verse has to do with an old woman who buys a big pot to trick lions and tigers on path:
7. As soon as I speak the 11th line: “Usme baithee budhiya aap,” the kid gets confused about the usage of word aap. It means byherself here. He has only been accustomed to the usage of word as second person pronoun used with respect. He asks: “are you insinuating that I am the old lady who sat in the pot?”
8. Abruptly ending a post which was about language:
1. I am reading this book by Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil. Just completed reading preface today.
2. It was in my cellar with couple of old journals. On August 20th, 2009 I entrusted fifty books to my sibling along with many journals in Bhopal as I was planning to move to Pune for a job in an IT firm.
3. Later, I burnt away all the journals except some which were eaten away by termite. Collection of the books was meagre. It was not reflective of what I actually read during four years of college as I was a member of British Library in Bhopal. I was lazy to visit library regularly. I preferred reading articles on websites in a nearby internet cafe. It was inception for Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia: always in dire need for funds these days. I found it to be a wonderful source of information. I kept reading criticism which refused to regard it as an authentic source of information in debates. I began frequenting discussion forums like The Couch and Mad Philosophers on internet. They were a help in those days.
4. I don’t remember where I found this book. I either bought it second-hand or from a book fair as I used to visit them sometimes. Now as I rarely read any books I think it would be a good idea to read it. There’s a Whatsapp group which was created with an intention to discuss some ideas and new books but all we do over there is to share some jokes and news.
5. The rate at which this language evolved and grew in vocabulary is in itself a miracle. We engineering students; well most of us, had no idea that this language which created nightmares for us had a very humble database at the times of Shakespeare. Preface emphasizes this fact.
6. If you need any first-hand observations which compare it with any other languages of national importance: take Hindi. Constant abuse and misuse of language is one of the facts highlighted in day-to-day life. Hindi dictionaries were rarely bought and sold in the decades I grew up in this country. There’s almost no effort to preserve the language and improve it as literati did it especially during Indian struggle for independence against British. You find misspellings and inaccurate grammar in Hindi newspapers with most powerful circulation. You find the same in campaign slogans for religious, political and educational movements. No wonder this lack of discipline is merely a reflection of attitude of Hindi belt. Bengali and Tamil speaking regions have treated their language with much greater discipline and care.