Confessions Of A Wordless World

October 31, 2011 at 9:15 PMOct (Friends, Literature, Media, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

It was in the year 2006 that this thought first crossed my mind. It was a moment of shame, for me, after a moment of pride. Chidanand Sali had called me and recited the translation of my ghazal. I was happy for a ghazal written by me was translated. But what put me to shame, after some time, was the fact that the ghazal was translated to my mother tongue- Kannada!

Though, over the years, I have mentioned about this to many a friends as “a unique episode in history where the poem was translated to the poets mother tongue by somebody else,” I have deeply felt ashamed of myself regarding this.

The second time this though crossed my mind was when Raghunanadan Sir wrote a warm mail saying, “You need to improve your English writing skills.” That was in early 2009. While I agreed with him completely I also felt the need to speak to him about the issue but could not for I was busy packing bags from The Hindu to JNU.

Ever since then I have felt the need to write about this issue but I did not know what to write and how to write it. When once I had to ask Vivek Shanbhag Sir to consider an article written by me for Desha Kaala I had to request him to get it translated into Kannada for publication, when I had to request Ravikumar Sir to get my article translated into Kannada for Abhinava magazine, I have not just felt ashamed of myself but also felt ‘wordless’. Every time I felt so, I felt the need to write about it. But the wordless world remained voiceless for some unknown reason. It remained voiceless till a week ago when a discussion in Udupi when Vaidehi in the presence of H.Y. Rajgopal, Vimala Rajgopal, Jyothi Mahadev and Muralidhar Upadhyaya posed the question, “What will happen to Kannada when most of the younger generation is going to English medium schools and getting distanced from Kannada?”

After HYR and VR spoke how Kannada was being used by youngsters even in the US and after JM said how her son, though uses the roman script chats with her in Kannada I felt an inner push to go speak and reveal the struggles of the wordless world. And I did, partially. Here I just attempt to reproduce the same and slightly elaborate it.

The question to me is not “What will happen to Kannada?” but “What happened to all those worlds within individuals which got torn between languages?”

My mother is a school teacher in a Government Kannada medium school. My father, now retired, used to teach in the Engineering college of Manipal. We lived in the quarters provided by the Institute where my dad was an employee. My father’s mother tongue was Tulu and my mother’s mother tongue was Kannada. We spoke Kannada at home. When the time came for my parents to put my sister (elder) and me to school, my parents put us in an English medium school. My mother has always told me that she wanted to put my sister and me to a Kannada medium school but did not do so because every child in the quarters went to an English medium school. I totally understand that. My mother is not that strong a lady who would swim across the tide. We- my sister and I- along with our friends from the neighborhood went to English medium school.

Confessing the fact that I am not a very intelligent boy I must say with English being the medium of instruction in school and Kannada being the language of communication at home, at a very young age I felt myself being torn between two languages, two worlds from opposite direction. The two worlds- of home and school- were so disconnected because of the language. Though I could somehow relate myself to the language at home, I could not relate myself to the language spoken in school. A small incident that is a part of one of my very early memories of school should explain it a bit. While in class one or two our Science teacher spoke of soil and the same was there in the text book too. At home, while my mother would help me revise what had been taught in school she asked me “What is soil?” Trust me I did not know but had imagined soil to be something “big”. I put my head down to indicate that I did not know. Being the primary school teacher that my mother is, she explained it to me in Kannada and said, “Soil andre maNNu.” What? My imaginations were reduced to mud! “Soil andre maNNa?” I asked my mother. “Howdu” (Yes) she said. I knew what ‘maNNu’ was and could relate to it but did not know what ‘Soil’ meant. It might appear silly to you, but it is as tragic as it appears silly to you.

My inner world, I can say, got grinded between this ‘soil’ and ‘maNNu’ or English and Kannada, for this less intelligent boy, it was difficult to balance between two languages at a young age and as both the languages was occupying the inner space the more the inner world got torn between the two worlds and two languages, one morning language and the other evening language one language of the brain and the other language of the heart.  With the burden to learn two languages simultaneously, this less intelligent boy, could not hold tightly to any of the languages! It was half baked English and half baked Kannada too. There were quite a lot of intelligent students who studied with me who mastered English. But there were quite a few of these less intelligent, like me, who got torn between languages. (I wonder what happened to the inner world of all those less intelligent, like me, classmates of mine whose mother tongue was either Konkani or Tulu, common to this geographic region, who were torn between their mother tongue, English and Kannada)

Understanding was not difficult for there were two languages which could complement each other. If I failed to understand what ‘soil’ meant then there was Kannada’s ‘maNNu’ to help me understand. Later in life if I failed to understand ‘commodity fetish’ then Kannada’s ‘vastu vyaamoha’ would help me understand and if I failed to understand ‘pratigaami-purogaami’ then English’s ‘regressive-progressive’ would help me. But the real tragedy was that a language of expression was not formed in this tearing apart of the inner world between two languages. This was because expression, as I feel, demands a command over the language, if not profound at least there is some basic requirements. With a broken English and half baked Kannada what possibly could one express, though some basic communication was possible?

With this pull and push between the two languages I got distanced from both the languages. It was like having a leg each in different boats and two boats taking their own course in their own speed resulting in a fall into the river of screaming silence, a wordless world.

This might not have bothered some of my other classmates who learnt the languages of C++ and Java and others to make their living. But when I chose my path for life and livelihood, this bothered me a lot. With ideas flowing in, in two languages (plus one more of Hindustani, which we were all made to learn) ideas and thoughts would take wings within the inner world but struggle to come out as the language required is inadequate for expression.

God knows how much Govind Sir and Sudipto cursed me for my English while I was with The Hindu! No wonder Raghunandan Sir asks me, affectionately, to improve my English. How much does Akshata, no less to my elder sister, curse me for not being able to write in Kannada! No wonder Chidanand Sali has to translate my ghazals into my mother tongue- Kannada. I struggle to write in Kannada, but the language doesn’t flow through the pen to the paper from my mind. I struggle to give voice to the inner world in English, but my English is half baked. The inner world is thus broken between English and Kannada in broad and between screams- attempt to speak- and silence – inability to speak!

I do not blame anyone for this. It’s a rupture that has happened because of an intersection of language politics, socio-economic condition etc. I myself am also to be blamed, partially, for not having utilized all my strength to work on my weaknesses and limitations. But at the same time, when I see Kannada medium schools being closed down and many children whose mother tongue happens to be Kannada being sent to English medium schools I feel that one should, in his or her younger age, made to learn- read, write and express, all in his or her mother tongue to avoid a rupture in the inner world of him or her. Because when wordless world is created then the loss, as I see, is two way. The subject however is not able to express, in his or her complete capacity and at once and at the same time it’s a loss to the world too because of someone’s world being wordless the world is at a loss of narratives, ideas, imaginations and thoughts, as the story telling ability is lost.

I believe that this is not just my story- of being torn apart between two languages and thus two worlds- and falling into the wordless world. It must be the story of many. But never have I heard this being discussed or mentioned or even observed by all the debaters of language. The debate and discussion mainly focus on “what will happen to the language?” or “what will happen to the next generation which is divorced from one particular language and has sold itself to the other?” and not much is spoken about the generation which got torn between these two languages at a turning point of history when this shift from one language to the other as a dominant mode of expression and tongue was happening. The story might remain unsaid because it is the world of the wordless. But that wordlessness is screaming, yearning for patient and compassionate ears.


  1. anilpinto said,

    What about the world of Urdu?

  2. Prajna Shastry said,

    yes, how did you access the Urdu world?

  3. Jayashree Prasad said,

    ಸಂವರ್ತ್, ನೀವು ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಬ್ಲಾಗ್ ಮಾಡಬಾರದೇಕೆ? I feel it will have much more impact and would make a more interesting read! Or are you already a kannada blogger which i may not be aware of?


  4. deepak said,

    waaaaw samvarha sir super…. present maadida style thuma esta aithu… nanduuuuu ade stithi.. somehow kaage hariskondu, comedy madkonu elli life smooth agi lead matha edene… kushiyAtu.. 🙂 all the best sir:)

  5. prateek said,

    honestly written. i understand the concern, but I also feel that this grappling for words could also make one creative…

  6. B A Viveka Rai said,

    ಸಂವರ್ತ,ನಿಮ್ಮ ಬರಹ ಈಗ ಓದಿದೆ.ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಷಿಗಿಂತ ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಬರೆಯುವುದು ನನಗೆ ಸುಲಭ.ಇದು ಮಾತೃಭಾಷೆ ಮತ್ತು ಕಲಿಯುವ ಭಾಷೆಗಳ ನಡುವಿನ ತೊಳಲಾಟವೇ ಆಗಿರಬೇಕಿಲ್ಲ.ನನ್ನ ಮಾತೃಭಾಷೆ ತುಳು,ಕಲಿತ ಮತ್ತು ಕಲಿಸಿದ ಭಾಷೆ ಕನ್ನಡ.ಆದರೆ ಬರವಣಿಗೆಗೆ ನನಗೆ ಕನ್ನಡ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಅನುಕೂಲ.ಮಾತಾಡಲು ತುಳು ಇಷ್ಟ.ನಮ್ಮ ಅಭಿವ್ಯಕ್ತಿಯ ವಿಷಯದ ಸೂಕ್ಸ್ಮಗಳೂ ಕೆಲವೊಮ್ಮೆ ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಕೆಲಸಮಾಡುತ್ತವೆ.ನಿಮ್ಮ ಗಜ್ಯಲ್ ಗಳಿಗೆ ಕನ್ನಡ ,ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಸ್ಗ್ ಗಿಂತ ಉರ್ದು ಬಹಳ ಪರಿಣಾಮಕಾರಿ ಇರುವಂತೆಯೇ ಭಾವನೆಗಳ ಭಾಷೆ ಮತ್ತು ತರ್ಕದ ಭಾಷೆ ಕೂಡ ಬೇರೆ ಆಗುತ್ತವೆ.ಮಣ್ಣು ಮತ್ತು ಸೋಯಿಲ್ ಒಂದೇ ಅಲ್ಲ ಎನ್ನುವ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಗ್ರಹಿಕೆಯೇ ಅನುವಾದ ನಮ್ಮ ಮನಸ್ಸಿನ ಒಳಗೆ ನಿರಂತರ ನಡೆಯುವ ಪ್ರಕ್ರಿಯೆ ಎನ್ನುವುದನ್ನ್ನು ಸಾಬೀತುಪಡಿಸುತ್ತದೆ.We translate ourselves at every moment .It is translation and transition simultaneously.That makes us creative.
    Viveka Rai B.A. .

  7. chetana Teerthahalli said,

    “The story might remain unsaid because it is the world of the wordless…” ಈ ಸಾಲು ಓದಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವಾಗ ನೋವಾಯ್ತು. ನಿಜ. ಪದಗಳಿಲ್ಲದ ಜಗತ್ತಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಅದೆಷ್ಟೋ ಕಥೆಗಳು ಹಾಗೇ ಉಳಿದುಹೋಗ್ತವೆ. ಸಾಹಿಲ್, ಇದು ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಶ್- ಕನ್ನಡ ಅಥವಾ ಯಾವ್ದೇ ಎರಡು ಭಾಷೆಗಳ ನಡುವೆ ಬೆಳೆದವರ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಅಲ್ಲ. ‘ಆಡಬಹುದಾದ/ ಆಡಬಾರದ’ ಮಾತುಗಳು ಅನ್ನುವ ವಿಭಜನೆಯ ನಡುವೆ ಬೆಳೆದವರ ಸಮಸ್ಯೆಯೂ ಆಗಿದೆ. ಅನ್ನಿಸಿಕೆಗಳನ್ನು ಜಗತ್ತಿಗೆ ಬೇಕಾದ ಭಾಷೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಹೇಳಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗದೆ ಹೋಗ್ತದೆ. ಇದಕ್ಕೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಬಲಿಯಾಗೋದು ಹೆಣ್ಣುಮಕ್ಕಳು ಮತ್ತು ಕೆಳತುಳಿಯಲ್ಪಟ್ಟ ವರ್ಗದವರು.
    ಈ ಬರೆಹ ಓದುತ್ತಾ, ‘ಬಾಲ್ ಗೆ ಇಂಗ್ಲೀಶಲ್ಲಿ ಏನಂತಾರೆ?’ ಅಂತ ಕೇಳಿದ್ದ ಕಸಿನ್ ನೆನಪಾದ. ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಶ್ ಸೊಗಸಿಲ್ಲದ, ಕನ್ನಡ ಕೆಟ್ಟದಾಗಿ ಬರೆಯುವ ಮಗನ ಮುಂದಿನ ದಿನಗಳನ್ನ ನೆನೆದು ಭಯವೇ ಆಗಿಹೋಯ್ತು. :-(.
    Thanx much for this writeup.
    ಮಿಸ್ ಆಗ್ಬಿಟ್ಟಿತ್ತು. thanx fr Sharing.
    (* ನನ್ನ ಮಟ್ಟಿಗೆ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಕನ್ನಡ – ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಶ್- ಹಿಂದಿ ಮೂರೂ ಚೆನಾಗಿದೆ. ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾತಾಡಿ. ನಿಮ್ಮ ಬರೆಹ ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಶ್ ನಲ್ಲೇ ಜಾಸ್ತಿ ಇರಲಿ. ನಂಗೆ ಹೀಗನಿಸೋದರ ಕಾರಣವನ್ನ ಬೇರೆ ಸ್ಪೇಸ್ ನಲ್ಲಿ ಹೇಳ್ತೀನಿ 🙂 )

  8. Ami Misra said,

    This piece reaches out to me Sir, poori tareeke se. You are absolutely right. Growing up in a big big city like Bombay, where while playing downstairs, as a child also, we spoke in English. Moreover, we were forced to write in Queen’s English. The way we were socialized, invariably we became amused/judgmental by/of regional accents and the vernacular.

    I feel horrible. Not only have I lost a form of feelings but I have also lost connections with so many ideas that struggle to actualize. I am still so conscious about my Hindi! We need to ponder over this idea.

    Beautifully worded Sir!

  9. Shashikantha K. said,

    Nice to see many responses Samvarta… and I should really commend your patience of maintaining a blog so consistently and nicely! I belong to a generation which went into Kannada medium of instruction and now teach English. But ‘tearing apart’, I think, is too strong an expression… As Prof. Rai points out, you are quite adept in Urdu. I suppose in all of us there are constant negotiations and give and take between these language worlds within ourselves; we use them as tools at different times for different purposes… and choice of language is a conscious act…

  10. Yuvaraj said,

    There is no language divide between so many living beings in the world.Only human beings are suffering with this language divide.I hope soon technology will soon “END” this language divide between people.Already we are able to see more and more dubbed films,cultures from so many languages around the world.That is a gift of technology.I don’t believe people who divide people in terms of Caste,Religion,Language,Color,Country or Even continents.ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE SAME WHO EVER THEY ARE OR WHEREVER THE LIVE.I think your problem with two languages is already over.Your write up in English is fine and we all are able to understand it and also grammatically correct as far as I know about English.I have studied only up to 10th Std+DME only but I am a regular reader of THE HINDU.(proud about this-Should I not?).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: