Caution: This post features events that could be termed violence and torture on the children in some culture & education system. Please refrain from reading if you are not used to reading such materials.
This is my 101st post on this blog. The last one was 100th, I expected there will be fireworks on screen and crowd will cheer up, someone will carry me on his shoulder and there will be celebrations. Nothing of that sort happened. Somewhere, I saw this coming, no splendid celebration, just another post to count 100. I even waited with a plan that I will post my 100th post to coincide with Sachin Tendulkar scoring his 100th ton, after first innings of 2nd cricket test match between India & Australia, I gave up on that too.
When I started blogging, I had grand plans. But, as with every plan there is lag, lag in this case is higher. It was a fantastic idea to summarize the journey; I took a look back and saw the subject and nature of posts going all over the places, like a wild cocktail of spirits, at an evening gone toot.
I started blogging, as I am devoted to writing and fond of English as a language. This romance for writing grew during school days; however this appreciation for English has a long story. By the time I accepted A for apple, B for ball, C for…, as true introduction of an Indian to English, I was already 09 years old. That was with my own consent, actual introduction predates it.
I was born in a Maithil Brahmin family, which thought of English as an express train leaving for success and a better life, beyond the ancestral farmlands and Sanskrit mantras and fish curries made from free fish that came from the small pond in the backyard of the house. So, as a child, I had a burden learning three different languages at a time – Maithili, Hindi & English. I was enrolled in the local government school along with my siblings. Again, this school had English as subject only when one reached sixth standard. I was a bit relaxed, it was relieving. But, my family had other plans; they hired a tutor who will give us lessons of mathematics and English, of course someone who was considered to be well educated but unemployed youth of village. Some of them left, seeking employment in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and elsewhere… new ones came, even they left, and then came another one. It continued. Of all the things, I had one feeling that was common towards all of them, I hated them. I hated them because they taught me English.
Before they taught us, A B C, D… they made memorize answers to following questions.
What is your name? What is your father’s Name? Where do you stay? Which school do you read in? In which class do you read in? And so on…
No, these were not any advanced lessons. It was a basic thing a child from a good family should know and understand. Answering these questions was a sign of bright child receiving very good education, at least in front of well dressed, good mannered, rich uncles, who lived in towns and cities and who came to village during holidays. With all these responsibilities, we started each morning ranting the questions and answers.
That was just for starters. The tutors, most of whom were ill tempered, maybe they were frustrated of not having a decent job will write 10-15 English words with meanings, assign 1-2 page from grammar book Angrezi Vyakaran, and another 1-2 pages from general knowledge books… Bharat Darpan. And this was in addition to the usual, addition, subtraction, multiplication assignments and multiplication tables to memorize. With all these assignments to be presented next morning, the morning tuition ended. In the hours that followed we will be ready for the school, which was fun as there was a lack of teachers and the teachers present will doze off after roll call. In the evening we will start again, reading aloud, ranting assignment, grammar, multiplication tables, making our every effort to commit to memory as we have been asked by the tutor in whatever light those lanterns could throw. With 3-4 of us ranting, it sounded like a chanting of Mantras at a Maha Yagya, like that of the chanting of Scholars who know Vedas by heart. Probably that is what our family wanted, ranting in English, not chanting in Sanskrit. Tired of the hard work we will yawn, will doze off, if it was not the smell of burning hairs (sometimes eyebrows) of one of my cousin, we would never know whether he was sleeping or silently poring over the book imbibing great lessons.
Yet another morning, the tutor comes. Mathematics, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, ok…I stammered with multiplication tables of 12 onwards. But, he will ask meanings of words that he gave yesterday, I do not know. I knew what to do. I spread my palms, outstretched my hands, the raw, green cane, came striking down on my palms. Two canes, one on each palms, I knew, I was relaxed, it was over, the word is over. Then, the next word and same was repeated. The canes will break, split away. He will take a new one. The same happened with parts of speech, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs… number, gender, person, case… and so on. The same things will get repeated tomorrow morning. Who care, I don’t, and I will see it tomorrow. In fact, the tutors never taught me pronouns, because I never moved away from nouns. If teaching English to a Brahmin boy was any conspiracy of the British, we were radicals, me and my cousin; we had the grit not to bow in front of any effort that will teach us English. You can’t force English on to us. So, for the countless numbers of canes, ugly tutors and English, I hated English as a language.
It was later, in the mid 1990s, when my father moved to lonely mountains in the Eastern Himalayas as a teacher in a government run school that I came across what could be defined as a partially English medium education system, where things were in English except for the medium of instruction. Although I was about to enter high school, I could hardly read and write because everything was in English. I was left with no other option but to pick up English as a favored medium. Thanks to the interactive nature of course material followed in those schools, I learnt to write more and worry less on the rules of grammar.
It was in the plains, on the banks of Ganga and around the ruins of Patliputra, the decay of suffocating growth which they called city, I came to realize that whatever language skills I have acquired so far, is more than average of an engineer, I was supposed to be. If it was not this place, I wouldn’t have understood the madness behind English in India. Here, I came across individuals and businesses that make millions, teaching people speak in English. They show them a dream or a promise that one day they will make them speak English better than the English do. Where banners, wall paintings, hoardings promise farratedaar (fluent) and dhurjhad (a local for fluent) English speaking within three months. No, they don’t have any program on writing. Writing in English is still elusive for the masses across India.
Then, came a phase of deterioration and amalgamation, which still continues; Kannada, Tamil, Telgu, Malyali, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujrati… I heard a lot and I travelled a lot. With all these languages around me, I maintained my loyalty to English and my mother tongue, Maithili. These not only affected my gastrointestinal functions and converted my taste buds multiple times; they influenced how I write English.
Today, I write, not for the sake of writing, not for the sake of English. I write for a greater purpose of telling a story about things that pleads my attention. Sometimes, I write to relieve the stress off my mind after a hectic schedule at work. It gives me a choice to record my thoughts and perspective, which in turn, provides a chance to evaluate the changes I have been through over the years and how it has affected my thought process. Moreover, I write because it keeps me engaged and make the best of solitude, which I feel, sometimes, working in faraway places. It helps me to maintain the creative pursuit.
And, I write in Angrezi… and it will continue.
2950+ words so far in 2012 on Barunjha’s Blog
© Barun Jha || 2012