A Beckon to the Call from Motherland
What does one’s language and one’s native land mean to one? S Kishore Rajaram reflects on his Tamil connect. Tamil, is one of the focal languages of ILF Samanvay 2015
One’s mother tongue has the ability to cast this strange spell that conjures up a feeling, spanning across time, distance, people, stories and texts. I can speak from my own experience during my self-imposed year long exile in Delhi, when once I curiously bumped into Tamil and rediscovered the meaning it held in my life. Right off the bat I’d like to clarify that there is no particularly strong regional fervour running through my veins. Then how am I to explain the sudden goosebumps and the grin that crept up on my face upon unexpectedly hearing some chance Tamil words slip out of some passersby when I first visited Karol Bagh, unbeknown to me at the time that this was one of those places in Delhi where one could find all the Tamil people in the city?
In my head it was as though my image of Chennai had unfolded itself. Strangely, at that moment, I felt like the ‘outsider’, being yet unaware of the jugaad of Delhi, and the ‘insider’ who held the key to this transient personal space. Perhaps the people thronging Gaffar Market were the ‘outsiders’ and I was the ‘insider’, although my body language at the time would have communicated quite the opposite. What I’m trying to hint at is the veritable bevy of emotions and possibilities of interpretation that intersection of cultures, and in this case specifically language, can produce. These very emotions and thoughts that had suddenly surfaced constitute the notion of ‘home’ that I carried with me, away from home. It felt as though someone had rung its doorbell with the sound of Tamil to open the floodgates of memory. A rapid succession of thoughts evoking a feeling of nostalgia swept over me. All of this simply triggered by an encounter with language itself that then unravelled a host of accompanying sights, sounds and smells. Was this a flash of what they call the “Tamil experience”? I’d like to think that somewhere in my mind there is still a place of hopeful innocence that can connect me to a primal place of basal human instinct and emotion, so I’d like to think not. Was it my home-starved mind playing tricks on my senses? Perhaps.
But either way it remains undisputed that cities hold within them very many hidden narratives that come from people mapping their identities onto the city’s fabric, often with language as primary tool. And when these narratives do collide with your own personal narratives enjoy the interplay that arises and the subsequent revelations. Anyhow, as I quickly jot these reflections while seated in a public bus trudging down the traffic-choked roads of Chennai, I hear an anna on the street hurling the choicest Tamil expletives. The frown on my face quickly twists into a wry smile. These would go down in the bylanes of memory and add a flash of colour to that mental image of my city. Until its next resurrection.