When you are a child, you are besotted by grown-up ambitions. You look at a bus conductor and notice that tickety-tick ticker in his hand and you want to be a bus conductor simply because you love that sound. You notice the careless abandon of a sugarcane juice guy and you want to set up your own shop someday. You observe how Sachin lifts his MRF bat in front of the camera and you want to be him. You are sometimes intrigued by the people in your family and want to emulate them as soon as you grow up. Very rarely we see a child blossom into an adult carrying the same magnetic attitude towards life they once held when they were tinier and more vulnerable. Teenage is meant to deliver us towards a more practical self.
I was different.
At a very young age, I wanted to write and was keenly interested in improving my handwriting because I thought one needs to produce good-looking words to be accounted as writer. As a matter of fact, my handwriting got only better after I decided for myself that I want to be a writer of some sorts. It’s a different story altogether that I barely write nowadays; I type as do millions of other wannabe writers in the world.
Irony thy name is modernity.
Insofar, it was obvious to me that English was the language that would travel the farthest. But that didn’t mean my childhood, or the growing years, were deplete of other languages. We spoke Tulu at home and our neighbours spoke Tamil so I ended up being fluent in both. Since we were already learning English, Hindi and Marathi at school, my mother (amma) wanted us (my brother and me) to learn Kannada too. I later studied Urdu for a short while.
However, in the back of my head, even as a boy, English was more important than any other language. I literally slept with a dictionary. My favourite pastime during school days was randomly opening the Oxford/Webster dictionaries and learning new words everyday.
The benefits of multilingualism can’t be exaggerated though. Every language helps you explore a part of humankind that would have been left unattended otherwise. There is a reason why certain words and phrases and jokes can’t be translated with utmost justice: you fail to translate because some emotions can’t be easily delivered in foreign words. Perhaps I understood early enough and tried to imbibe my so-called vernacular understandings into my English writings.
The end result: bona fide pathetic poems.
I don’t know why but I thought I was a poet trapped in the body of a writer. Hence, dabbled for some years in verses, before realizing my folly, and diving head-first into the world of prose.
Better saved than never.
However, to this day, the poetic streak in me continues. And what’s worth acknowledging is my childhood conditioning of absorbing non-English elements onto my English canvas. Maybe that’s why my prose tends to be nostalgic and unabashedly existential. And maybe that’s also why I can easily navigate—despite my bad enunciation—through puns in different languages.
Let me give you two examples.
During the height of Hindi Imposition on social media, I wrote that Tamil people can’t understand what the prime minister is saying and they must be thinking to themselves: “Yen NaMo solrange.” [“No idea what he is saying.”] Got me a lot of pity laugh online.
If nothing else works out, I’d set up a restaurant that serves only Punjabi food. And given the scale of germs found on them, this place won’t feature menus at all. Everything would be online there. Guess what I would name this place. Menu Ki?
Sorry. I got carried away with my multilingual strides.
On the brighter side, I continue to write poetic lines in Hindi but in Roman script, not because I’ve got anything against the beautiful Devanagari script, but because I enjoy fusing a bit of English here and there. Perhaps you might end up liking some of these –
Chhaon khushi jaisi hoti hai, dhoondne niklo to mil hi jayegi.
Budhapa dastak deti thi pehle. Ab toh darwaza hi tod rahi hai.
Aap ke jhooth mein bhi sachchai chhupi hui hai.
Chess mein haar-haar toh lagi rehti hai.
Naye problemo mein woh baat kahaan jo puraane problemo mein hai?
Hone ko tera ho hi jaata, lekin khwaabon ka thikaana kahaan hota hai?
Koi dukh ke saath jee raha hai toh koi dard ke saath.
Mausam aisa hai ki na toh kapde sookh rahe hain aur na hi dil ke ghaav.
Solo trip par log poore din sote hai?
Duniya chalti hai unn logon se jo iss duniya ko samajhte hain.
Bhavishya mein hamara future achha dikh raha hai.
Fokat mein entertainment milta hai, enlightenment nahi.
Zindagi aur gandagi mein bas kuch galtiyon ka darmyaan hai.
Raat ke sannate mein har shehar kuch alag hi boli bolta hai.
Aadmi jitna bhi naach le, rehta bandar hi hai.
Subah subah apne aap se ubarne mein waqt lagta hai.
Iss shehar mein sab victimhood ke pyaase hai.
Neend bas jaa rahi hai, aa nahi rahi.
Aise hi aadat lag jaati hai apne kismat ko sehen karne ki.
Zindagi lambi aur yaddasht chhoti ho rahi hai.
Jo bhavishya ko apnate hai, unhi ka aaj hai.
Siyasat ke khel mein ilzaam bhi hai aur inaam bhi.
Ab hum same page par hai aur yeh page aansuon se bheeg raha hai.
Kuch phoolon ko pata hi nahi murjhaate kaise hai.
Kuch log baaton baaton mein apni khamoshi bata dete hai.
Pyaar marta nahi, sookh jaata hai.
Kisi ne sahi kaha tha. Sabhi galat hai.
Language se poetry nahi hai, balki poetry se language hai.
Dost kam ho lekin available ho toh kaafi hai.
Waqt lagta hai chhoti soch ko badi hone mein.
Social media par sab ka jhoot nikhar kar aata hai.
Sabhi dukhi hai. Koi duniya se toh koi apne-aap se.
Kiski jeet nishchit hai — achhai ki ya achhe logon ki?