A couple of months ago, a friend lent me a play script penned down in Hindi. It was a classic titled Andhon Ka Haathi, a political satire by (late) Sharad Joshi; a renowned writer whose works I had read as part of school assignments. Perhaps, the last time I had ever read anything in Hindi. So, when the tiny book landed in my hands, I was excited. The same night, I ticked off all the boxes for the perfect reading experience — switched on the bedside lamp, put the mobile on silent and away, and made myself a cup of Hibiscus tea. I was ready to romance the yellow dog-eared pages.
But, within just a few minutes and barely any pages down, I found myself struggling. It took me time to get a grasp of the words. I was missing the pace of reading, comparing it when I read in English. Every now and then, I was halting at words, wondering what they meant. Nevertheless, I did read the script in its entirety the same night. I relished the experience, I told my friend, who by the way went ahead and directed, produced, and staged a full-length play on the classic. The show received a lovely response from the Hindi-speaking Dubai audience, suggesting there was something that many of us had been missing.
I confess the whole exercise of reading left me feeling restless. I began to wonder, why don’t I read in Hindi anymore? The fact that books in Hindi aren’t easily available in Dubai can’t be the only reason. There’s always Amazon. Am I forgetting the language, widely spoken in India (especially Northern India, my land of belonging)? But, I do converse in it. I am a big fan of Bollywood films and my current playlist to suggests my love for the language. Yet, I can’t recall the last time I stopped at a listicle titled Season’s Best Sellers in Hindi. Or picking up a pen to write in the language, even my name.
There is a certain distance that’s come in between the language and me. Can I bridge the gap with ease, maybe not? Can I write in the language, maybe not? I don’t think in the language, anymore. At times, of course, I come across a verse in Hindi that stays with me for days, weeks. But then there’s something I can do — once a while, I can attempt to devour the language, the written words. For, the essence of a language truly lies in words — the written words. For sadly, languages become alien when we stop reading in them.
I don’t know what language you speak, but I hope every now and then, you indulge (even as you struggle) in words in your mother tongue, or the language you grew up with.