I am lucky to have friends who make me think and expose me to new lines of thought…invaluable in my book.
Once such friend from the days of yore no less, shared this article with me recently and it beautifully encapsulates a large part of who I am in life.
I am a Bengalee by birth. Born in the motherland and lived there for all of 5 months. Thereafter it’s been a nomadic existence, largely spanning the northern and western part of India before the southern part became a permanent fixture almost 14 years ago.
Married a guy who’s had a solid South-indian small town upbringing; and have a kid who doesn’t embrace either of his cultural or linguistics legacies much and is entirely his own person with the language he prefers to communicate in and the food he chooses to eat and how he wants to live.
When I was growing up, schools weren’t that much of a head-scratcher for my parents. English medium was a given, co-ed or all girls wasn’t a criterion to be factored in…it just happened if one got enrolled in such a school. What was a preference was a convent school from the standpoints of discipline and learning propah English…it was propah only in terms of syntax and composition, accents in the Indian subcontinent are a whole different ball game and I have never come across a “neutral” accent while I was a student. And what’s fun in being neutral anyhow?
Anyhoo…fast forward to circa 2014 and Red and I were drawing up lists for our kid’s entry into a proper grade school. I cross referenced distances he would have to travel with tuition fees, school curriculum and also by how the schools fared in the rankings taken up yearly by well-known periodicals and publishing houses.
Why did I do all this? Well apart from wanting to be comfortable in my mind about making the right decisions for him, I had the freedom to choose and therein lies part of the problem or the “problem of plenty” as my mother is wont to pronounce every now and then as she takes stock of our lives.
We aren’t rolling in it. We aren’t hard up. We have enough-ish (because when is it really enough after all?). And as a result I get to choose something which will cater to my single-language-speaking, gadget-loving, reptile-obsessed child who needs a good, strong academic foundation without regimentation.
And on he went to mingle with similar kids for 8 hours a day for the last 3 years…these kids who comprehend their native tongues, or one of their parent’s native tongues but reply solely in English. These kids whose idea of ancient encompasses the cartoons of my childhood which aren’t passe thanks to the trend of retro being chic.
Comic Cons, speaking accented Hindi or any other Indian language and looking googly-eyed at anyone attempting to speak any other language apart from French or Spanish and you have our Gen-Z’ers. And we mold them into this kind of life by not necessarily insisting on adherence to any specific customs, languages or lifestyles. Theirs is a smorgasbord of experiences that we lay out and have them feast at will.
And while I don’t regret it; am wistful for the silliness I don’t get to indulge in with my child by speaking to him in my native tongue. I had these hopes of my mother reading to him, the same stories she read to me when I was a child and him experiencing a bit of my life via those similar experiences but that didn’t happen.
So we did Jack and the Beanstalk. We did Panchatantra with Winnie the Pooh when the animal phase was in full bloom, we did Goldilocks and 3 Little Pigs but didn’t do Vikram-Betaal because he seemed more Geronimo Stilton than Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha.
And yet there’s till time. To add more items to the menu. Maybe give him a little nudge when it comes to picking them, the same way I transmit my “eat your vegetables” look at him when choosing his dinner items…but there’s still time and here’s to hoping one day when I speak to him in my native tongue he’ll speak back in the same language instead of nodding at me or saying, “You got it dude!”