I remember a cousin of mine laughing at me, taunting me, once when I was around 10 or 11. This happened when her family was visiting us in Bareilly. See, she was an army brat. Had traveled all over the country. Always, and I mean always, spoke in English, watched English shows, read English books and listened to English songs.
Up until then the only English music I had heard was ‘Brazil’ by Vengaboys, and that’s only because it played at a wedding I attended.
So, back to the scene. We were all planning to rent a movie. Stuart Little was the new film on the block and I really wanted to watch that cute little talking mouse.
But alas! The shopkeeper did not have the Hindi dubbed version with him at the time. I remember the words clearly till date: “Why do you need a Hindi version? Can’t you understand English?”
More than a decade later, that incident, and many on the same lines that followed, still haunt me. I have now travelled the world. I have a degree in English Literature and an MBA from one of the country’s most reputed colleges, but I still feel that that is inadequate.
I am doing well on all fronts of my life but I feel I will always be lagging somewhere. Even now, when I am hanging out with friends, some of them mention all the books and comics that they read as a kid. And I have nothing to contribute to that conversation. I had to make reading my passion, I had to get involved with English music and shows because it’s not something that came naturally to me. It wasn’t the first language that I learned, not even the second. In fact it was a language that I feel I fully understood way later in life than people around me did.
Whose fault is that? I never heard the language around me while growing up. None of my family members or friends ever spoke English. We didn’t even have English channels on cable in the small town that we lived in. How do you overcome a scenario like this?
You don’t. At least not while you are still a kid. You wait till you grow up and are able to make life decisions for yourself, like what books to read, what movies to watch and what you eventually want to do with your life.