Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Tune to Delight

Almost a decade and a half ago, one night, a folk song was being telecast on the National Channel of India and it stuck in my mind and on my tongue. Its theme was,”You didn’t have lemon, nor did you have tamarind, what fruit did you eat that your child is so beautiful?"  To keep this song going, one can add the names of all the different fruits that the mother may have eaten. This song is actually a conversation between the mother of a new born and her sister-in- law about the new born child. The fugitive meaning of this song, which isn’t that difficult to decipher, is that the mother didn’t have anything that would make a child beautiful, yet gave birth to this beautiful child, and how? After listening to this song, I would sing it to my Aunty, exactly at a time, when she was among her colony friends and chatting of this and that. When she heard me singing this song, she would take off her slippers and throw them at me, shying away from her friends and saying, as if in explanation, “This kid is very naughty”. Actually it is a folk song and people sing it after the child is born.

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One day, we were all set to start a street play in a village near Ayodhya. The entire village had gathered. It was evening and darkness was dawning upon us, ready to ruin our set up as there was no available electricity connection and we had to arrange lights and everything. We were trying to get electricity from a streetlight pole anyhow, so we could start the show. It was my responsibility to hold the attention of the crowd till we got the electricity and started the play. And then I saw a lady holding her new born tightly to her chest. I don’t know what came in to my mind at that moment that made me pick up my mouth organ and begin singing that song. I kept adding every fruit that came into my mind at that time.  After two or three lines, the entire crowd began singing after me. I was looking at the lady whose cheeks turned pink every time a new line and a new fruit were added.  When the song ended, I saw tears in her eyes, may be because of the joy of becoming the mother of such a beautiful child, maybe I gave her some happiness. When people were dangling me on their shoulders, I was wondering if there’s any pleasure, any joy, better than this.
Translated by Rahul, Edited by Sweta, Final proof by Scharda

A Tongue for all Terrains

My last biking trip was around 1500 kms long. Alone, being my own sole companion. I went biking from  Ayodhya to Sarnatha  to Baksar-Ara and Patna. And then from Patna to Gaya to Nalanda and Rajgir. My last destination was Bodhgaya, where I went to see the temple of Lord Buddha. Before my journey began, I decided not to speak in Hindi anywhere. I used Awadhi- my mother tongue, to converse. When I shared this experience with my friends, who do not belong to my state, Uttar Pradesh or the one where my trip unfolded- Bihar, they simply wondered. But I found that while I traveled from mountains to the plains of UP-Bihar and also in Madhya Pradesh, that people easily understand Awadhi. At all the places I travelled on my bike last time, no one asked, “What did you say?”.

One of my friends told me that it might be the effect of the Ramcharitmanas (a famous Indian epic), but I don’t think that's true because the language used by Tulsi Das (the man who wrote it) is not pure Awadhi. Or, from a different perspective, we can conclude  that his language has never really been used in the Awadh region by anyone. It is all mixed with Sanskrit. When we talk about epics written in Awadhi, only Malik Mohammad Jayasi used pure and authentic Awadhi. Sometimes I wonder  what must have been in the mind of Mr. Jayasi that he wrote an epic on the Queen of Chittor (now in Rajasthan, the desert part of India),  sitting in Amethi, which belongs to the Indian Northern Plains, far away from Chittor. Surprisingly, not many people know that Awadhi is often used in Pakistan.  And people in Surinam, Holland, Mauritius understand it too! One of my Surinami friends told me that they speak a mix of five north Indian languages and Awadhi is one of them. He doesn’t know the pure Awadhi poet Mr. Jayasi, but he said that Ramcharitmanas of Tulsi is one of the most read books in his country. He thinks that Hindi- the national language of India, is an encroachment. He says that he uses a  mix of five languages and sometimes puts in some Dutch and Creole words for local needs. Putting Hindi words will get quite confusing for people because then that’ll become a whole new language. He was sad about the fact that people in his place have started using Hindi words in his 150 year old language -Surinami Hindustani. After all these experiences, I wonder if I should be sad for my language- Awadhi.
Translated by Rahul, Edited by Sweta, Final proof by Scharda