Friday, February 22, 2013

Reading in your mother tongue...!

As I checked the newsfeed on Facebook, I happen to see a newsfeed from Tulika that yesterday, February 21st was World Mother language day! This got me thinking, how important is one’s mother tongue in today’s world of inter-marriages and multiculturalism? With two or three languages being spoken in many urban households, is there one mother tongue? Does learning your spouse’s mother tongue throw up uncomfortable glances from your parents? Or even if you find a common ground in between two different languages, is it wrong to expect your little one to be well-conversant in the language you grew up speaking, while respecting your spouse’s similar expectations? Similarly, on a societal level, does holding on one’s mother tongue run risk of being branded as parochial or a regionalist? Is it wrong to break into your mother tongue with someone from the same region when in a mixed group? I for one, have a strong sense of attachment with my mother tongue Kannada and have no qualms in admitting that particularly the Kota dialect of Kannada, forms an important part of my identity. So much so, that I can proudly claim to have proselytized my husband’s family into conversing in our dialect of Kannada, at least while they interact with me or my son (since we all belong to the Kota Kannada community anyway!). With my pride in my mother tongue almost bordering on fanaticism, my son easily switches between dialects, speaking in Kota dialect with his parents and maternal grandparents and regular Kannada with his paternal grandparents. Well, I must say…he has learnt the art of balancing between his mother’s interests and the others’ quite early! "-)

In the background of World Mother Language day, I was on the look-out for a Kannada children’s book and I was surprised to find none in my personal library. So much for my love for the mother tongue, I was actually ashamed not to have picked any of bilingual series published by Tulika or Pratham publications. In fact even my recent buy of a bilingual book from Tulika was a English-Hindi version! Thankfully with the rest of my family being avid readers of Kannada literature, I picked up “Dinakondu Kathe” (One story a day) by the famous Kannada novelist Anupama Niranjan, a series which is compendium of over 365 stories for children drawn from sources all over the world. As I have mentioned earlier, title of my blog has been inspired by the “Dinakondu kathe” series that my mother used to read to me in what seems like a another era! Each book in the series is named after months of the Kannada calendar and this particular is the Ashwayuja Samputa of the “Dinakondu Kathe" series and features as many as 31 short stories on various themes and subjects, including history, “Tejpal”, or “Birbalige mosave?” (Has Birbal been cheated?) mythology “Dhruva”, Aesop’s fables “Kuruba matthu Tola” (Shepherd and the Wolf), children’s classics “Cinderella” moral stories “Mooru Amoolya Vasthugalu” (Three valuable things) etc. Abhay particularly liked “Kaage matthu Hooji” which is the famous fable of “The Crow and the Pitcher” and was excited to have me read to him in Kannada, which he studies as a second language in school. It was a trip down memory lane for me as I read some of the stories that my mom had read to me as a kid. So if your mother tongue is Kannada, this series is a great way to  introduce your little one to yours and undeniably his mother tongue too!

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