Minding their mother tongue

They had left their native place years ago for various reasons and settled down in Chennai, a city which they now call as their home. Yet, with the world celebrating the International Mother Language Day on Wednesday, several Chennaiites recall, with nostalgia, the efforts they put in to maintain connection with their mother tongue in the land of Tamil.
Minding their mother tongue
Illustration by Saai

Chennai

Over two decades ago, Leela Pal Chaudhuri Menon, a native of Calcutta, never realised the calling of the mother tongue till she moved away from her roots and came to Madras and ‘settled’ in here. 
But she believes she was ordained to reconnect with her mother tongue and it happened when she traced the cultural route through the Bengali associations during Durga Puja celebrations. “I attend the Puja celebrations and get my culture and language rush. This is especially important to me, as I am not married to a Bengali, so my Bengali discourse is limited to family conversations.” For Shefali Udani, an RJ, whose forefathers settled in the city more than six decades ago, her mother tongue, Gujarati, has fused with Tamil quite seamlessly. However, she says that being proficient in Gujarati was important for her, as that was the only connection she has with her forefathers. 
“What I speak at home is an amalgamation of Gujarati, Tamil and English; jokes apart, my spoken Gujarati is pretty good and that is only because my grandparents have always lived with us,” she said. 
With no possible bridge to connect Tamil and Hindi, Delhi-born Smita Shrivastava, who moved to the city a year ago, never misses an opportunity speak the language when she meets people who can converse in it—be it a cab driver or a cashier at the bank. “Or else, I always have Hindi songs and movies to listen and watch, or wait to speak over phone with my parents. I sorely miss speaking the language more often here because it is the language closes to my heart and it helps me express myself better,” she says.
Yusra Afshan, a researcher in the field of education, rues how she has lost touch with her mother tongue Urdu. “Although I learnt it when I was a child, I have lost touch over the ages. Now, I make it a point to read books in Urdu, while also ensuring that my daughter learns the language,” she said.

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