Some chained expressions…
My usual days begin with catching up on those last minutes of sleep, struggling my way through morning chores, fighting/loving/adoring my beloved parents and finally stepping out for work. Each day, the moment I get off the elevator, I see this aunty walking towards my building in her typically draped Maharashtrian style saree. She is a house help by profession and a happy soul by choice, at least it seems so. My set of unstated daily rituals include smiling at her and asking her whether she is keeping well or not.
Today, I happened to realise that this undefined relation that I share with her, drives me in ways that I can barely manage to comprehend. I didn’t know her name, I didn’t know where she stays, I didn’t know which house she works in, but I feel the need to ask “Kay maushi, tabyeet bari nah?” (How are you, aunty? Hope your health is well) every single morning. It’s beautiful to realise that I have an unselfish bond with someone. On days, I don’t feel the need to define us. But on days, not being able to call her my someone pricks my soul and on such days, I frantically go through multiple branded dictionaries just so my relationship with my maushi doesn’t go unacknowledged in the history of humanity.
Gets me to the real question, which is — Is English the best and the most preferred language to express oneself? For that matter, which language can be categorised as the most sought after way of communication? None, as far as I seem to be able to trace back. We, as a generation are surely trying to move towards inclusive living but are we really?
Every language, the most basic manner of communicating and expressing, discounts the existence of these unstated interactions and relations. We talk and mostly act in silos. Most of our communication is about ourself – how we are doing, how we are interested in how others are doing, how our opinion is different from the other person’s. Hence there has always been a need to define things from an individual’s perspective. Explains why the old yet super fit & swift lady, gracefully walking around in her Maharashtrian saree becomes my maushi but to the world, she still stands as a stranger to me.
It all takes me back to a bunch of similar conversations that I had with a dear colleague who had spoken about how language is restrictive and driven based on the events that occur in one’s life. I don’t just walk upto someone and rant about how nerve wrecking Mumbai traffic is, it’s essential to give a context for my experience to not sound any generic. So I put together a narrative about how I booked the cab while putting some eye make up for a quick morning meeting and got stuck in traffic which explains the rants. Similarly, there is no built up premise that establishes the concern I have for my maushi. Technically, every emotion that seems to stem from an illogical perspective is pushed under the ‘insaaniyat’ carpet coz that is the least language could do.
What we fail to acknowledge is the possible set of repercussions the act of not evolving with time and context could have. Like I have mentioned previously, the act of no representation will eventually lead to disregarding the existence of the same. Likewise, not representing the existence of a cordial relationship between two unknown individuals will only lead to not considering the need for such an affinity. Though my experience validates the above, accommodation of such a concept in a language could do wonders.
Digging deeper into the unseen boundaries language has drawn, I had very recently discovered the fact that a popular Indian language and a romanticised international language do not take into account the concept of gender differentiation. Bengali and Persian address every human, animal, possession or idea as a male, the language doesn’t have a female specification. The creators didn’t feel the need to distinguish back then but with time, contexts evolved and so did the purpose of language. Adding to the ways the world celebrates masculinity, it’s surprisingly funny for a language to be non-gendered and well, sexist. The act of filtering out two widely accepted and spoken languages based on a single gender’s point of view is equivalent to ridiculing half the population. If this is not restrictive, I don’t know what really is.
Madhavi Menon states in her book The History of Desires in India, “Sufi, a form of poetry in Persian has accorded a conventional privilege to masculinity in which God & devotee, both are grammatically deemed to be male.” This reinstates the popular theory of patriarchy, tightening the chains clung around the woman’s feet. How is having a language helpful if it puts half the population under such undefined miseries? The most expected argument to this could be the same undefined affinity that ‘insaaniyat’ seems to drive, but hey, I thought we were falling short on that which lead to subjects like humanities and social sciences being popularly accepted. How are we optimising a given mean of communication if we are not defying the predefined boundaries?
I would like to leave you all with a story. I had been to Hampi a few months back and experienced something that seems to validate everything I have tried to convey. Babu, a young chap, working at the home stay I was residing at sold postcards for some side income. Indians or rather most humans tend to brush up their English verbal skills the moment they spot the need to act professional and that’s exactly what Babu did too. He addressed most of my queries about Hampi in Hindi but the moment he spotted the opportunity to sell postcards to the tourist in me, his broken English came to his rescue. The very need for English was restricted to leaving behind a poise and aware projection of self which in itself dissolves the purpose of having a language. I do realise that no given language can be the most ideal, but the need to acknowledge the limitations will only help us widen the scope of serving the purpose.
Hit me up for taking this further, shall be more than happy to be criticised as well. Hope you had a good read