The family moved to Hyderabad. Far away from a known language and culture. Far away from roots. Everything’s new. School. Climate. Neighbourhood. Everyone speaks a different language. Thankfully, some folks speak Hindi. I get by. And it happens soon enough; I learn to speak and understand Telugu. I can’t read or write it, but I don’t care much. As long as I am able to say, “it’s my turn for batting” and “let’s meet tomorrow at the same time”, all is well. We spent five years in Hyderabad. When we were transferred out, I was fluent. Spoken. Not written.
Cut to 2016. Circa a few months ago.
Bengali or Bangla is one of the sweetest language that man has ever created. My parents learnt this language a long time ago. And I guess they were good at it. None of their language learning books survive. The yellowing moth-eaten Bangla novels, neatly covered in brown paper by my father, are witness to the progress that my parents made in learning this language. They have become delicate with age, and I am often amused with the reverence with which I handle them.
On my own, I have been discovering the literature of this land, yet it comes to me, second-hand. Some are well-translated, some, ah, well, let’s not talk about them. I’ve heard my Bangla friends speak, and the sounds are laced with the beauty of innocence. It would be good, to be able to speak like that. It would be good, to learn the language, for I already feel the beauty of it. Not that all experience of beauty requires expression, but I am greedy for the experience of that expression.
So I begin. This time, I shall learn a language so that I can read, write, speak, and understand.
As soon as I am on the third row of practicing the first six vowels of the language, I am already petrified. I am untimely scared of how ugly my Bangla handwriting is. Yes, this is the first time I have written these letters. Yes, I am scared. I am copying from a stroke-cheat-sheet that I found online. Bangla letters too, are artistic. There are soft curves and sharp angles that are fused; topped with flourishes that challenge left-to-right writing. Of course, I have no intention of my Bangla handwriting to look like a system font, but I would like that I get the proportions right. My mother, when she writes in Marathi, has the most decorative flourishes, she tends to swash the last letters of a word, as if they were curious tendrils.
That this script is artistic, it follows that you need a light hand, and a manoeuvrable grip; like an artist holding a brush. Akin, perhaps, to when you write in Japanese. But here I was, like a five-year-old, pressing hard, writing slowly, reverse-embossing the page below. I remembered the time when I was in 3rd, my teacher asking me to write n and r twenty times each, so that they would look different (We used to write cursive, but I used the non-cursive r). One of the slowest days in my life. If I remember well, I made it a point to inward-tendril-ise the end of the r for that imposition. It didn’t work for me, however; later I adopted the cursive r and it has been my ally since, against misinterpreting the n for the r.
Early days still, for my Bangla handwriting. First I need to learn the language. I think I’ll worry about the handwriting a little later.