31 December 2014

Love languages, not fear them

My toddler's language skills are pretty advanced in both her mother tongues - Kannada and Bengali. I don't teach her English per se, but she has learned quite a bit of that, too, as there's always some English in the environment. That was the precisely the reason why I am not emphasizing on English at this point, because she cannot escape English and ultimately, she'll learn it.

I am concerned that she'll lose one of her mother tongues or both to English once she starts going to school, because I see quite a few young Indians today converse completely in English. If you talk to them in their mother tongue, they do understand, but the reply is in English.

I was recently told that I do need to teach her English or else it may hurt her admission opportunities to schools. Learning language for opportunistic reasons doesn't sound that great to me, though I am aware that quite a bit of language learning is opportunistic and language teaching in itself is a huge business.

Still, there is a difference between learning languages because you're curious about it, the culture, or the people who speak it, and learning something just because you want to advance your business or fear that you may be left behind if you don't learn it.

Language is a lot about curiosity. That's the only way children learn about new words, when they keep asking 'what', 'why', and 'how. And of course, by listening to all the language around them.

There could be nothing better than learning about another culture and I don't think this can be intimately done without speaking the language of that culture. And, power languages like English can easily ruin this process of discovery. Well, only if you let them.

I studied in an English-medium school and use English for work and personal expression, as in this blog. But I was also among the few students in my class who were comfortable in their mother tongue, too. I have never written professionally in Kannada and that could be the reason I perhaps don't feel as confident in it, but that's just a matter of practice.

I have always loved reading Shivaram Karanth, Jayanth Kaykini, to name a few Kannada authors. In my mind, there is no power equation between English and Kannada, but I am aware that it exists. That's why I am saddened when I see a lot of young Kannadigas grow up completely detached from a beautiful and diverse culture, inspite of being physically located in it. And, this is true for a lot of other young Indians. Often, they do not know how to count beyond 10 or 50 in their language.

Parents are a child's first connection with their culture and their language. So, they do have a responsibility to introduce children to their roots and keep the connection going. This can be done in a fun way by introducing them to rhymes, stories, or children's movies in their languages. With a lot of Indian language content now moving online than before, this isn't particularly tough to do. Publishers like Pratham Books are also a good source.

Learn languages because you love them, because you're curious about the world like a child is. Or maybe, come home to your own language. 

24 December 2014

The Kashmir vote

The thing with fractured mandates is this. Ultimately, everything becomes a numbers game and to hell with people's aspirations. Omar Abdullah's flippancy on TV yesterday wasn't particularly enjoyable. It's a polarized vote, but even such polarization comes to naught when the BJP has to go to bed with frenemies. So much for the Hindu vote and Muslim vote. But I hope the Kashmiris don't have to prove their allegiances any more, given the numbers in which they voted.

05 December 2014

An okay for a medical test in rape case seems like a huge leap for justice

Update on 12 December 2014: Swami's DNA has matched with that found on the clothes submitted by the rape victim.   Will try to post a link to this news in English soon. 

Raghaveshwara Swami was accused of rape in the last week of August. The Karnataka HC today okayed his medical test, which is one of the first steps to be carried out in a rape case. For those not in the know, please see my post here that recaps the events in this case till about mid-October.

From the start of the case, the rape victim and her family have undergone an unbelievable ordeal. Why unbelievable? Because, no rape victim since Nirbhaya has perhaps had to face such a witchhunt as she and her family has. Most recently, the newspaper Kannada Prabha hit under the belt by publishing a 'leaked' forensic report of the clothes the victim had submitted. The paper said it found the semen of two men on her clothes, and not one, as she had submitted. You see where this is going. 

But at the same time, they also said they couldnt find the woman's DNA on the clothes. Now you cant see where this is going. That's okay, you dont know how to write up fake reports.

The Swami had questioned the provisions of the Indian Penal Code that state that medical tests need to be carried out on rape accused. His grounds were that such tests violated his rights of privacy. Yes, you read it right. This happened in modern day Karnataka.
Yet, despite everything, today there is fresh hope. Yes, despite the silence of big media, politicians, the chief minister, women's rights groups(?). Despite the apathy of the apoliticals, the taunts and insults of the rabidly faithful.