And now for something completely different.
When I was at that age when reading suddenly became an indefatigable hunger, I began to consume anything and everything that came close to me. If I understood it – and my comprehension skills were growing each day – I would read it. While the small, local library was good to keep me entertained for a while, eventually their stock would feel too sparse and I would be left feeling the need to read more. A majority of the books we had at home were in Marathi, my mother tongue. Like most children going to schools where the medium of teaching was English, my Marathi was rather basic. But when I began devouring books in the language – first out of helplessness, then curiosity, and later because why not? – I became more and more comfortable with the language, taking pride in my extensive vocabulary.
I’ve been in the US for nearly nine years. With time, my speaking Marathi has taken a setback, and moreover, my reading speed has slowed down immensely. So I was hesitant to begin reading the book my parents mailed to me. Most Indians my age might know Priya Tendulkar, daughter of famous playwright Vijay Tendulkar, actress and activist. Knowing my interest in women’s literature, my parents sent me this short story collection - Jave Ticha Vansha (I will try to update with a translation of the title.) Consisting of eight short stories, all (except one) from the point of view of women – Tendulkar’s collection is heart-wrenching, tender, and poignant. Because her writing style flows so easily, I didn’t have too much trouble reading. The stories had the ability to pull me in, and I finished the book in three days (which is a record of sorts, for me). Tendulkar writes from many women’s perspectives, of relations between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and of issues that can only arise in typical Maharashtrian middle-class families. The familiarity she evokes is gratifying. The stories are ridden by one similar theme however: the unhappy wife, the dissatisfied woman. Maybe that’s a reflection of Tendulkar’s own life also.
I will always think of English as my first language. But Marathi is the language of my family and I hope never to lose touch with it. Are any of you like me, trying to keep the memory of another language? What do you do to ensure you stay connected? And if you, like me, hold pride in knowing multiple language, let me just say, the pride is totally worth it.