Nidhi Srivastava Asthana’s essay is a thoughtful insight into the mesmerizing world of languages. It makes you smile, it makes you think, and leaves you awestruck.
We were at an Indian cultural event in Germany. A Czech man, whose face has completely faded from my memory, approached us and said hello in flawless Hindi. So far so good. The problem started when the level of his Hindi did not sync with ours. The language we spoke at home and in which we said things such as ‘You are bloody annoying’ was the tongue he had chosen to study formally at Banaras Hindu University. And it showed. While we had been busy saying ‘I am hungry’, he had probably been analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of Mahashweta Devi’s stories. We were capable of a similar exercise, but would have to do it in English! It was fascinating, yet not disturbing, at that point in time, not to be able to understand some of the very academic things he said in his Sanskritized Hindi. But there would come a time when my linguistic no-man’s-land, which now accommodates lakhs of Hinglish speakers, would bother me.