During the recent controversy about the alleged imposition of Hindi and Sanskrit by the central government, I was mostly on the fence. While I strongly oppose forcefully stuffing anything down our throats, be it rotis or a language, I see absolutely nothing wrong in giving people a choice of languages to learn.The more the better. When I joined school, Hindi as a second language was allowed only for children who had parents with transferable jobs. So I was stuck with Tamil. I started learning Hindi again at the ripe old age of twenty, but by then my brain had shut the gates. Ek gaon mein ek kissan raguthaathaa. It now takes me superhuman effort to read or even compose a single Hindi sentence in my head before I speak and that was one of the main reasons I hated my Noida days.
But in school, I detested Tamil. It was the subject of my nightmares and it was the only subject I actually failed in once. Always having been in the top group of my class, that less-than-40-marks shame is a shame I still haven’t recovered from. I breezed through my tenth standard exams with my cousin reading the chapters out loud to me. The Anglo Indian syllabus was a cakewalk. But I struggled with the State Board for the next two years and I still don’t fully understand how I even got through with respectable marks. Also, that was the phase when Tamil was considered uncool. So in the end, I’ve totally lost out on a language and the rich literature that it offers.
No, it is not that I cannot read Tamil. I read the newspapers and magazines. I read three page long horoscopes every Sani and Guru peyarchi. But I’ve somehow always had a mental block when it came to reading a whole novel or a whole short story or even a blogpost.
When I was nineteen, I dug into my uncle’s collection and pulled out this book. Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal by Jayakanthan.He shook his head and said that I wasn’t old enough to read it. Hah. At nineteen? Old fashioned uncle. Now if that taboo wasn’t something to motivate a nineteen year old , what else will. So I took the book home. I even found out what the story is about. Unfortunately, it still languishes on my bookshelf , unread. Later, a crush tried to introduce me to Sujatha and sent me the entire collection in pdf format. But turned out I wasn’t crushed enough and I couldn’t bring myself to read any of those even to impress him. Even the pulp fiction that I was curious about, I only read the English translations very recently.
But now, I’ve taken up the challenge.This Aadi perukku, someone referred to Vandiya Devan on Twitter. My mother too, a Ponniyin Selvan junkie usually refers to the book every Aadi perukku. I was surprised to see that so many people, the younger generation, the kidsthesedays, reading this book and making references to it. I feel quite left out. I tried the audio book, it didn’t work for me. The excerpts from the English translation made me scream in frustration.
So I have decided. I’m almost done with my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 52 books in 2014. Probably the only New Year Resolution that I have successfully kept up in my life ever. It is time for a new challenge. Let me take baby steps and start off with the first book of Ponniyin Selvan. Target: Finish it by Dec 2014. And if I finish it earlier, I’m going to treat myself with something sinfully good.
And when I’m done, maybe I will pick up Sila Nerangalil Sila Manidhargal and finish it. And then send a message to my uncle who is up there. I’m old enough now, maama. I was old enough even back then. This isn’t as scandalous. This is 2014, you know. Not the eighteen hundreds.