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Seeking Roots

I don’t know if I have bored you with the same rhetoric earlier. May be I had, and as is my habit, I did not commit to what I proposed. That’s me.

I am not sure if this time I would be able to honour my commitment, I guess I will be. For it is coming from the genuine depth of rootlessness that I am writing this now, sitting at the office, listening to the intoxicating sound of heavy rains.

I am committing myself to writing in Bengali, my mother tongue.

For writing in any language, the literary type, you have to have that command. I can understand the plight of the Indian writers writing in English. Most of them, except a few, are educated in an English medium school and have no knowledge of their mother tongue. They cannot write in their mother tongue even if they want to. For all I know, Indian languages are far more complicated than English. Even if one is fluent in speaking it, it needs skills to try and write in it.

I am a sensitive guy. I am compelled to write my feelings almost everyday. But the tragedy is that for the last few years, the idea of connecting to an international audience had struck me. I was almost hypnotized and day dreamed of becoming a global ‘author.’

But I guess, you can forgive me for that wishful thinking. I was just very young and like any other young man, had aspirations above the potential.

I have a workable English language skill. I can write news stories perfectly well and fast and can communicate what I saw and what I need to communicate to my audiences. But when it comes to communicating the feeling, I can never do that with my poor knowledge of English language.

I talked to my editor that day about what is lacking in my approach to writing stories, about our project … what he said was bang on. You need 10,000 hours of practice to master any craft. That would turn out to be at least three hours of practice for over a decade.

I am sorry. I don’t have that time with me. I have spent at least 5,000 hours practicing stories in Bengali.

The basic structure is there, I can write stories as I think I want to write. When I write in English, I have perfect control over my subject. I don’t have control over my language. The language is what is pulling me from getting a perfect nirvana in my art. I cannot communicate the beauty, smell and touch in English which I can easily write in my mother tongue.

What the heck, my Bengali was sweet once upon a time. I was a regular in magazines! I had even my poetries published! Where is that language now?

I have lost 75% of that skill worshiping a language in which I don’t think. I still and will continue to think in Bengali before translating it in English.

What precious waste of time!

It depresses me now knowing that I have ignored my sweet Bengali. But looking back at it, I find it perfectly useful. English is how I will earn my bread. I needed to know the language to be faithful to my profession of choice. My continuing endeavor will be to master it further.

But my mother tongue is something that would earn my creative satisfaction. I need to nurture that like before, when I used to dream of writing regularly in those prestigious Bengali magazines.

So, what is in store for you? No more tortures from my side. Only when I would feel like writing some impromptu stuff in English, creative or mundane, I will surely heed the call.

Did I miss saying that you were the ones for this much of improvement in my English? It was horrible when I was fresh out of university and started writing non-text book stuff in English.

I thank you all my dear friends, thanks for enriching my writing skills in my acquired language and thanks for gently guiding me to the right usage of a word whenever I faulted.

Did I disappoint you Ian? Are you feeling dejected and betrayed? For you spent hundreds of hours editing my copies and re-writing those to make it proper English! Kindly forgive me. The idea is not to cheat you.

I have realized the futility of connecting to an international audience. Writing has become a much more sacred ritual to me than what it was before. When it is the question of religion, please allow me to worship my God my own way.

Please allow me to go back to my roots. I am as proficient in my mother tongue as you are in yours.

When I was in school, my Bengali teachers taught me to write, when I was in crisis, fjam taught me to stick to my passion and when I was sure about my passion, you taught me how to achieve perfection in pursuing it. My dear Ian, your influence in my life is much much more than instructions in English.

It’s a larger scheme of things, over and above the language. It’s about the subject itself. It’s about the thought process, the same neurotic vibes, blessings of the muse, that you and I both receive the same way. You taught me how to capture those and how to celebrate that. Your greatest gift to me was that.

Just that, our ways of putting it in paper will be different from this point.

Comments

Vincent said…
As you say you have spent 5,000 years writing in Bengali. This is quite an achievement, as I have a suspicion that 5,000 years ago, your native language had not yet split off from the original Sanskrit. I am also not sure of the ethics of including in our resumes the achievements of previous incarnations.

That apart, your decision sounds right to me and your stories can be translated into English by experts. I'm glad to be relieved of responsibility for editing.
ghetufool said…
i have changed it hours from years. don't pull my leg like this.

which proves, you still need to check my copies. enough said.
Shuv said…
more than 375ml when u wrote this??
Anando Rocks said…
Finally you have shown some mercy on your poor readers. Thanks and please stick to your new found wisdom.
ghetufool said…
@shuv,
i wrote it when it was till 25ml.

@anando,
thanks for your encouragement.
pip squeak said…
Writing Bengali is a luxury most of us can't afford anymore, so I am surprised you are still at it...

Or is Bombay as dense a jungle for Bengalis as they say?

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