I live in a country where my language is not really appreciated. And by “my language” I mean English. Perhaps I am one of the very few Indians who may be called an Anglophile in the truest sense of the term. I live, breathe, dream, love and create in English. Since childhood, no other language has appealed to me with such intense passion. And in this journey of my romance with English, I am rather solitary. Very few people around me appreciate this language. To most Indians it is a means of getting a job. It is means of putting bread and butter on one’s table. It is simply a means of acquiring a generous bank balance. But the language is not to be loved, worshiped or even admired. It is demeaned quite often with the tag of “colonialism” pasted upon it by self professed “intellectuals” residing throughout the length and breadth of India.
Once upon a time all of the above would pain me and awaken feelings of restlessness within me. Nowadays, I think I have become successful in making peace with my pain. I live within a self-fashioned cocoon that few can penetrate. I live blissfully in a world surrounded by Victorian English, culture, music and etiquette. My words are my strength. My words become invisible shields that protect me from a fast moving world where casual conversation and banter has become the order of the day. A world where language has been reduced to frothy little messages and a mere technical exchange of words devoid of feelings, emotions and depth. At times Ludwig Wittgenstein, the legendary philosopher comes to my mind. He had coined a term for these language problems and the resulting misfortune that we face in daily life…word games. I am not an expert in philosophy, but his analysis is both astounding as well deeply relevant even to this day. We are all involved in certain language (word) games, but do we really use words in order to understand each other effectively? Maybe I have reached a stage where I am tired of the spoken word. This can however be a disaster in my professional life, as much of it depends upon my speaking ability. However, lets brush aside that ominous thought for a moment and contemplate on the infallible beauty of silence and the ultimate depth of the written word. Can the spoken word ever rival the same? I think not. Unless of course, each one of us had the ability to speak like characters in Shakespeare’s plays.
For a writer or a poet, words are everything he/she possesses. And in each one’s life a time comes when the world attempts to pilfer those words. Think about it. This pilferage happens quite invisibly or delicately. If you are both a writer as well as engaged in another profession (of a more worldly nature), the other profession may require you to fashion your words according to certain set circumstances. In a corporate office you cannot use the words of your literary life. You must use words that are dry, shrunken and devoid of anything delicate in their nature. Even in social gatherings you must tailor-make your words to suit the particular occasion. Otherwise you may be considered to be bore or a dreamer or someone who cannot make interesting conversation. And in daily life? The grocer will not understand your words unless you speak his/her language. Neither will the milkman, nor the newspaperman nor anyone else remotely linked to the maintenance of a home and hearth.
Thus, we writers change. We adapt. We break in the process. We crumble at times. We search for our language in our dreams. We search for them in books. In classics written by the Bronte sisters or Austen or Hardy or Dickens. We search for them in contemporary literature written by Coetzee, Rushdie, Pamuk or Murakami. And when the sun trips away to rest for the day, we the writers wake up to new words, new sentences, newer experiences. Something that ONLY we can understand. Not this hollow kernel of a world.
Because, when all is lost…words are all I have….
Au revoir !