In so many ways, my life is multidimensional. Subtle changes in my everyday differentiate the separate parts of my life, which ironically all seem to seep into each other. One of the aspects that unify these multiple dimensions of life is through culture. The broader idea of identity is the thread linking our experiences, our personality, our perception and our sense of understanding towards the world around us. It is through our identity that we connect to a larger community, shape our values and take pride in our differences.
Until I was five years old, I marvelled at the complex tongue my parents used to communicate with one another. It was like a secret language, and I was put into some sort of cage barring me from understanding their dialect. And because of this, I distinctly remember the landmark days on my journey to learning Hindi; my first lesson (taught by my dad), first sentence, first pooja (prayer), first conversation with my grandparents and more. As I continued learning and diversifying my understanding of Hindi, without quite knowing that I had just taken the first step on my momentous journey of self-discovery, I grew to appreciate its beauty.
At home, I mainly converse with my family in Hindi. And the beauty of this lies, in my perspective, in the fact that we have been able to emulate the feeling of living in India without having to try. It is through language that we express ourselves, The phrase “language is culture and culture is language” also comes to mind, as the two are intertwined and play as crucial a role in one’s understanding of their roots. Language, as I see it, is the road to connecting with culture.
I have felt oftentimes detached with my culture, and I worried that I would someday feel a disconnect between the depth and gift that Hinduism has given me in the future. As a child, I found such joy, an eminent sense of maturity and an indescribable feeling of accomplishment in learning Hindi. Although my dedication waned at times, my experience learning a language was undeniably But as time passed and the everyday chaos and white noise descended on my everyday, I sadly found less purpose and motivation to maintain my tongue. All of a sudden, I found the delicate accents and dialect of Hindi hard to reach the tip of my tongue without quite knowing how I had let my knowledge evaporate unnoted.
Perhaps it is because of the Coronavirus that I felt such an urgency to reclaim this language that felt lost, as it was now the only way I could connect with my culture with closed borders. But the fact that I now see is this: language and culture provide us an overall sense of direction. And it might have taken much personal confrontation to realize this, but I cannot wait to see what Hindi shows me next.
There is bravery in confrontation, but also in being soft.