Summer vacation has begun in India.
We shall be back at work on the 4July when my North American friends would be watching the fireworks and chilling out at home.
During the holidays I expect to continue with the Children Design for Change (DFC 2011) work, spearheading the contest in West Bengal. I plan to finish my little book on learning to speak in English for Beginners to raise money for my trip overseas and I hope I get paid for it in full this time and on time. Last time, I translated five books for the same publisher and did not get paid in full. (That happens here because it is based on word of mouth and sometimes people forget to keep their committments and then there is nothing you can do about it). Four of these were of a series of Computers Made Easy for Starters and I had fun explaining how to use Logo and Paint. and learned a great deal myself in the process. The other book I translated for them was a childrens version of our epic The Ramayana. We did a picture book for children in English.
Funny that we need to do books of Indian classics in English so children of India would know their classics? :) I know . But that is the way it is here in our funny multilingual culture.
I would be lost without English (or Hinglish if you like) over here. I would never ever have come to know so many of my friends from other states if they hadn't put me in an English medium school for which I thank my mother's foresight all the time. Some of the choices she made for me made me who I am today and I hope I have been able to be a good and loving daughter to her.
A blogmate said this on another blog, here on OS, that provides an interesting insight into what it is like living in a multilingual, multicultural, multireligious environment of the order that most average Americans will probably not even be able to imagine.
"...a friend who worked in a lab (or something) with a couple of guys from India. They spoke English with him, but he thought they were talking to each other in Hindi, or maybe one of those south Indian multisyllabic languages. Anyway, one day after his ear had become accustomed, he realized with a shock that they were talking English to each other too - they just slowed down to North American speed when they talked to him!"
Perhaps exposure to such differences since birth is what makes us comparatively less homophobic as a community? We hear six different languages on a daily basis, on average and most of us are forced to speak that many languages - simply to get on with life.
I spoke to the rickshawwallah in Bhojpuri when I came home this morning, in Bangla to the person that helped me carry my luggage outside the station, in Gujarati to a pedestrian that asked for directions, in English to the Punjabi shopkeeper that sold me milk and grocery(!), and in standard Hindi to the gatekeeper at the apartment when I had to ask him to open the gates for me. They all dress differently too and eat different stuff and - well - worship their Gods differently and have their own script and philosophy and traditions and holy symbols...
We are still not sure we want our Gay men or Lesbian women to marry or how to respond to our bi sexual citizens or treat our Transgendered population. But we definitely are not scared of people par se and we like people in general. I never usually hesitate to speak to strangers, ask for help, exchange numbers, (two strangers on the way home got a taxi for me and in the half an hour I spent with them organizing my transport to get home from the station, I learned all about what they do, how often they travel to Gorakhpur and why, and who is in their family and what the current rate of fish is this morning in Kolkata city without having to ask.
I had to answer some questions though and they know who is there in my family and why I boarded from that station and what I do and how often I travel out of Kolkata and when I get back and what kind of fish we buy and the rates of busfare and fish where I live and work at.
The Fragrant Gandharaj Lemon without which summer in Kolkata is unimaginable - a bit like a wedding without a cake in the West
The smell of ripening mangoes in crates in one corner of the apartment and jackfruit cooking and melons squashed and the jasmines and gandharaj flower in the evening, Tagore songs after sundown and at sun up, bamboo flute in the evenings after sundown - I hope that is the way it would be this summer - hope it does not rain too much - I hate summer rain -
Hope Trig posts soon and there's some really big interesting dust ups too - ;)
In the meanwhile: a scene from a Bengali classic Charulata (Dir: Satyajit Ray) of a lazy indolent summer afternoonin India