Saturday, May 28, 2011


Once there lived a man;
He had no nerves; to feel;
Neither touch nor pain
He fell in love.
The girl said "I will only love a man with nerves".
Then he felt what pain is. 

PS : Translation of a Malayalam poem I wrote.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Some thoughts on Malayalam

Well, I don't think that what I'm going to write will be an authentic thing, because I myself have doubts about it, but I can't help expressing my views on this matter.
Even though this is about the status of my mother tongue I don't feel like blogging about it in Malayalam because the transliteration option is very difficult to post long things (atleast for me) and I can type English faster than Malayalam.


This idea got into my head because of an edition of Mathrubhumi weekly, the theme of which happens to be the state of Malayalam. I happened to know from the articles that Malayalam is considered as a dying language or fundamentalists think that Malayalam is facing extinction! ( I don't understand how a language spoken by atleast 3crore people will become extinct.) The main points struck me (though these are from different articles by people who have different opinions) are these:

1)Malayalam doesn't have many works in the field of literature, but it doesn't have anything (or anything major) in the field of science.
2) Malayalam is facing grave danger from English since parents are eager to send their children to English medium schools!

These are points on which I anted to comment, because I'm a science student and I studied in English medium. When I say English medium, only my medium was English, all my schools were where ordinary Malayalam speaking students studied, unlike "the English medium schools".

Let me start with my education. I'm a Malayali and I'm damn proud of it. [Though I don't admit it at home. ;)] When I was a child I was crazy about Hindi and I took effort to make sure that I can handle my national language well. I don't regret that. Because it still is one of my favorite languages. I studied in English medium schools right from LKG, (well the fact that I studied in LKG implies the fact by default) to tenth. Why tenth? Because, after tenth, everybody is in plus two, where the medium is definitely English (atleast in Kerala). [This is one thing which I don't understand, if people are so crazy about everybody learning in Malayalam medium, why not make higher education too in Malayalam? ] But I always had Malayalam to learn and I never felt any difficulty handling that, except I was slow in writing it. But it never meant that I couldn't or can't or won't be able to convey my ideas in Malayalam. I had classmates whose English was horrible despite the fact that they were in English medium! I even had a friend who studied with me till 7th, and after we changed school, he was unable to cope up with the medium and had to be shifted to Malayalam medium. So what is the hype about being in English medium? I don't understand. As far as I remember I hated the shoes, socks, tie system of the schools where I studied and was extremely happy to be in DBHSS where the only compulsory thing was blue bottom and white top.  Is it that you can boast that your child is in English medium? After all English is just another language. The only thing which makes it different from other languages is that it can be used globally. But as I grew up, I started suspecting that too, because natives of many other countries don't even know English! In that way Indians are well advanced! They can use a global language and it saves them from being a closed system. People should be ashamed or make so much hype about saving languages in the name of making education compulsory in mother tongue. Because saving a language doesn't mean that you've to educate children in your mother tongue. I've a good example to present. That's me. :) The fact that I studied in English medium didn't stop me from reading Malayalam or writing in Malayalam. [This is a funda which I don't understand, why should I not read things in my own mother tongue. Some people had asked me whether I know my mother tongue. I had always felt that it was a ridiculous question. Why shouldn't I know my mother tongue? May be its time to change that thought considering that there are people who want to make it a point that they don't know their mother tongue.]

OOpsss. I've drifted far from my point. The point was the lack of Malayalam's contribution to science writing. I admit that as a science student who did here schooling in English medium, I don't know the Malayalam terms for any of the scientific terms. For example I still can't distinguish between "prevegam and twaranam". I don't know which one is velocity or which one is acceleration. [I think the former is velocity and the later is acceleration.] And what happens in science education (for I don't know what happens in arts education) students who learn things in regional languages ( I think there's no point telling regional language, because I asked my Bengali officemates about the names of integration, differentiation, velocity and acceleration only to find out that the words are the same, "Sankalan, vyavakalan(I'm supposing vyavakalan is differentiation, he gave me "avakalan"), veg and twaran"; which means they are not any regional language's own, they are from Sanskrit! [This is my conclusion; it may be wrong too.] So what is the point? After learning "vibhanganam (my search shows that it is diffraction), aakernanam(dispersion),vikiranam (raditation)" etc upto tenth, they are suddenly forced to learn diffraction or dispersion  or radiation! Why? I used to wonder "why this double trouble"? Why couldn't students be taught those English names in their syllubus, which would eliminate the need for an extra learning when they came to higher secondary? I found the answer (or atleast I think I have found the answer) to this question. There's no science publication in Malayalam! [Or atleast the bhashavaadis say so. When I read about it I too agreed completely, but after sometime I had to disagree by 1% because I grew up reading a Malayalam science magazine whose name happens to be Sastrakeralam. (Atleast there's a Sastrakeralam as a Malayalam science publication.) ] Why would anybody use these seemingly tough words after school or higher education? ( I must admit that it would be fun collecting these words, because once you understand the proper meaning they won't sound difficult; may be that's the case with those who had learned them in their syllabus.) Tell me one thing, what is the English word for "tara samuham"? Its galaxy. [I got this from an online dictionary. Pls don't blame me if its wrong.] To me galaxy sounds mesmerising than tara samuham. And it saves time. Right? Pls try speaking out these words. I think the English ones will take lesser time and lesser effort. [I think this is an opinion of my science mind trained in English.] Ok fine, I searched for pulsar, quasar, active galactic nuclei, quarks, leptons and the names of the four fundamental forces. I got "Vaidyutakaanta sakti for electromagnetism", "gurutwakarshanam for gravity " and "sorry we couldn't find anything for "strong force and weak force"! and active galactic nuclei ". Probably I can define "weak force" as "asaktabalam" and "strong interaction as sasaktabalam". [But I got the definition of strong force as "ശക്ത ന്യൂക്ലിയാര്‍ പ്രവര്‍ത്തനം" from a a site which gives its translation in different languages! The same site gives me the meaning of galaxy as "tarapatham"! Who knew tarapatham meant galaxy (better than tara samuham)! There's so much ambiguity in the different meanings I find that I don't want to believe any of these and concentrate on my good old English words which I'm familiar with.

Even if I want to write a pakka Malayalam article (ie. where I'll call my neutral current events and charge current events ( now it strikes me that I've never read a malayalam word for charge! And now I can't find any equivalent word for charge in any of the Indian languages. So we can adopt charge as charge to our languages. [There may be some word, I don't know.] [Are! Just now have I  remembered that wikipedia has regional language pages! Even there I couldn't get the apt word for charge.] [Wow! Wikipedia doesn't have regional pages for things like "Flavor-changing neutral current"! ] I can't figure out how I'll ever do that! [Probably I'll become the biggest contributor to Malayalam science writing after that! :) ]

[It might have happened because of the fact that most of the modern science things were developed in the 20th and 21st century and by that time people might have given up the effort to translate things into regional languages! I don 't know whether this seems correct or not.]

So, coming back to my point. After tenth everybody leaves Malayalam terms behind and embraces English terms. And 99% of those science students end up going to Engineering or Medicine where you don't have to bother about "galaxies, neutral current or ring fields" [though this is a very crude approximation {now, I'm searching for the Malayalam of approximation, but I can't find it (probable because its Malayalam analogue couldn't be shortened as approx, I started using approximation}!  And, even if I write a purely Malayalam article, how many kids would read it and decide to persue pure science? [It happens that out of some 50 students who subscribed for Sastrakeralam in 8th, I was the only one to continue it till my post BSc days.] My father usually tells me. Write something and send to Sastrakeralam. How am I supposed to write? I can write a science article easily in English, but in Malayalam, it will be a "Thumbiakkondu kalleduppikkuka" process. [See this is the peculiarity of Malayalam; I can easily find literature analogues or std literature expressions in Malayalam. And I can express my most cherished feelings or my most painful feelings beautifully in Malayalam, when I fail to do so in English at times. It has become an extremely poetic language in the sense that one can pour his/her heart beautifully out, in it but it becomes sort of awkward when one tries to write something as matter of factly as science, in it. Its not that it is impossible, but it is difficult. It needs extreme patience to do such a thing . Even for Malayalam blogging one needs patience. But isn't it a wonderful fact that transliteration to Malayalam is available and that Malayalam fonts are available in document editors?

Now my 2nd point; about Malayalam facing threats from English. As far as the issue of death of Malayalam is considered, it will live as long as there are Malayalis. Even when there are Malayalis who don't know how to read and write Malayalam. Well you'll find Malayalis even on the moon, then how will this language die? And why should one hype about making primary education in Malayalam only? It would in some way make a closed system. I'm not telling that English medium education is better (not am I supporting that show off, where you've to pay huge fees and suffer to show off that your kid is a kutti sayipp), but everybody should be given the freedom to choose the medium. Those who study in regional medium are not fools and those who study in English medium are not show offs. What ever be the medium, the knowledge one acquires is what matters in the end. And I don't understand why people are so ashamed of studying in regional mediums. My parents studied in regional mediums, my cousins were in Malayalam medium ; that didn't reduce the amount of achievements they have had in their lives. That didn't make them dumb people. And I don't  think that my being in English medium had made me extra super or whatever or spoiled me. Nor has the same happened to my other cousins who are in English medium. And we all appreciate all kinds of things in both languages. I still read Mathrubhumi, which I had started from my 8th std, I still watch Malayalam movies. And my greatest luck is that I have friends with whom I can talk in Malayalam, where ever I go. Afterall when you have a severe headache the first language which comes to your mouth is your mother tongue. :) Atleast I find it very difficult to communicate in English or Hindi or Tamil when I'm suffering from one. :)

So, my sweet language is not going to die at all. It needs a little bit of makeover. That's all. :)