By: Naresh Sharma
Throughout my life, I have been a victim of bitter experience relating to my mother tongue – “Kangri”. Though born and brought up in Delhi, I still believe I belong to district Kangra, Himachal Pradesh (HP). My father came to Delhi from HP before India got independence. I left India in 1982 and since then I’ve got a chance to live in various parts of the world. Since preoccupied with studies and job in Delhi and other places, opportunities to visit my ancestral home in HP have been very rare. In spite of all this, I have great love for my mother tongue ‘Kangri’.
While in Delhi, whenever I came across people from HP, more especially Kangra, I tried to converse with them in my language. In return, I usually had a very similar answer that they could understand this language but did not know how to speak. Whenever I came to know about anyone who hailed from Kangra or nearby in HP, I would immediately switch over to Kangri. To my dismay, in most of the cases, even if I would continue in Kangri, the other party would keep talking in Hindi to which he is not at all comfortable. A man like me would easily make out people from Himachal, this always came as a terrible blow to me. I am yet to understand why our people hide this, when it is widely acceptable that Dogri or Kangri is a very sweet language. Do they feel ashamed or while speaking in their mother tongue does their standard goes down? I am yet to get an answer to this question.
There have been good instances as well which I would call as examples and would like to highlight to all those who read this piece.
I was in Helsinki, Finland from 1982 to 1985. For the first time, I’d left home all alone. I was feeling home sick. A couple of months later, I came across two young boys from a Sood family from Solhan. Their origin was from Garli Paragpur. They were talking to each other in fluent Kangri. Having undergone homesickness for a few months, how I would have felt at that very moment, you can very well imagine. I immediately started talking to them in Kangri and we are good friends till today. Those two boys introduced me about half a dozen Sood families who are settled in Finland for the last four decades now. One such matter of pride was that when I met children of Mr. Lal (from Sohan) and Champa (from Palampur), I spoke to them in English. I got an answer in typical Kangri language. On probing further, I was told by the kids that they were yet to visit India. They were born in Finland and since then have been studying there only. Languages they spoke comfortably included Swedish, German, English and Kangri, apart from Finnish. I was thrilled to see these children talking in Kangri because, what I did not see in India I was witnessing in Finland.
One of my friends from Hamirpur in HP was once asked to receive and see off Dr. Karan Singh in Kathmandu, Nepal, while he was on an official visit there. Dr. Karan Singh asked my friend about his origin. When my friend told Dr. Singh that he hailed from HP, this great man of India (Dr. Karan Singh) spoke with him in fluent Dogri till his stay in Kathmandu. I opine this sounds great.
My Grand Nana moved to Kullu from Bageda in Sujanpur long ago. Language spoken in Kullu is ‘Kulluvi’. This dialect is entirely different as compared to Kangri. Since they were in business profession, they always speak with masses of the native land only in the local dialect i.e. Kulluvi. But what I saw on my few visits there was that the language spoken inside home of my Nana was pure “Kangri”. The scale of fluency was excellent. Therefore, my Mother was very good at Kangri too. She has always been using this great and sweet language while talking to her children, whereas we always spoke to our late Father in Hindi.
A very interesting episode about ‘language’ was once narrated by my Maternal Uncle (Mama). My Mama who is more like a friend to me was on training as a Probationary Officer in one of the nationalised banks in Gujarat in 1979. He was home sick for want of friends or family members accompanying him on training there. One day he came across a customer in the Bank, who arrived with a damaged pass book, requesting for a duplicate one. While talking to that customer, Mama could easily make out that the man carrying the passbook hailed from some part of HP. Mama thought some homesickness would go after having met a Himachali friend in that part of Gujarat. Mama asked him about his origin – unexpectedly, the man said that he hailed from Bhatinda in Punjab. Disappointed, Mama asked him to wait and meanwhile, had the duplicate passbook written. Before handing over the passbook, Mama queried as to how the old passbook got damaged (it was moth eaten.) The man immediately answered in uncomfortable Hindi “Isko ‘Jeeju’ ne kha liya hai”. When ‘Jeeju’ word appeared, Mama had a big laugh and told the guy, “You are caught and I am now 100 per cent sure that you are from some part of HP”. Mama forced him to speak the truth and the man confessed that he hailed from district Kangra in HP. A big question mark – why he was feeling ashamed in disclosing his origin.
As the readers would agree with me that people from Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, Punjab etc. feel proud while talking to their wards in their mother tongue. People from these parts of India would first let their children speak in their mother tongue and then come to English or Hindi. My experience has been that the countries I have lived in during these three decades, children speak their mother tongue first and then switch over to foreign languages.
Himachal Pradesh is a prospering State of India with rich culture and sweet people having very polite and sweet dialects. A very close friend of mine always used to tell me that in most of the dialects of Himachal Pradesh, he knew about, one opens his mouth at a very limited level and that shows how polite and sweet Himachali dialects are, especially Kangri or Dogri.
Himachal is a Great State. Proudly, we have no starvation deaths. Why should any Himachali hide his origin, especially when it comes to speaking in Mother Tongue? Why we should not teach our children our mother tongue? I invite you all to share your views on this and tell all those who hail from Himachal to take an oath today that our children must learn their mother tongue, at some stage if it is not before Hindi or English. They should not be deprived of their RIGHT. Feel proud to be a Himachali.
(The author is a Himachali, presently living in Annadale, VA, USA) .