August 30th, 2006

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Learning Kannada...

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I have been struggling to learn more than the rudimentary Kannada I know, but sadly, it is not needed at all in daily life, and my efforts are still mostly in vain. I made sure I learnt the alphabet as soon as I moved into this city.  I watch Kannada films or sometimes, TV serials, to enable my understanding of the spoken language. But I must say that Kannada (or other Indian languages) are not taught well, the way foreign languages like French and German are (I learnt German so well in this very city.)  An antiquated, didactic approach prevails. Foreign language classes are made great fun to attend. There is stress on hearing and speaking as well as reading and writing. Audio-visual material is shown regularly. I would love to have either a converstaional Kannada course in my locality or to attend a really well-designed Kannada basic course. I still go and watch Girish Karnad's plays first in English and then in Kannada to understand a little of the original flavour. I go to attend Yakshagana or puppet performances.
 
Yes, indeed I too love my mother tongue, Tamizh ( that's why I take the trouble to write the name properly..it's not Tamil but, phonetically,Tamizh). I never learnt it in school though...because my mother asked me to take Bengali as my third language in school. She said she would teach me Tamizh at home. (She herself engaged a tuition master to learn Bengali (my childhood was spent in Kol, as you can see) and read the classics of Bengali literature.) This ensured that I learnt another language and to me, the knowledge of every extra language is like another treasure chest opening up. But I can see how, in South India, people say they are studying Sanskrit or Hindi at the advanced level...and can't put two sentences together coherently when they speak. I did a basic course in Sanskrit and the whole class was ONLY interested in "passing the exam"...they would NOT speak in Sanskrit at all, and in fact, many of them would not use the Devanagari script , but the Kannada script (I don't know its name.)
 
Since I grew up in a region far away from where I orginally hail from, I know the enrichment that comes from exposure to a different culture.
 
I would love it if learning Kannada were made easier...there must be many,many people like me who would like it too.The Karnataka govt should run well-designed, conversation- and everyday situation-oriented basic Kannada courses, and have them in all areas...if there is a course running in Rajaji Nagar, there is not much chance that I, from J P Nagar, will be able to attend regularly!
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The writers of my childhood

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After spending time reading non-fiction, I suddenly developed a yen to revisit the stories of my childhood...and I have been re-visiting them. And I find that some of them are evergreen and provide me just as much joy as they did then....

I have been reading Agatha Christie, and am struck by her genius for capturing ordinary, everyday conversation, which is a most difficult thing to do. She is also a pastmaster at hiding clues right in front of the readers' noses! One of the best examples is "The Caribbean Mystery", in which the clue to who the murderer is, is SO clearly given...but the reader only realizes it later..! And one book (at least) is actually written by the murderer...

Then there's P G Wodehouse...."Plum" and Dame Agatha were mutual admirers and actually referred to each other in their stories! His light-as-air comedies are so easy to read and so difficult to write... I realized on my first trip to London, that he had used many of the station names in and around Kent and Surrey, as names for his characters.

Richmal Crompton...what a genius. This lady was umarried..so one wonders what she drew on to delineate that precursor of Dennis the Menace or Calvin....William. Of course, some of the stories are peopled with conveniently short-sighted, deaf, or credulous characters...but in spite of it all, the stories are wonderful. And those illustrations by Thomas Henry..those are classic too...

Enid Blyton is another favourite, recently reviled, that I will be visiting... I didn't do much Noddy or the Secret Seven, but the Famous Five, the Find-Outers, and the O'Sullivan twins, the Mallory Towers series, and the various mysteries...how I loved them as a child!

Biggles....don't ask me what a young girl was doing, reading Biggles....by Capt W E Johns....I loved those books and swallowed them whole...I think, if I read them now, they will seem amazingly naive and archaic...

Isaac Asimov is another writer which one can read at any age...What a gigantic intellect, combined with a sense of fun...he must have been a wonderful person or a crusty codger, depending on one's point of view! I remember a line from "Authorised Murder", in which he put himself in as a character: "He was so secure in his own intelligence that he never bothered to show it."...or something to that effect.

Single books that I have loved? "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee..."That Little Limb" by some unknown author which must have been the first book I ever read. Alice in Wonderland ( one of the books of which the animated movie by Disney is really WONDERFUL)...the Jungle Book and Just So Stories...oh my, this list isn't going to end..I have not even touched on my favourite books in my mother tongue, or the other languages (I have known 4 languages fluently from my earliest remembrance.) will have to post again...Ponniyin Selvan, Thakurmar Jhuli, Yashodhara....