My father made some interesting choices in our upbringing. One of them was his most unpopular decision of sending us to government schools. You see, my father was bent on making sure that we studied in our mother tongue however after trying all the then popular and fancy private institutes, he realized that no matter how much one paid, they only taught in English medium. So, to our annoyance, he decided to discard them all and sent us to the lowly government ones.
I think we were so upset with his decision that we completely overlooked the fact, that over the years, he worked hard for becoming the PTA president. He changed the face of the school, even if it costed him his own dime. Infrastructure was improved. My father’s political connections meant, that all the best teachers in the state were transferred to the one we belonged. All this work meant we were under constant limelight, which made me resent him even more.
Any how we survived the high school, but as I entered the wild world of university, I knew I was at a clear disadvantage as I couldn’t speak or understand fluent English. Well, guess what, right then I hated my dad some more!
I was so determined to break free of his hold that I gave up every thing he stood for. I cut my hair (I am a Sikh), taught myself English and rarely spoke in my mother tongue anymore. Kind of sad, isn’t it?Well, I felt so proud that I actually thought a linguistic ability or lack of one for that matter, was the indicator of ones mental caliber.
Over decade of being that way, couple of years ago, I moved to Germany, where I was mute again. I watched in silence as a lady at Ausländeramt spoke to me slowly as if not knowing German had proved how stupid I really was. In my travels across Europe, I have met some extraordinary people who couldn’t speak a word of English and yet had legends to share.
Since that day in immigration office, I have been putting serious efforts in appreciating both my father and my sweet mother tongue every single day. Today, I sit here knowing that my skill of being able to speak and understand five languages does not prove that I am wiser than I was yesterday, nor that being less than perfect in any one of them would make me stupid in anyway .