We all constantly talk about languages, how much sentimental value we attach to it, how offended we get about impositions and cultural majority. We say that the outsiders in any place must at least try to learn the local language and how indignant we get when they don’t do that. Language is a very touchy subject here in India, given the multifarious attachments we’ve labelled to it. However, a recent experience changed my entire perception of these “linguistic wars” which we have all been subject to. I was at the Citi Centre mall in Mylapore, cake in one hand and my phone in the other, desperately calling my “I’ll-be-there-in-five-minutes” friends, to celebrate the birthday of our close buddy. Thirty minutes passed, yet no sign of them; but those thirty minutes propelled me to write this blog, so I do owe them a lot of credit! Thanks guys 🙂
The first ten-fifteen minutes were filled with the usual peripheral observational activity that one undertakes at the mall, as is customary. Kids were ploughing their way through the crowd sitting in their toy cars, feeling like Jenson Button, not realising that they were being manoeuvred by a remote control- wielding ringmaster behind them. It was hilarious to see that the kids thought that they had control over the wheel and were pushing all the buttons and moving the gear rod. The mall was abuzz with activity, people scurrying about from shop to shop, an elderly couple enjoying their ice cream and I felt like Shakespeare at his poetic best, trying to take in the scenery all at once and trying to paraphrase “All the world’s a stage”.
I was broken from my reverie when I noticed a group of youngsters, no more than 25 years of age, distinctly silent in their entire conversation. It caught my attention and my interest was instinctively piqued. It was normal to expect loud conversations in the mall, but silent? I looked closer and understood that they were verbally challenged and were communicating through the sign language. It was a mellifluous conversation oozing with oodles of friendship, care and affection, and they had a sense of dignity and class about them. It was one of those moments when the world around me shut off and urged me to rethink my place in the society. I felt like the most linguistically challenged person ever to be created! Witnessing their exchange instantly gratified me and offered me a sense of contentment. We’ve all thought that our best conversations with our best friends are the ones where we’ve been noisy, created a ruckus and thrown in a string of profanities, but that day, I re-thought that entire paradigm and how my view was entirely shifted.
I wanted to savour the quiet moments with my friends where it was only our expression that mattered and not the words. Sign languages are thought to be simple, however they involve logical explanations and a very comprehensive grammar. The Indian Sign Language explains to us what this is all about “What is Sign Language? Sign Language is a naturally evolved language like other oral languages. It is used by persons with deafness for day to day life communication. It is considered as a mother tongue of persons with deafness. Like other languages it is also an independent language with complex grammar. It involves naturally evolved visual-manual signs Who uses Sign Language? / Who will get the benefit? Deaf community uses Sign Language with deaf/hearing community to express their ideas or views.”
I’m not someone who pushes their views on to somebody else, but I’d like you all to consider this. Learning this language will be a lot more pleasing activity than our regular banter and I’m sure we’ll enjoy every minute of it. There are several YouTube videos that teach the language to all those interested and there are various print media by which we can learn. The Indian Sign Language hosts an ocean of knowledge and their website is- http://indiansignlanguage.org/
All it takes is a little respect, little interest and a lot of love. Let’s bring our world closer and make our days count! 🙂