My Mom always harps on the fact that I need to learn to read and write Bengali. While I enjoy reading translated version of Bengali literature and while ‘my heart goes mmmmmm’ listening to Tagore, my disciplined laziness ensured that I got no where beyond comprehending a few Bengali letter’s that resembled their Devanagari cousins. Besides, as a bong far tucked far south of the vindhiyas with no plans whatsoever to pursuing anything in the east, I never really pushed myself to get literate in my mother tongue. Over a period of time, the need and my yearning to do so also diminished…
…… until I was lost!
Cut to Dhaka, national book fare for Bengali literature where the only lingua franca in a radius of over half of kilometer was Bangla. I was dutifully toeing my Bengali colleagues who were in search of Bengali classics until an enthusiastic rush of crowd from one particular stall saw me part. Underestimating the efforts needed to trace them I continued my leisurely strolls looking at colorfully decorated book shelves and kids with bright face paintings. I did so for close to half an hour eventually discovering that there was no way I could end up finding my local contact without risking a phone call. I was carrying only my Indian SIM and was in no mood to shell out INR 50 / min to share my co-ordinates. .
(20 Minutes later) I was still doing the rounds and my hopes of finding them without having to speak to them was diminishing. But 50 bucks a call… no way. I remembered reading on how friendly Bangladeshi’s all over the country were and thought this was a perfect opportunity to ‘test’ the national testimonial. I began looking for a guy who’d let me use his phone! It wasn’t a very expensive proposition considering that local call rate are less than 1 taka (INR 0.63 paise).
1st call: So I approach this guy and he readily obliges to let me use his phone. My colleague says ‘look for the Mukto Bahini stall’. I could vaguely figure out how Mukto would spell in Bengali so armed with this confidence I set out to do the rounds again. But 15 mins hence, their fancy fonts ensured that it wasn’t the easiest of things for a novice to read.
2nd Call: I approach another guy (I’d mentally decided that this would be the last time I’m taking a mobile favor and next time it would be my own Aircel for sure). He readily offers me his phone and this time my colleague sensing my utter inability to locate him asked me the stall number I was close to. A few seconds later and after a lot of strain I figured out it was # 318. I figured Hindi and Bangla share similar #’s but the stylized and
fancy fonts and ensured that it was’nt the easiest of things for me to do.
In perspective, while the entire incident was no big deal it left me guffawed on how vulnerable I was in not taking to native tongue seriously. So will I take to learning Bangla seriously now? Will let you know :)