On Reading in Bengali, Thinking in Manipuri
Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it.As a Major Indian Language study in our high school we had read Manipuri literature in Bengali script. This education deprived us from the opportunity to learn Meitei Mayek in a formal way, but had given us ample time to understand the conflicts of our society. Though understanding is not enough in as much as photography cannot be substituted for motion pictures, it does provide us insights into how history and culture shape our social structure.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
|The initial alphabets in Meitei Mayek|
Since long, there had been a grudge towards our own language. One of the turn-offs in reading the wareng and seireng was the extensive use of Bengali and Sanskrit words. At one point the very name of sahitya was enough to deter me from reading the rich works of art that we have. The discouragement, though, was not intense enough to inspire me to join the wasters who burnt down the Central Library, nor there is a feeling of orthodoxy and traditionalism.
In the last few decades, English has also eaten into the delicate fabrics of our expression. It is in fact a global phenomenon with never-ending debate on its usefulness and degradation, on being a medium of neocolonialism and what not; but at least it does not profess we were a part of the great Mahabharat and other absurdities about our roots.
There was a conviction once that we could have been better if we had used our own script all along. Maybe our legacy was not safeguarded in a way it was supposed to be, resulting in an external system soiling the image of our cultural history. Now the engagement in this kind of deliberation creates some kind of awareness—it’s okay to read any sahitya premi’s work (as long as we know the khandato and talabesho). There should be only some consideration: to fine tune the quality and leave behind a new set of original works for posterity while we weed out the meaning, be it in any language, from several texts to make our knowledge more profound.
Is the contemporary tryst with the West/English language similar to our forefathers' fascination with the Hindu and Bengali cultures?
The Wall Street Journal's Lost in Translation: Do the languages we speak shape the way we think? Do they merely express thoughts, or do the structures in languages (without our knowledge or consent) shape the very thoughts we wish to express? Read more
Someone pointed out indirectly there are two glaring errors in the mayek in the above letters. 1) Thou is wrong 2) he kept everyone guessing...
*Literature, according to experts, is known as loinasillon or khorilol in Manipuri