If you know only one language, you live only once
A Czech proverb, which has also been translated that you live a new life every time you start speaking a new language
Dedicated to Dai Heikham—who thinks I’m his opposition to the idea of Manipur and unfriend me for my counter-aggression—and whom I had blocked for sending me troglodytic messages
A recent activity on a social networking site made me feel an unexpected White Man’s burden. One of my friends had been commenting cynically on my posts. He said that I have merely inherited the legacy of the British (?), that I stay far away from home without any concern for my roots, and that I feign about knowing without knowing. These are not the exact words but surely what he meant to say with his chic online lingo. These are seemingly some trifles about two friends, who grew up together smoking grass from the same pot. However, this whole issue points directly to our identity crisis and many other things.
FOR THE LIVED EXPERIENCE. The Manipuris are a proud race with a recorded history of more than two thousand years. It is notable that two-million people, by recent census, have their own writing script. In the field of art and culture, we are second to none in our own perception. And rightly so, because when we talk about society, our own is the centre of the universe. We know human beings are the naturally self-interested animal. On the other hand, sociopolitical and economical tension has overshadowed our accomplishment. Not long ago, a magazine reported you are lucky if you are alive in Manipur as if life has suddenly become a lottery.
Now we lead a decadent living of blood and greed and guns and nothingness. People are killed every day by the state and non-state actors/actresses; corruption has been institutionalised that it has become a very respectable thing; we don’t have any sense of nationality, if we do have it’s about either India or Manipur and not as whole in any one of them; and even inside this tiny state, the opposing views of the various ethnic groups are piercing so sharp that it hurts you. Employment is scarce, the fortunate few leave the state, the administration is pathetic and the cultural life so polluted. It’s the perfect breeding ground for cynics and pessimists and drug addicts.
In these circumstances, I could have laughed at my friend—shooting back we belong together in this same shithole. Even if I go away to the other side of the world, some shit pieces would still hang on me. A tree cannot ever stand without its roots and likewise, we are the tiny twigs to the tree of our land. I cannot be a fucking part unto myself. But I don’t either have good judgment about our language as far as I use it. There are authors who wrote like: Akhoigi sabhyatya da dijiye huithi, lijiye akhoigi leinamlaba theebak; a wisdom that is pregnant with meaning and unfortunately, with extensive loan words too.
FOR THE LANGUAGES. With reference to Manipuri for the sake of Manipuri, we have the opportunity to safeguard it in its pure form. That is, in using Manipuri in Manipuri and English in English, unlike creating an atithr-smriti kind of language as espoused by other leading language writers. In our classic literature, we find that we are considered more sophisticated by using as many loan words as possible. Though I respect those preservers (not to be confused with puritans who are too conservative), and I have only one word to describe the polluters and Hindu faithfuls: nauseous.
It’s not about meekly submitting to the new world order, where English dictates the form and style of communication. But it’s rather accepting the realities. Historically, we were thrown completely out of kilter when we were merged into the imperial and capitalistic forms of economy. Now their language gave us a voice, when the only sounds that are audible are those of guns and bombs. We can take this platform to further raise our articulation, of which the whole world can hear, and we can move forward our agenda. In short, this language is a skill in as much as it’s knowledge. Besides it has also provided a space in global arena.
IDENTITY AND SELF-ESTEEM. All of us have a station in life, and each one of us can contribute in the cycle of peace and progress. In no way, I mean to demean any enthusiastic devotee of Manipuri language or demean our native language at the cost of this imperial legacy. I was talking about the use of language vis-á-vis the argument against it. I would admit the emotional connection is more profound in reading, say, Loitongbam Pacha Meitei than those self-teased bestsellers. In these ways, I presume, we can employ identity and self-worth, along with our choices of language, to propel the socio-economical dynamics. I’m already on the engine, having chosen my medium, Dai. Where are you?
If you need some food for thought on language, click here
Read the proverbs in several languages that you might not even know they exist!