म से मद्रासी

Social Commentary

म से मद्रासी

Illustration: Ahmed Sikander

I

had rehearsed the line plenty of times the night before. I repeated it nervously in my head, ready for the moment I would be called upon to answer the inevitable question. This was the first time I would stand in front of a bunch of near strangers to speak in a language I did not have even a passing familiarity with. And I knew the crowd was a tough one. The moment arrived. The question was asked, I answered, and loud, crushing laughter broke out all around me.

I was three years old and only a few weeks into kindergarten school. I had arrived a year ago in cacophonous, land-locked, jagged-edged Delhi from our sea breeze-filled ancestral home in mild Kerala. I could probably deal with the physical aspect of being transplanted into a vastly different part of a subcontinent. But growing up hearing the soft, comforting sounds of Malayalam at home, the aural contrast of a new city was jarring, even for a pre-schooler. Everyday sounds were rendered strange: the call of vegetable vendors, the prayers emanating from the temple across the road, everything sounded foreign.

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