Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Vakkiyatthil Amai

One of my reigning dream/nightmares is having managed to fail the language exam in school. I have not been in school for what? 2-3 decades now. But still, this is a frequent dream. What gives, I say?

I was studying Hindi for the first four years of my schooling. It was appalling, the "Sridhar Ke Ghar Ke Aaangan" type hindi. You know, where a caricatured South Indian person (mis) pronounces every word, pretty much. The pater-mater duo switched me to the 'local' language in fifth standard or so (I am sure based on some idealogical crap discussion over booze with their friends).

I recall being in like seventh standard or so, raising my hand, to ask the meaning of a particular word, as the teacher was reading the text-book out in class. It turned out that it was a super common word, for, uhh, shit. What the heck. How was I supposed to know. Being pseudo-intellectuals, we referred to bodily functions in abstraction, at home. Plus we spoke a tamil of sorts, the kind of tamil that one speaks in Karnataka. I was barely talking in Kannada to anyone. I used to write down names of vegetables in English, only to discover that the vegetable dude was just as confused-tamil as I was and so had no trouble figuring out what I was supposed to get.

I should have been super embarrassed. Boys should have made fun of me for years about that. But thankfully (a) I am a bit thick skinned like that & (2) Boys sniggered gently and let it go because (2a) I was to tiny & (2b) I was anyway going to be first (or second) in the class in the final analysis.

In my last year in school, I had this kannada text-book from hell. This was a board exam, mind you. No amount of being the-daughter-of-my-favourite-chemistry-professor-in-college was going to help me. (Yes, I hated being that, sometimes. Can we talk about me for a change? And not about dad? Or mom? Okay, thank you, dear darling teachers of mine). I worked hard. My eyes would bug out at the sheer ridiculousness of the stories. Some woman in a village. Married at, what, ten? Does this really happen? And of course you cannot honestly talk about sex and stuff. So some abstract references therein. Gak. It all made no sense to me at all. And my 'well rounded' aunty-type teachers, did not help! I mean, they blushed with embarrassment when I asked them the Kannada for shit.

I really love that I studied the local language in school for so long. That I can still somewhat talk to people in Kannada if push comes to shove. I can proudly write that down as a language I can r-w-t in. I even acted in Kannada plays, with a couple of my teachers no less (Teacher's Pet, anyone??) But, frankly, the school version, the books, the 'old' Kannada, the poetry, it was all very scary.

Now we cut to modern day. Today in the Simba-Cycle-Of-Conventional-Schools, the monster has her tamil test. We have been at it for a couple days now. Her handwriting is horrendous. Her ability to mis-spell words is high. My grasp of grammar, vocabulary, etc., which is poor in Kannada, is non-existent in Tamil. Bloody government has not yet resolved the issue with the fucking text-book. (I usually buy an extra copy of the book and try to slowly practice on my own). My mum-in-law has sat with her a couple of times to figure out the (note) book. Mr. Chennai (thats my husband), has yelled at her a couple of times about it (Leading to me yelling back, scaring the cook, startling the cat, that lay on the sill, eating the malt, right in the house that Jack built).

Now the crux. Finally. Make sentences with a given word. My sister, who was a tad more knowledgeable in Kannada than I was, but couldn't be arsed to do anything constructive with it, would invariably churn out sentences like this :: "Desirable:: I don't know the meaning of the word desirable" She thought it was pretty cool, I thought it highly desirable that that sentence be awarded zero marks. The monster? I am sad to say, takes after me, and not her aunt. Every Single Time she comes up with a new sentence, with scant regard for whether the grammar is right or not. And I cannot help her because I don't fucking know. Gak. I didn't even know that Vakkiyatthil Amai - which I can now somewhat write in Tamil, meant, 'Make sentences with.' And don't even start me on that thing for 'Fill in the blanks' ...


chronicworrier said...

Dear god. Here I was scratching my head for the meaning of 'ammayi'. I foresee tough times ahead for the kid & me.

Choxbox said...

Am in a somewhat similar boat. Child being asked to choose between Hindi (which she is decent at anyway) and Mandarin (which is brand-new and should be fun IMO). What is one to do?
Imagine homework in case of latter - make sentences in Mandarin. Egad.

kbpm said...

worrier, i worry, i worry. incessantly.
chox- MANDARIN, Obviously yaar. Dont even think abt it. You girls? Will crack it out of shape.