(This was written for an Independence Day celebration)

The words that issue forth from me
I taste them on my tongue
Flavours of ideas shaped by those
who came before me, far from me
Separating me from kin
I am an English speaking Indian

The language that shapes my identity
born differently from me
Its birth land, a legacy of pain to mine
Today, celebrating independence
from that legacy I wonder,
Should we have let go of English
along with the English?
Tossed it out, sent back to the Queen,
thank you very much?

Poets know language contains our history
but won’t be contained by it
So India & Pakistan, sworn enemies today
But Hindustani & Urdu, loving sisters still
Sharing dreams & ideas
Just like real siblings do

Is it possible to cut out slices of civilization?
Can we edit history?
How do you carve pieces of lived experience
Say this is yours, that’s not mine
Or draw lines of control within minds

The United Kingdom has a population of 59 million*
India has 125 million…English speakers*
There’s more English in Indian tongues
And each day, there’s more India in English

Avatar, Bandana,
Cheetah, Gymkhana
Bazaar, Guru
Jungle, Khaki, Pyjama, Shampoo

Legacy is that stodgy old elder
Whose senility must be endured
But the family of language
is everyone who speaks it
Every person whose life it describes
These are solid lines, not lies

Our ideas of food, clothing shelter occupy English
With chutney & curry,
Bangle & shawl
Bungalow & verandah
English may be part of painful Indian legacy
But India plants a proud flag in this joint history

Mother promise!
Father promise!
God promise!
Let’s prepone this meeting
What is your good name, sir?
First class!

Culture moves forward, language no bar
Language transcends its origin story
And English, we have claimed you
We set you free of your own history
Like we say in India, we are like that only.

*Wikipedia Aug’2020
#IWear: Kanjeevaram saree in fishtail drape, paisley silk blouse & gigot sleeve jacket


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3 thoughts on “Language No Bar”
  1. It couldn’t be a better tribute Ramya. Like you, I am English speaking too though of course draw my comfort in Hindi. We have taken the good from our colonizers, the English adapted it to our mores and making our strength.

    1. @Vishalbheeroo: I wouldn’t call myself an ‘Anglophile’ because of the bloodied colonial history that accompanies this language. But yes, I don’t like being subjected to a different kind of linguistic terrorism by those who would impose a certain language only as Indian and everything else becomes cause for attack on my supposed Indianness. This poem was written at a time when I was surrounded by a lot of fanatics of that kind who resisted poetry that came from a woman and in English.

      1. I agree with you on the issue. A language shouldn’t be imposed and what works for me is the comfort level which is true for Hindi as well. All Indian languages are beautiful and culturally rich Ramya 👍

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