Falling in Love with My Second Language

Growing up, I spoke Bengali at home but because my hometown New Delhi, the capital city of the country, was predominantly Hindi-speaking, that was the language my friends and I spoke in school, in the neighborhood, on the bus, with the vegetable-seller etc. I was not a fan. Hindi is a deeply gendered language. Everything, whether it is a car or a bus or a crow, has a gender. Bengali doesn't. What we read for class in school didn't help either. With rare exceptions, the poems and stories felt heavy and cumbersome, and at least in me, they didn't fuel a curiosity. 

Until very recently that is. When a little prowling on the internet revealed an extraordinary source. This channel on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/wowHindiKavita that features readings of some of the finest pieces of Hindi literature by some of the finest readers in the country. I am so glad to have found it.     

Revisiting Joseph Anton

Last year, for a class on Banned Books, I taught Salman Rushdie's memoir Joseph Anton. The book itself has never been banned but he and his protective services adopted the name when he had to go into hiding. It was a good book to end the semester with and for my students and I to discuss and understand the ways in which censorship impacts a writer's life. Today, I revisited Joseph Anton and fell in love with the first paragraph of chapter 1 all over again. 

When he was a small boy his father at bedtime told him the great wonder tales of the East, told them and re-told them and re-made them and re-invented them in his own way--the stories of Scheherazade from the Thousand and One Nights, stories told against death to prove the ability of stories to civilize and overcome even the most murderous of tyrants; and the animal fables of the Panchatantra; and the marvels that poured like a waterfall from the Kathasaritsagara, the "Ocean of the Streams of Story," the immense story-lake created in Kashmir where his ancestors had been born; and the tales of mighty heroes collected in the Hamzanama and the Adventures of Hatim Tai (this was also a movie, whose many embellishments of the original tales were added to and augmented in the bedtime re-tellings).