Children born of bilingual marriages occupy a strange position in schools, especially as subjects of raised-eyebrow discussions between teachers. But we are gifted in a way that the xeroxed products of Brahmanical endogamy can never understand. Our bodies are Ambedkar’s dream realised – it’s here that we have mixed & also carry a mixture of everything, language especially. I was born out of Konkani’s hip & Kannada’s belly. It is my tragicomedy that I am sitting here now with my mouth open like a piranha trying to capture English.
Years ago on a group tour, a family we were traveling with made an astounding observation about us that continues to make Amma & Appa howl with laughter. They’d taken one look at me, my sister & brother & declared very tragically ‘father’s nose & mother’s complexion not one of them has inherited’
Indeed. The tip of Appa’s nose glistens like the eye of the needle. My nose is a potato that no one wants to buy. For Amma’s people, Appa’s nose is his most remarkable feature, almost absolving him for being dark. Amma’s vanilla-drops complexion induced everlasting jealousy in Appa’s people. It is believed that it absolved her of dowry. I once heard the expression “My mother is milk & father, decoction” in a Tamizh film & felt beautifully represented. Appa said thoo nim ajji pinda & walked off.
When I was young, I woefully noticed that the only part of my body to match Amma’s complexion was the thigh so, naturally, it became the most Konkani part of my body. And only my elbow is as sharp as Appa’s nose so, naturally, I speak Kannada from my elbows. But in his own body, Appa made more than enough room to hug Konkani. He learnt it out of love for his wife & for us. But Amma says that even after 32 years of marriage, he hasn’t learnt to speak it well.
When we travel to North India, which his body firmly cancels, we get unlimited entertainment from watching him attempt a cocktail of Hindi, Kannada, and konkani. In a restaurant where they served us sweet sambar(!), he hollered at the manager “Yey thoo, sambar main bella dala hai kya?” (Have you drowned jaggery in this sambar?)
He is as right wing as your next-door uncle, but Appa’s love for people has the capacity to translate into a tolerance for languages that he doesn’t speak. And this is also what saves him from being extravagantly right wing. In a way, being Dalit has saved him from being intolerant. His love for Vadivelu is an example. Somehow his anger with Tamizh has never interfered with his daily Vadivelu comedy time on YouTube. He doesn’t watch half as many films as he watches in Tamizh. As for me, Konkani is where I’m most naked & Kannada is where I’m most vulgar. I get my thoos from Appa, & I get my capacity for sex from Non-GSB Konkani.