Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I surrender

I tell you that I am in awe of the present generation. I feel scared to open my mouth when in the company of children in their pre teens. I become partially deaf and/or dumb when left to deal with them. Let me explain.
In a recent visit to Chennai I met a five year old nephew-the son of a distant cousin. I tried to engage him in a conversation just to keep him from running around.
“Do you go to school?” I asked him in English.
He looked suspiciously at me.
“Yes” he replied in Tamil.
“Which school?” I continued my side of the conversation in English.
He mentioned a name which did not register.
“Do you like your school?” I asked.
He asked me a counter question.
“Are you a teacher?”
“I am your aunt. But why do you ask?” I had a feeling that I was being cornered.
“Then why do you talk in English like my teacher?” and after a moment added, “Why do you talk in English at home?”

His question set me thinking. Having spent a good deal of time in Jamshedpur I seem to be comfortable switching from Tamil to Hindi and English according to the company of people I deal with at a given time. With my husband it is always Tamil and Hinglish or Hindi with my children. I seem to combine Tamil, English and Hindi with an ease that surprises me more than others. My students are mostly from Hindi medium schools so I deliver my lecture in English but simultaneously explain in Hindi too. In the 25 years that I’ve worked my Hindi has improved a lot. I had no answer to the little boy’s pertinent question. Had I insisted on talking in Tamil at home my children’s Tamil would not have been so pathetic. I wonder if there is anything I can do to rectify the situation. I derive some kind of satisfaction when I see that my Tamil has not deteriorated a bit. If it had, the little boy would have been correcting my mistakes.

Children these days are simply brilliant. With the kind of exposure they get, they are not children but mini adults. There is a story that does the round in our family. In order to make a troublesome child finish his food, my aunt asked my 8 year old cousin ‘to call the beggar from the street corner’ to take the child away in a gunny bag. My cousin really went looking for a beggar and came back with one having promised to give him left over food for taking the child away! Such was the innocence displayed by our generation. I dare not narrate this story to the present day kids lest they consider me a fool! I hope you now understand why I take advantage of my age and hear only half of what I am supposed to.


starry nights said...

So true.children these days are mini adults.Regarding the story about the beggar .over here the child would have called the police.You have to be so careful what you say to your own child let alone some one elses.

Usha said...

hahahhah...Yes, one has to be extremely careful while talking to the to kids of today. They are super brilliant.
I m happy to see a child wanting to speak in his mothertongue for my experience has lawyas been the contrary. I always speak to them in their mother tongue and they always reply in English ( apparently they aren expected to speak in English from age 3 and so as a training the parents speak to them in English at home too.)

itchingtowrite said...

childen are considered smart right from the days of the kid who points out the status of the emperor's clothes

artnavy said...

Sometimes the irrelvance of a language makes it unnecc to learn-
your kids learnt what was necc for them - that is ok in my opinion

also one can always learn languages at any age...

nz said...

hahaha tell me about it - my kids can argue and make such good points while doing it that I will have to shut up in the end if I dont play the 'mum is right listen to her' card :-) They are super confident these days, have strong opinions on a lot of things and dont hesitate to voice it either. Which can be good too, helps them to deal with the outer world with a lot more confidence than we did. I think its all good if parents are not pushing it cos they need to grow up at their own pace, it should not be rushed and they should get all the time THEY need for enjoying their childhood.

Has to be me said...

Thotful post! U know I realised the importance of talking in tamil only when I left India! If u notice most countries (except india ofcourse!) take pride in talking in their language & not English!
These days I make it a point 2 speak 2 my kids in Tamil.
And yes Kids r awfully smart these days! :)

passerby55 said...

Hello Preeta!

the other day in a lift, i happened to meet two small school going kids. I thought why not break a conversation with them , I asked them their names. They simply giggled. and the female kid answered with a chuckle "we have no Names" duh!

I could not stop smiling. Yes, why should they tell their names to a stranger.... Smart i should say.

Language issues is quiet common these days. I talk in any other language(besides our mother tongue) with my kid. But when i have to convey smoehting strictly it has to be my mother tongue. ANd when i do so, my son knows for sure mom is angry! Strange though it works.


A4ISMS said...

You are right! My kids grew up in Bhilai and are comfortable with Hindi and English and I regret not having used Tamil and Malayalam with them. They have picked up the kind of Tamil you pick up from an Engg. college hostel, 'ay machee', 'Odembeppidiyirukku' et al. My only hope is tamil speaking bahus who will achieve what I didn't!

Sunita said...

My bro's daughter, in all she is 3 and she speaks more than 3 languages fluently (Mal, hindi & marathi, english too since she started school this year). She speaks Malayalam so well, her father can't quite match her pronounciation & the pick of right words.

Gauri said...

Oh yes !! Kids nowadays are really smart and they start to think on their feet at a very early age. I guess Nature just makes them that way - they need those skills to survive in today's world.

Mahadevan said...

Children pick up languages fast, particularly the one, spoken widely, the regional language. If the mother tongue is different, it comes to them naturally and with the emphasis on English in the school and Hindi in TV, they are reasonably familiar with four languages.

Hip Grandma said...

Hi all,
Thanks for your responses.yes these kids surprise one with their quick wit and intelligence.i hope to be cornered by many more of them.wish me luck

The Kid said...

OH! is that beggar by any chance "poochandi"??

oh! is poochandi just a beggar? I used to be very scared... and I always pictured him to be larger than life, scary weirdo and all!


hillgrandmom said...

just a comment to say I've been out of blogworld for quite a while and am just catching up.

Hip Grandma said...

the kid:poochandi was an extension of adult imagination to terrorise children.this one was a beggar in flesh and blood.we had beggars coming for alms on saturdays at my grandfather's place and they were used as deterrents for troublesome children.We used to fear the ra-pichaikarans (the nocturnal variety) more.

hillgmom:welcome back.How is your mom?

thetalkativeman said...

haha, talk about children being go-getters! :)