English is not my first language. She is not the language in which I talk to my parents, friends and relatives. She is not even my second language. English is my third language to say it colloquially. Punjabi is my first language, while Hindi/Urdu is my second language. However, despite she being my so- called third language, I feel as close to her like a child feels near to his/her mother. My immediate schizophrenic dialogues and thoughts are in English. My dreams are in English.
My grief and my sorrows are best expressed by me in English. If there is any language that can rightly translate my tears and choked nose, she is English. My loneliness and emptiness find their vent only through English. My recluse and seclusion converse with me in English. For me, no other language can express whatever is dark, incomplete and unsatisfactory about my life and world around, more beautifully, effectively and perfectly than English. For frivolous and ephemeral emotions of happiness, love, satisfaction, completeness, life etc., I have my first and second languages. But no other language than English can shelter my emotions pertaining to sorrow, grief, loneliness, seclusion and dark.
English gives me warmth, comfort and encourages me to think. English protects me from the frivolous emotions that surround the humans, she provides me with words to ward off all that is evil. English shelters me when I am dejected, grief-ridden and in a state of despair. She takes me to a state where I am neither happy nor sad, neither satisfied nor unsatisfied, neither complete nor incomplete. She takes me to a place where I feel like a child. English is therefore much like my mother. She covers me with blanket of beautiful sonnets and poems in cold nights of dejection. She assures me, with her well poised rhythmic prose, that she will listen to all my sorrows and will help me to pen them down. Which language has so beautifully differentiated between loneliness and seclusion as English? She tells me when I am lonely and when I am secluded. She also tells me when I am uninterested and when I am disinterested.
I first made acquaintance with English when I was around 3 years old. I learnt its alphabet by heart. My first ever “real” letter, which I sent to my sister in Punjab, was written in English. My first ever essay or article on any subject matter, was written in English, on “How to make tea” , when I was around 5 or 6 years old. In that essay, I talked about how on Independence Day holiday (of India), I made tea for my family. My prose was broken yet passionate. Every word, as my father said, had fragrance of Darjeeling tea. And that he could picture himself making tea. Well, he must have said so to encourage his son, and he succeeded too.
Much of my knowledge, wisdom and character comes from English. My beliefs of liberty and equality come from her. My ideas of romance, philosophy, politics and science too come from her. She has been very vivid and kind. She introduced me to Tom Sawyer, Alice and Rusty in early days of life, and then to Sherlock Holmes, Newton and Darwin towards the senior years of school. In university, she introduced me to Immanuel Kant, Sophie’s World, Karl Marx, Shakespeare, Orwell, Adam Smith and likes. And after that she introduced me to history of India, US, Europe, world at large and their great men.
I, indeed, owe a great deal to her. I am too small, and my vocabulary too limited to express my gratitude towards her. From being my favourite ‘lego’ game in childhood, in which I joined letters to construct words and sentences, to teacher in school and university to currently being my bread winner – She has been with me all through. She has seen me grow from reading Tom Sawyer to drafting complex patent specifications, much like mother sees her child grow from childhood to adulthood. I never say I picked her up or adopted her; rather she has picked me up, adopted me and listened to my innermost feelings and thoughts.
While she has been gracious to me, I have been selfish to her. In happier times, I did not come to her. I did not talk to her. I ignored her. Yet, when I felt dejected, lost and was in much grief; and when I felt the world was suffocating me with its ironies and hypocrisy, I as a selfish son went to her, and she, like a selfless mother, again took me into her fold, and encouraged me to say all my sorrow, to share all my loneliness and to chase away all my fears. I make many mistakes, my prose is banal, I perpetrate comma splice, at times I choose wrong words, many times I don’t split infinitives when I should, sometimes I direct her towards the present when I am talking about the past, yet she accepts me with all the mistake and errors. She shows me references, from her elder and much learned children, that any style of talking with her is good as long as I follow her from heart, respect the liberty she gives, and love her integrity.
To her, I am always indebted!