‘Indians need to appreciate the rich repository of its languages’

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018, 01:28:44 PM IST

The purpose of language is to communicate, convey thoughts and bring us together. But now, at a time when languages are more often used to divide, to create an impression of superiority, to make you look like an out-of-touch elitist, “the need to begin appreciating the rich repository of languages that we have in India, is a dire need”, says versatile author Kiran Manral.

One way is greater emphasis on the use of mother tongues and more translations from this rich repository we are fortunate to possess, said the Mumbai-based writer who supplements her eight books in English — both fiction and non-fiction (on a variety of topics) — with being an activist in various spheres, a regular columnist, a Ted Talk motivational speaker and an indefatigable organiser of literary events.

“The fact remains that we are all polyglots in India and that is such a beautiful thing. All languages are born of the basic need to communicate. We have our mother tongue, and then perhaps Hindi and English. We need to begin recognising the richness of all our languages and appreciate them; perhaps no other country has so many official languages, not to mention regional languages and dialects, some of which are dying out. With each language comes its entire written culture… we have such a rich repository. We need to begin appreciating it, rather than using language to create walls between us.” Manral told IANS in an email interview.

The multilingualism, which was one of the strengths of the country, is now emerging as a major threat to the nation, creating divides in the name of religion, majority/minority, et al.

How can we bridge the gap between the hundreds of languages spoken in India?

“I think the fact that we have so many languages that co-exist is a lovely example of our synchronised culture and heritage. We need to encourage more translations, so we can read across writings from various languages, and also encourage the use of the mother tongue, both written and spoken, across the country through various initiatives,” Manral, 46, suggested.

Asked whether she wished to write in Hindi sometimes, Manral said: “I hope I will surely sometime, but first I must work on my Hindi writing skills really hard.”

Being fortunate enough to be on a platform where she can give voice to various social issues demanding serious concern, she also never shies away from her social responsibilities along with her literary chores and adroitly balances the two.

She was amongst the founder-members of the campaigns Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month (CSAAM) and Violence against Women Awareness Month (VAWAM) which ran for many years across all social media platforms. Post the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, she also founded India Helps — a volunteer network that has worked on long term rehabilitation of disaster victims as well of the 13/7 (2011) Mumbai bomb blast victims.

She is also a prolific blogger on everything from motherhood to feminism, writing in a wry and understated manner, eagerly and avidly read and remembered.

Manral, whose most recent published work was “Saving Maya”, about a new stab at romance a divorced mother gets, however, also stresses the importance of the quality of language.

People from various backgrounds are writing books. Do you think this is a welcome trend or is it detrimental to the world of writing?

“I’m ambivalent about this. I think everyone has a story in them, but I also believe not everyone should be allowed to tell that story. Very often, most folks think that it is only the story that matters and do just that — tell the story.”

“But writing fiction is so much more; it is nuance, and style and language and the love for words, and characterisation. All these must fall into place to have a compelling narrative. At the end of it, it is the readers who will decide what touches a chord with them.”