Saturday, 17 May 2014

A Babel Story for the Real Babels?

Last month for one long week I had a strange headache, not that kind of headache that would get all right by popping Stopache or Sinarest tablets.

The headache started dramatically from the different sounds I heard. First, those sounds itched my ear lobes, and then vibrated my eardrums and the electrical waves that travelled through my brain produced that headache.

The pain was severe. Considering only the pain, It was serious enough to consult a medicine doctor. But I knew the doctor (after knowing the reason) would refer me to a psychiatrist, who would in turn refer me to a neurologist, who in turn would say that I have a unique headache, and would, in turn, refer me to doctors of outside state.    

That was the only reason why I did not consult a doctor. No one wants to look foolish, you know!!

Huuusssshh! Why do I remember that headache-week, only now? Flop-things should be forgotten…isn't it?

But as I had already started, I better finish it. It is always better, way better to finish what we start.

And here, the story of the headache goes.....

Last month was very hectic for me: Office works, everyday household problems, problems relating to far-ones, etc. piled up. It was very hard and dull to carry on unless you take a leave to set them aside. So I took one week’s leave, with a station leave permission.

I then visited the native side of the state to meet my own people who have a short, blunt nose like mine; narrowed eyes, short stout legs; who also eat my favourite Sodium bicarbonate (soda) curries, smelly fermented fish, fermented pork fats; who would not think even for another second to eat anything that crawls and fly in the sky.  

My whole eagerness could be noted down in one sentence: No place is better than the land of similarity, where even differences come out from this similarity. 

I was eager like a child going to his favourite toy shops, where he will get his heart’s other half.

First, I went to my good Kokborok friend. He had been such a good friend (mainly because we could share thoughts with each other in English) and I wanted to say hi!, to his family. My friend had informed me through the phone he would not be home because of official duty, and that I could see them in his absence and it would not make any difference. 

He was wrong…..

I knocked the door, an old woman opened the door. I said, "Mami, hum Stephan, tera larka ka dost, milne ke liye aia," with my sweetest smiles.

She looked startled, not understanding, not smiling, with noticeable headache. After staring at me like an alien, she said, "Phai-di! Phai-di!"

I thought she was talking about a big flat land somewhere. Phai, in my Hmar dialect means a flat land.

I still tried my best. I switched on to my dialect with action, like a man singing action song. "Kei ka hming Setefan! In naupa ruolpa..I hriet am ka trawng?" (My name is Stephan, a friend of your son. Can you understand my language?)

She had a perfect headache then. My sound triggered her earlobes, and then the eardrums and then the brain, which, at last, attacked her skull.

She said, "Maya!Maya!," and then she looked at me with an interrogatiive expression, "Ani kok bujiya?"(Do you understand our language?)

The only words that created senses in my head was the words Maya!Maya! I read somewhere! Maya reads something like illusion. (I found later on, what she meant was "I don’t know! I don't know!")

Then the symptom of headache started on me, too. My earlobes itch, and then vibrated and the sound waves attacked my head.

I tried, still, at my level best. "Hindi samasta?

"Phaidi! Phaidi!," (come!come!) and she pointed towards the chair.

The next minute, father came, we shook hands, all family members came to meet me, we all shook hands. We all smiled (or tried to smile) with our sweetest smiles and talked to each other in sign language, like deaf people. 

I was a horrible situation. It was the widest gap in the whole universe between two people who wanted to be so close---We don’t understand each other.  

I went out of the house, exceedingly used, without understanding anything.

I just started my holiday inning, and it started with a terrible headache. Would I go back home and cancel my leave? I thought.

I had known Halam tribe years ago. I also knew from someone that they claimed themselves to come from mountain road, and thus called themselves Halam, just like my tribe Hmar, who called ourselves as people coming from North.

I wanted to give a next try. I visited my other good Halam friend.

This time my approach was different. I did not talk with the family, I asked my friend to teach me Halam dialect first.

Bu I fak ta? (Do you take your food?)
Bu maw na nek zai?

It sounded like Hmar olden songs.

Kan trawng I hriet ? (Do you understand our dialect?)
Kan chong na riet maw?

What a similarity!, to create such difference!

Ka hriet nawh. (I don’t know)
Riet naing.

He said there are 19 Halam sub-tribe, having a slight different dialect, then Debbarma, Tripuri, Reang, Jamatia, Chakma, Garo, Kuki. Maybe more.

"Oh!" I said, "What a headache to have different dialects when language is the only instrument to express emotions."

He bowed.

I said that everywhere we are the same. In my home place, there are the Hmars, the Paite, the Kukis, the Zos, the Gangtes, the Lushais, the Simtes. I don’t know all…

And then I said, "English is not just a trend! It is a way to unifying us."
I had head ached more to say that! The story of the tower of Babel from the Bible came to my mind. And then more headache.

God came to see their city and the tower they were building. He perceived their intentions, and in His infinite wisdom, He knew this "stairway to heaven" would only lead the people away from God. He noted the powerful force within their unity of purpose. As a result, God confused their language, causing them to speak different languages so they would not understand each other. By doing this, God thwarted their plans. He also scattered the people of the city all over the face of the earth.

Today, I wonder, why is God so artistic in making us speak different dialects?

All my brothers and sisters are different only for one thing---dialects. I am as strange to them as much as they are strange to me.  The more I wanted to be with them, more headache for me, and more headache for them, too!

Next holiday, I will try to find the cure for my headache, in my own dialect!


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