The last day in Manipuri Translation Festival, 2012

Louriyam Bebica *

I dont know

The first day was a strange environment. We were reluctant to approach each other. As days goes on adding on us, we became a loving family. Those people who were at the back and front seat's rows were on the some row that day. I found myself talking, joking with those people; I would have never bothered to smile, at earlier stage. It was like different flowers were kept together to strengthen the beauty of a heavenly garden.

The festival was held mainly to safe our mother tongue; enrich it so that knowledge text can be available at every stages of education. Till I attended this festival, I never realised the need of learning or researching on my mother tongue. The concept I had earlier killed me.

I was born and brought up in a family where everyone use Manipuri to express daily needs and also the deepest feeling so I know Manipuri with no doubt. But I was totally wrong. There is not an adequate word to tell you how guilty I was to find out my dumbness in my own mother tongue. It won't be wrong to say that I don't know even 10% of it and its beauty.

Since the first day, it was made clear to everyone that Manipuri should be the medium of communication inside the hall. We were asked to give an introduction of ourselves to the rest of the people before attending the special class on translation. It was the jiffy; my mind got stuck with the thought.

- Shit... I don't know it.

The very first greeting words GOOD MORNING perplex me. In fact, when I say "perplex" I am only trying to hide my inability. It wasn't confusion bcoz confusion happened when we seem to know the thing yet not confirm exactly. In my case, I was totally blank with those words in Manipuri. The only thing I can do was give a blank look to everyone. It was shame on me that I didn't know how to say those words in Manipuri, the language I am speaking since I learn to speak. The language which I often claimed that politeness runs thoroughly in its inheritance. And, there I stood not knowing how to say GOOD MORNING.

I felt pride telling my friends that I can speak Tamil, English, Hindi, French, you know? All my pride crushed down in hell on that moment. My friends might be laughing at me. They must be thinking that I was boasting on the castle in the air, with no root, no foundation nor reality. Deep down inside, I know I deserved their mockery too. I honestly expressed my inability and failure to greet them on my dialect. Luckily one of the participants next to me translated it as "YAIPHARAB AYUK". I felt so glad to him.

When I came back home on that day, I felt much richer LOL. It compelled me to understand the fact that I was one of those fellows who can't even dream completely in one language alone. Somehow or other how my dream 'll begin with a meitei's kitchen and ends with European's Short Skirt.

It was well saying when one of our teacher said that a man who doesn't know his/her mother tongue can never master his/her second language too. It was the exact condition that I was facing. I can't express my thought neatly either in English, Hindi nor in Manipuri or other languages.

In this present society, people have taken up so many measures to safe their languages. What about us? We felt proud while saying
- I don't know Manipuri.

The less Manipuri you used the more respect you gained. The more you stretched your lips while speaking English like those foreigner, the more attention you received. I would like to give an example here. One of my uncles is in Indian army. His twin daughters were my classmates.

The eldest daughter was mastered in 'khulokpi' while the next one was interested in 'U-RAOBI'. The first words they learned were 'MAMAA' & 'BABAA' not MOM & DAD. I still remember those days we were often welcome by our pupu (grandpa) with a long stick in his hand at our gate.

- So your mothers were right. See your feet and hands how dirty are they? When will you stop playing with the dust?

The games we played with dust were so awesome that we received pupu's punishment with a smile. We were more happy in that surrounding rather than sitting up with a videogame inside an AC room.

They went to study in Shillong since 7th standard. Their father was transferred there. We met again after one year i.e. in our 8th standard. The pictures of them were the same even then. But their next visit which they took after three years gave me a different drama to watch. They no longer used their hands to eat. They ate with either spoon or fork. Nor they talked in Manipuri. While talking to me, they broaden their chest telling me in hidden tone that they were of standard people. The reason was they spoke in English and Hindi not in Manipuri.

It became a hottest topic to gossip for our abok (grandma) among her friend circles. It was amazing and tickling to hear her boasting while talking to one of her friend regarding her grandchildren.

- My two grandchildren are very educated and intelligent.
- Is it? How do you know Ita(friend)?
- They speak only in English. That also in a very fast flow of speech. So in order word, they speak in good English.
- Can you understand when they speak?
- No, they speak so fast that I don't know anything. As I told you that they are very educated. I can't compare myself to them.
- Does it means educated people are those who speak in English?
- Yes, yes.

- Oh! Oh! I got you now. Education means speaking in English, good English means speaking fast.

If we have to judge their English through the speed of their speech then of course they were good English Speakers. However the contain and structure might denied my abok's pride. The more you say "I don't know Manipuri" you get more respect, admiration and envied at the same time. It is becoming an acceptable fashion in our society.

One interesting thing we did in Manipuri Translation Festival was we formed a group and tried to coin some lexical of Manipuri from English. They are basically loan words. In this process, some words were traced back from old Manipuri. Some were coined by us. Our finding might not be good one but I felt happy that atleast we tried our hands on it.

TV -
Telephone -
Radio -
Cart -
Bus -
Train -
Aeroplane -

I'm not saying we should stop learning other language and cultures. In fact, we should. But isn't it our duty to enrich our language and stop boasting and saying "I don't know Manipuri".

* Louriyam Bebica wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on March 11, 2012

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