It’s a truth universally acknowledged, that a middle-class family in possession of children must be in want of an English-medium school. I distinctly remember my mother being proud of my interest in English and when I had initially started to pen down whatever I could (the early days of an aspiring writer). The main reason for that was the quality of new and different stories in the foreign TV shows and the cartoons, which I have already mentioned in my blog about how I developed a love towards comic book characters. I have always studied in English-medium schools and some even went to the extent of making English a compulsory language of communication with teachers.
Despite this, I remember there was never any reverence for English as anything more than a language. My parents, despite wanting their son to communicate in fluent English, didn’t agree with this sort of dictatorship and helped me protest against this rule and successfully bring it down.
As a boy who grew in those conditions, I developed a taste for the English literature. Mostly because English offered me the kind of stories I wanted to read. Mystery, horror, science fiction. Hindi talked about general life, villages and the ‘social evils’ that we had read about in social studies. I remember reading excerpts from ‘The Lion, The Witch, The Wardrobe’ in my early years. A chapter from ‘The Invisible Man’ in high school. Even a science fiction about time travelling and quantum tunnelling in twelfth standard. So, it became evident by the early 2013 as to what medium I was going to pick for my stories.
As time passed, my circle of acquaintances grew and I reached to a point where I was meeting with people who told me about the books and stories they had admired in the language they read. Not that I completely disliked any other language. I had already read the popular Raag Darbaari. But my knowledge and field of exploration was limited. My exploration of Hindi and even Urdu grew steadily. I came to know about various authors in Hindi, who I later learned, are not just good, but quite popular as well.
I didn’t break out of my cocoon so much as I struggle and wriggle out of it like a drunken snail.
In fact, I’m still struggling.
The Lucknow Book Club meetings had been one of the strongest reason to push me into learning more about other books than crime-thrillers in English. I learned about crime-thrillers in Hindi. I read crime-thrillers in Bengali. I discovered crime-thrillers in Marathi (although I haven’t been able to read any of them). Even if it’s a translation, it kickstarts a journey of finding out the different ways to treat a story.
And it’s nothing new. So many people read Paulo Coelho today and all his works are in Portuguese. Orhan Pamuk writes in Persian. And there are so many more. As a reader it’s a fascinating thought. There’s so much to read, I think as I look around.
And this is just one language.