About half a century ago I, then in my mid teens, came to Chandigarh, from a dusty small town in Punjab, to study art at the local School of Art. Enamoured by a very new environment, particularly at the School, (it was christened as College of Art much later) it became somewhat compulsive for all of my classmates to feign ‘artistic’ look and behaviour.
To achieve this, we learnt a number of tricks of the trade like carrying of colour palettes or brushes and wearing of aprons and a clumsy look even when out of our working studios. However the most difficult part in this silly exercise was to adapt ourselves to coffee drinking and that too in a coffee house. For, as per our little bookish knowledge, we had gathered that coffee house is a place artists and writers would visit very often. It is another matter that during the initial trial days none of us in our group, mostly being hailing from villages and small towns, liked the smell or taste of this new and bitter brew.
How things would change over the years we had never imagined. For, how would one know that the smell of coffee that we would initially call, in private, ‘sarrey doodh ki chaaey’ (tea made with burnt milk) would turn to be attractively aromatic sooner than later.
No wonder that even after my retirement a group of oldies still are regular coffee house goers. Having a refreshing cup of coffee, along with an often repeated discourses of our past experiences/memories, is our daily routine.
Not so strangely, as perhaps is human nature, in our everyday coffee-house-group discussions it is customary for us all to pull leg of the one who is absent on a day.
The other day we were informed, as if a scoop of the day, by a coffee house colleague, carrying a mockingly bewildered ‘you-know?’ expression on his face that “yesterday when I went to ‘apaney’ English professor’s house I saw him watching Discovery TV channel in ‘Hindi”! Obviously the remark attracted a usual burst of laughter in which I too participated, despite the fact that I too watch these channels in Hindi only.
However, the remark made me think aloud. Are our own languages, which we often call as our mother tongues, worth only as cheap jokes, particularly in comparison to English, the language of our past masters?
What has been, through all these sixty plus years, preventing us from coming out of this demeaning mental slavery? May be we have aged but yet not grown, or say matured.