I will pluck your hairs out, roll them into a ball and hand them over to you in your bare hands.
These were the words of a four-year-old, curly-haired girl. Dressed in a red check pinafore uniform on her first day at a big, private school.
She made her intentions clear to Mrs. Moses, her class teacher and a devout Catholic, in a rather threatening way.
Mrs. Moses, however, found it absolutely adorable. For she had little idea what the child was mumbling in her mother tongue. In fact, she went to the extent of praising the child for being so confident in class.
This incident happened 30 years ago. And the child in question was my sister. And the language she used was Punjabi.
Photo Credit: Mona Singh
F stands for funny in Punjabi
There is something cathartic about speaking a language that allows you to abuse freely. To say things that perhaps seem indescribable in other languages. Not because we lack the vocabulary or feel tied down by the hard rules of grammar. But because that particular language brings out the notoriety in our personalities.
I have learnt to speak five languages over the course of my life. And every language somehow makes me feel like a different person. Scientists have also found that speaking another language makes you see the world in a different way.
People in Czech say, "Learn a new language and get a new soul." By that count, I have gathered five souls. And the most sinful one is definitely fluent in Punjabi. For it is a language of no emotional restraint. No boundaries. No subtleties. A language that almost demands a cruel sense of humour.
It's as if the syntax is designed to make even the most mundane things sound funny. I often find myself cracking the most indecent jokes and making the most blatant confessions in Punjabi with complete abandon.
Sorry. The most abused word in English
English, on the other hand, is a professional/academic language for me. When I speak English, it is the closest I feel to being 'lady-like' or whatever that means. For there is no other language in which I need to apologise before expressing my disagreement with someone.
Also, I have been told that I come across as very educated and persuasive in English. But that just might be a polite English way of saying that I make tolerable company with average table manners.
Witty. Not so much in German
Sadly, I have what they call the ultimate staircase wit or treppenwitz in German. Anytime someone levels an argument against me, I come up with the sharpest of retorts. Only a tad late. When the moment has passed. When the person I am trying to impress has already seen me cobble together a poor sentence of self-defeat.
Nobody has said this to my face but I am pretty sure they must refer to me as the 'dimwit who writes rather clever emails', or something to that effect.
Drunk. On Sangria and Spanish
I don't speak perfect Spanish. But I embody it perfectly well after a pitcher of Sangria. It comes naturally. Bubbling with flirtation. And a lot of chatter. Sometimes in tall and sometimes in short fat glasses. But it stays with me long after I have bid my goodbyes to sun kissed beaches, the long afternoon siestas and the mouth-watering tapas.
Who knows, perhaps I was Spanish in my last life.
Fluid. Word cocktails of Hindi
Hindi is my go-to language that fills all the blank spaces in my head. Although I like to believe that I own the language, I am still far off from speaking pure Hindi. At best I speak remixed versions of Hinglish or Hinjabi. Lately I have been experimenting with Hingerman.
For all you know these bilingual cocktails might be the future of languages.