I think it was Aatish Taseer who said that his education alienated him from the language of his roots, referring to Urdu.
My generation feels the same. In our quest to be educated, to fit in, to be heard, we each adopted English as our medium of communication and our root languages, our mother tongue, became rusty from the limited manner in which we spoke them.
I admire parents who speak their mother tongue with their children.
My children are a product of mixed marriage – Haryanvi mother, Maharastrian father – and even though they speak a smattering of Hindi and Marathi, they understand them better than they can express themselves in each of them.
The loss of nuance in communication and expression as we give up our local languages is something that historians, literary writers and cultural anthropologists have been worried about.
It came as a pleasant, albeit slightly alarming, surprise to me that the TED talk I was to give was to be delivered in Hindi. I liked the idea of the television program being in Hindi and then dubbed/sub titled in many regional languages, it meant the talk would reach so many more viewers in India. The #100sareepact has been an urban, social media phenomenon, reaching an English speaking audience because most of us wrote our stories in English.
But this put the responsibility of delivering the message effectively right back on my shoulders, in a language that I could converse in a weak manner. My Hindi is “Bambaiya Hindi “, conversational Hindi at best. It bared my weakness.
So I began by writing my scripts in English and with the distilling of thought, every draft brought focus to exactly what I could say in four minutes and yet not sound trite. Then came the challenge of making the talk as meaningful and as powerful in Hindi.
The TED team had translators who put me in the right direction, but the translations were, understandably, literal & academic, and not the spoken word. It was then that I reached out to my friend Usha Dixit in panic. Usha has been writing for Indian television for years now. ( I have very accomplished friends, thank you, God ).But she was catching a flight that night for a long cherished holiday in Europe. She still promised to look at the script and as promised sent me her translation. ( I can be a demanding brat with her, she was one of my mentors in television when I was a cub).
I still needed to own my script though. I have believed in the pact so strongly, that I could not speak someone else’s words and sound convincing. It just wouldn’t be me. So I sat down one last time, with all the script translations I had, and wrote AGAIN.
I’ve been working in the field of communication long enough to understand the power of words. And a four minute talk required that every word count.
The episode airs on Sunday, 7th of January 2018, on Star Plus, and when you hear the talk, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you will not see my struggle of script iterations, but instead, I hope that every word I speak will resonate with you.
Because on a world platform such as TED talks, words are all we have to communicate our idea to you.
And yet, we have each tried to break the barrier of the language of words and reach out to our audience in the language of intent and honesty. We’ve spoken from the heart.
I do hope you will open your hearts and listen.

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