August 11, 2005

Two Tongues

I've been experimenting with Indic IMEs, software that allows you to use the English QWERT keyboard to enter text in Indian languages. I thought I'd try my hand at an unfamilar script, so I downloaded the Gujarati IME and typed up an excerpt from Sujata Bhatt's bilingual poem, 'Search For My Tongue', which mixes Gujarati lines with English transliterations. The task was surprisingly easy, though I must admit that the script isn't difficult to grasp if you're familiar with Devnagari. Anyway, here's the excerpt, which describes what it's like to have 'two tongues in your mouth'.

You ask me what I mean
by saying I have lost my tongue.
I ask you, what would you do
if you had two tongues in your mouth,
and lost the first one, the mother tongue,
and could not really know the other,
the foreign tongue.
You could not use them both together
even if you thought that way.
And if you lived in a place where you had to
speak a foreign tongue--
your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth
until you had to spit it out.
I thought I spit it out
but overnight while I dream,

મને હુતું કે આબ્બી જીભ આબ્બી ભાષા
munay hutoo kay aakhee jeebh aakhee bhasha
મેં થૂંકી નાબી છે
may thoonky nakhi chay
પરંતુ રાત્રે સ્વપ્નાંમાં મારી ભાષા પાછી આવે છે
parantoo rattray svupnama mari bhasha pachi aavay chay
ફુલની જેમ મારી ભાષા મારી જીભ
foolnee jaim mari bhasha mari jeebh
મોઢામાં બીલે છે
moddhama kheelay chay
ફુલની જેમ મારી ભાષા મારી જીભ
fullnee jaim mari bhasha mari jeebh
મોઢામાં પાકે છે
moddhama pakay chay

it grows back, a stump of a shoot
grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,
it ties the other tongue in knots,
the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,
it pushes the other tongue aside.
Everytime I think I have forgotten,
I think I have lost the mother tongue,
it blossoms out of my mouth.
If you can't see the Gujarati text, here's some help. You may also need to download a Gujarati Unicode font.

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