I’d been the youngest in my maternal family for at least half a decade until another made his entry and those were the years I treasure; not just for the happy moments. The part wherein a gross mischief committed exclusively by me was pardoned in a blink was definitely good. Those memories in which the older kids and sibling were blamed based on the degree of mischief and the fact that I always got away unscathed still makes me so happy! However it wasn’t a cakewalk, because I had to deal with the misery of never being taken seriously. A tooth pain, a random complaint, a blunder – instead of people consoling me, everybody considered those as jokes. I was laughed upon in those years I desperately needed moral support.
Unfortunately those were also the years I tried to speak in English, as insisted by my school management and I tried to combine words to make broken sentences. The relatives found my futile attempts so funny that I dreaded to speak in English at home. Just for your information I would like to mention that the so called relatives in question were not Oxford alumni themselves.
Once upon a time when I was approximately five years old, on a cold unfortunate Christmas Eve, the maternal house was jam packed with every other relative one can possibly think of - except one who was abroad and couldn’t join the festivities. An ISD call was made and each one was waiting in queue to wish him a merry Christmas. The fact that once the telephone bill for that month arrives none of these people waiting patiently for their turns in the queue would be available in the vicinity- and that is the key to all the extended wishes, small talk and local gossip that went on endlessly across continents. I was the last one in the queue and everyone was sitting around the black telephone like wolves on the prowl when my turn came. Then started the conversation, which was so faked that I responded with ‘mmm’ and ‘ok’ to whatever was said to me. I should admit that this was child abuse of the worse kind. The relatives were not pleased with my monosyllables. Finally the person at the other end wished me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. To this, I exclaimed ‘Same!’ as the proficiency to say ‘wish you the same’ had not occurred to me and the fiercely anticipating relatives broke into a chorus of uncontrollable laughter. Quoting this incident became the prime hobby of certain morons that every time I visited, I was made a laughing stock citing this incident. I am not exaggerating this part, but it came as a surprise that once when I was doing my engineering and I visited my grandma, this same set of people repeated the ‘Same’ incident much to my horror and disbelief. Well was it so much of a joke that it should be remembered after fifteen years? Fifteen years ?!
Don’t get me wrong here; I am a light hearted person, who forgets the past quickly. I understand jokes and never take them seriously. However after all these years I cannot come to a logical reason as to why the ‘same’ episode needs to be revived every time I visit my grandma’s place. Not just revived it was remixed as well.
Yes I did retaliate in the best known way to make my point that I am not a fan of these jokes, especially the ‘same’ recitals. The illogical reasoning that followed was more appalling than that. It was said that I was a ‘small’ child, and my voice was ‘funny’ and that they ‘adored’ me, and hence the torture. I read that as 'We have no one else to humiliate, but you'.
I went on to love English, read whatever Papa or my sister gave me, wrote articles in school and college magazines, started a blog, won prizes at my workplace and online competitions, and here I am. Whether the prolonged mockery helped me is not the point. The point is the importance of moral support and encouragement to a child. The levels of self confidence lost by a child once we mock them. I vowed never to laugh at a mistake or blunder made by my niece or my son, not only in English – but in whatever they come across in their academics or the world around them.
P.S: I did not borrow the above theme from Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. However I wonder whether someone stole my thoughts to make 'English Vinglish' :-|