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Travelblog: Once in a lifetime voyage to the heart of India.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Getting old?

Does the passing of time result in a loss of enthusiasm?

My excitement for meeting new people hasn’t faded, but my drive to learn a common form of communication—language—has nearly disappeared. Marathi is similar to Hindi and Gujarati I reassure myself, it will come in no time. I’ve been here a week and the only words I’ve bothered to commit to memory are ikda (here), tikda (there), mulga (boy), and mulgee (girl)…pathetic, isn’t it?

My first visit to the field was this Monday. On this particular visit I was to learn how the SEARCH health system works. Dr. Bathile, my tour guide who also doubled over as my translator and driver (on a two-wheeler) accompanied me to the field. We conversed with the health worker for some time. She showed us the tool kit, and the education material she uses. Then Dr. Bathile sent us on our way to a post partum check-up ALONE—just me and the village health worker. Up to this point Dr. Bathile translated everything that was being said, but now I was on my own. What, was I supported to be fluent in Marathi after just 45 short minutes? He didn’t seem to care. As we made our way to the house, we attempted to talk. She was telling me all sorts of things in beautiful Marathi. Her sheer speed alone, however, ensured that every word fell just below my compression level. I smiled and gave the Indian side nod. I even responded with questions and comments in Hindi. We went back and forth—Hindi, Marathi, Hindi, Marathi—the entire way. We continued in this manner for the two hours I spent with her. Immediately before leaving after I finished saying something or the other in Hindi, she proceeded to tell me she didn’t understand Hindi (that part I understood). She could have been referring to MY Hindi, but since my Marathi compression or the lack of it didn’t allow me to detect the difference, let us pretend she meant Hindi in general. I had no choice but to laugh. Her acting was even better than mine, I had not idea she understood 0% of what I said.

Before this field visit, I had been told that most people do not speak Hindi, but understand some. Obviously, this is not the case. Flashcards used to be my best friends. In Guatemala, I looked forward to the hours spent at my favorite coffee shop making and reviewing flashcards. The number of hours I spend looking at flashcards in a very condensed time period probably explains why I now abhor them. Languages have always intrigued me and the process of learning a new one has brought a sense of excitement and accomplishment. I’m in Shodhgam, a place everyone speaks Marathi and some understand a bit of Hindi. In the field (the surrounding villages), however, no one speaks or really understands Hindi. If there was ever a situation where I needed to learn at least the basics of the language, this would be it. But I don’t really care to make the effort, especially since I’ll never use Marathi again in life. Is that horrible?

I have to learn some basic Marathi if I don’t want a repeat of Monday’s scenario and if I want to move past discussing weather, directions and food with the people at Shodhgram. My Marathi compression, Hindi skills coupled with their Hindi compression often makes for very confusing conversations. When we are able to understand each other—miraculously—the conversations are limited to the three topics—weather, food and directions. I wake up every morning wishing I could transform myself into a toddler. How kind and forgiving adults are with the young. They will repeat words over and over again so the toddler can learn just one new word. I envy the special treatment the little critters receive. Unfortunately, once you grow beyond 3 feet, there is no hope of finding such compassion. Since adults aren’t willing humor me with repetition and I’m over flashcards, I decided to try the next best thing—a tape recorder. Now I just have to find the motivation… And hopefully, the enthusiasm will magically appear.

The loss of enthusiasm probably has nothing to do with age, but I needed to blame something or someone and the parents didn’t qualify this time.

Seems (CA)…your words have been ringing in my ears every since you said them. Thanks for the reminder—I am and it is. J


At 11:35 AM, Blogger Yatin said...

Hi Gargi,
It takes time to learn any new language. That Language could be Gujarati, Hindi or Spanish. I am sure that you are smart enough to grasp it very quickly. You need to put some extra time. Since you have some extra time, you can hire someone to teach you marathi. That way you will learn faster. Don't worry about money. It will be cheaper. Wheather you use it in future or not , it is better to learn it. You are very young and energatic with lot of enthusiasm. Nothing is impossible for you.
I believe everything must be going smooth for your Project. Take care of your health and use your time wisely.
You must have talked to bhai in Baroda. Rajeshkaka is in London. We talked to all of them on 14th. You can call them after one week and ask for a Dr who can take care of your teeth.
we love you.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Yatin said...

I am trying to reach you, but failed couple of times.
Please make sure you give me a correct number

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Gabs said...

Gargs! Hang in there. I agree it is worth it for you to put in the time to learn the language. I'm sure the heat isn't helping with enthusiasm. Just know we are all so proud of you for your sense of adventure and bravery! You are our hero and we love hearing all about your adventures. Miss you so much! Keep the updates coming!


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