The stirring string of a Native Tongue.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
---Nelson Mandela---

How true are these words of Mandela, one should always take pride in his very own language, culture, roots and matter where he dwells while still being a global citizen. The heart is always longing for the Motherland and the ears are forever yearning to hear the melodious modulations of words of one's own Mother tongue.  The familiarity, ease and comfort  of a Bengali being exudes in these very words "amori bangla bhasha...maa go tomar koley, tomar boley, kotoi shanti bhalobasha"... 


Many of us are miles and miles away from where we belong..  afar from those winding country roads of home. We are amidst the bustling city of New York in Manhattan reveling at the city lights, the ambience and the bill-board spectacles of Times Square. I was gorging on some gourmet street food on one of  the innumerable vendor trucks offering deliciously addictive fare. Living in the vicinity of "The Big Apple" it is but a ritual that I give my visitors back from Kolkata an insider's experience of the New York city, treating them to hot dog carts, Mediterranean plate lunches and Mister Frostee ice cream at the curbside. It was during one such  mobile meal rendezvous amidst laughing  and talking amongst our little group that the vendor handing out his pretzels with honey mustard sauce interjected with a smile asking "apnara ki kolkatar".(Are you all from Kolkata). I was startled a little by hearing Bengali right at the "crossroad of the world," at the Time Square. I was taken aback with his polite and friendly gestures extended to us for just being a fellow Bengali. Soon he introduced himself, hailing from Bangladesh from the district of Netrokona in Mymensing and that incidentally happens to be my ancestral home town too. As conversation rolled on, I mentioned that I had visited the town as a child. He was thrilled and too excited to hear this and almost went ecstatic when I reiterated a few sentences with the typical "Netrokona" dialect of Bengali that I had learnt from my mother. Bengali as a language being rich and varied in terms of dialect, my mother had a tough time in comprehending the nuances of the very same language spoken in another district. As a young bride she was absolutely clueless to what her in laws were saying and stayed baffled till someone interpreted to her in her familiar Dhaka dialect. There were a few sentences that she had painstakingly picked up from her five year old brother-in-law, one of them being.. "Ogla aam khaibaine"...a kind offer he frequently made to my mother...meaning.."would you like to eat one mango"..


As a five year old boy he wanted to impress and welcome the new member of the family with the fresh mangoes from the backyard tree. Though his poor sister-in-law (boudi) could make no sense out of it even after hearing it several times during her stay. My mother had learnt that one sentence by heart for the rest of her life and often shared this spatter of her knowledge of Bengali in the Mymensing dialect. Little did the Five year old know, neither did my mother, nor did I know...that one day, after some fifty years of being spoken by a child, this one sentence would sound like music to someone's ears in another era, in another country. That one sentence would brighten and  bring a smile to a Bengali's face with tears of joy rolling down his cheeks. He was so immersed in emotions of oneness with his own motherland. He no longer felt I was his customer, he treated me like I was someone visiting him from his far away family. He refused to accept any money for the food that was ordered and turned down my offer to pay by citing prayers of forgiveness, it was sinful for him to even think of money. I was touched to the core by this Bangladeshi  street food vendor in New York city. The intense love and passion portrayed through his gestures to a complete stranger just from hearing one sentence in his native language from his native place speaks volumes about the high esteem, reverence, respect and adoration he has towards his own language and land. To me this is a jubilation, a heart felt celebration of love for one's  Mother tongue, one's own roots, culture and heritage.