I plead guilty. I do not know to read or write my mother tongue.
I can speak fluently and understand it well as a language, but I am not Tamil literate.
I know that Tamil- or should I say Tamizh- has a rich literature- forever closed to me? Maybe yes. Even if I was Tamil literate, I wonder if I would have been able to grasp the kind of non colloquial Tamil used in books.
My early childhood was in Andhra ( 4 years) and then in Mumbai. In school, I learnt Telugu ( which I mostly forgot once we moved) , Marathi and Hindi. Many attempts to learn written Tamil at home from my mother who is excellent at it , ended soon- only because it did not seem a necessity- it was irrelevant.
I always enjoyed reading and English had more than enough to offer for all ages- (though I would have enjoyed a Tulika or a Karadi tale even then). Sometimes I feel English with its vast array of published works killed all desire to learn any other language to broaden my perspectives or pick up other slices of life.
That leaves us with the need to learn other languages for sheer communication.
My grand fathers knew English. Mr grandma knew Hindi ( Prathmik- Madhyama etc of those days). Letter writing was done in either of those languages. In fact, to my grand ma, I wrote letters in Tamil using the Hindi Script.
I have not really got around to reading/writing Tamil, even after having lived here in Chennai for over 10 years. One needs to be able to communicate- a common language is an enabler. Not knowing to read- write Tamil was never a deterrent. Except maybe some government forms available in Tamil alone.
Navy can fluently read, write, speak - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, English and Hindi. And a bit of Gujarati as well!
Between Navy and I , we prefer using English and Hindi because we began as friends and that was what we spoke to each other back then. I cannot get myself to suddenly use "neenga" when I address him and calling him "nee" causes arched eyebrows : - )
I think purely in English and I cannot imagine untraining myself now.
When I do speak in Tamil among my Chennai Tamil friends, most of them term it " Brahminical" or " Bombay Tamil" ( which is dominated by Palghat Tamil I think). Due to the cosmopolitan crowd at work, I stick to English. Tamil therefore is used more with the service staff at work and home, and with my paati.
On to the next generation.
Navy and I insist on Anushka calling us Amma and Appa ( NO mummy and daddy) and paradoxically, the rest of the conversation is largely in English! But we do use some Tamil words.
Anushka manages to speak good Tamil more on account of my ma, my grandma and the maid and some of her peers who converse only in Tamil with her. I am glad she speaks her grandmother tongue. Am I am anxious that she must be Tamil literate? No. But I will be glad if she is.
Hindi she picks up from film songs and from the bilinguals from Tulika and CDs from Apple tree and so on. School will anyway ensure Hindi is learnt. Will I be anxious if she is not literate in Hindi? Yes. ( I am unable to pin down why though.)
We are hoping that living in the South, will help Anushka learn one or at least two regional languages thoroughly. I usually pick up Tulika bilinguals in English and Hindi and sometimes Tamil for the more Onomatopia filled ones. If in Hindi, I read it to her and if in Tamil, my mother reads it to her.
As for cooing to Aditi, I must say I use Tamil and Hindi as much as I use English. Terms of endearment are so many more in Tamil/ Hindi.
In the blog world, I enjoy those like howdoweknow, Blogeswari and Boo who express themselves beautifully in two languages. Will I ever be like them? No.
There have been many posts on this since Tulika opened this blogathon. I had to do the above post to help clarify to my own self where I stand on the matter.