Today I am very pleased to bring you a guest post from retired teacher and blogger, Chaya.
My love of words….
It started with….
“Ajja, what is stupid?” I asked my beloved grandfather. I sensed that the girl who had uttered that word in the playground didn’t mean it as a compliment, and I wanted to know what it meant. Ajja was dismayed by my use of the word and said not to repeat it, and more importantly, not to address someone with it…ever. Confused, I was about to go and ask Papa when Ajja quietly gave me a pocket-size Collins English Gem Dictionary (1936 edition and still used by my hubby and me) and guided me to locate the word and learn the meaning. This little gem opened a whole new world for me…. A world of words to look up, and learn.
My Ajja was deeply spiritual, loving, and well-read, with elegant handwriting…. A man of few words. He was my first teacher of the English language. We had two big wood and glass cupboards full of carefully covered, gently treated and almost revered books. Some rare ones like The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru come to my mind. As a child, I would look through the glass with longing at those interesting, big volumes that were out of bounds for me. (Only grown-ups handled those precious books.) Ajja would often take a book out, put one arm around my shoulder, talk about the book then say, “You will be able to read all these books very soon.” Thus began my love of written and read words.
My Papa was a voracious reader who had mastery over spoken and written English. I would find him every morning with his eyes glued to the Indian Express newspaper, reading every word from front to back. On Sundays, I would sit next to him and he would give me the comic section to look at. My Papa was a great storyteller who used expressive words and mimicry to bring his characters to life and mesmerize us. I remember Papa sitting at his old typewriter, with his fingers flying over the keys and immersed in words that would magically appear on the paper. Like many of his generation, Papa’s writing style was floral. He loved to use sayings, proverbs, andexplain their relevance and usage to me. His aerograms sent to England in the ’70s, ’80s to me, my hubby, and my children were so wonderful that I love reading them even now. Papa made me appreciate the power and responsibility of the written word.
My Aai,(Mum) somehow made time in her busy day of taking care of all of us to read to me. Herreading interests are mainly scriptures and teachings of saints. Aai would sit down with me after dinner with a bowl of sliced, fresh fruit and show me mythological big books mostly with pictures. She would turn each page and relate the story in pure Konkani (our mother tongue). Aai showed me that words could transport me to a different world in each story.
My teacher read Marathi literature with such enthusiasm and joy that it was contagious. She introduced me to the nuances of puns, similes, metaphors, and personification. My English teacher drummed the importance of grammar into us and had us chant certain phrases to make sure we would use appropriate words when writing in the past tense, present tense, present continuous, or future tense. To this day, I remember the chants, “ He goes, she goes, it goes, I go, we go, they go.” Or, “I am going, she is going, he is going, it is going, we are going, they are going!”
Hello, Your Royal Highness….
As I left my school days of Enid Blyton and college days of heavyweights like Shakespeare and Wordsworth behind me, got married, and moved to England, I discovered the wonders of words in a whole new way. At public libraries, I had unlimited access to books penned by renowned English writers. In local theaters, I was able to watch plays where thespians brought characters of great writers like Shakespeare to life. I finally made sense of the literature I had read but not fully comprehended as a college-going youngster. I learnt the Queen’s English and pronunciation in a “proper” manner!
A matter of spelling….
Our life took us to America — a land where the written, and spoken language is English. However, the difference in the usage of English In England and America cannot be starker. Another opportunity to learn new words, and relearn old words with different spelling and pronunciation. Once I mentioned to a friend that I called but her phone was “engaged”, she replied curtly “people are engaged, phones are busy!” I went back to university in my fifties to gain a degree in teaching and entered the world of textbooks, and American literature. My favorite classes were creative writing and poetry. My creative writing professor often remarked that he found my writing well-composed and very interesting but, often “wordy”. I valued his opinion and have tried hard to be stingy with words but, alas, “Old habits die hard!”
My love affair with words continues….
My journey as an elementary school teacher gave me ample opportunity to share my knowledge gathered from living on three continents. Although I mostly taught Math and Science, teaching vocabulary played an important part in my day. I adopted words from my students too. Except when they insisted on using double negatives (which was always accompanied by a sheepish look) like, “I didn’t do nothing, Miss!” I could just imagine my grammar teacher being horrified by the use of double negatives which was a definite “no, no!”
I started writing with gusto after retiring. Often inspired by my 91 year-old mum. As a new blogger I have found the perfect platform for my passion for reading and writing. As my love of writing and reading words in Konkani, Marathi, and English continues to deepen, I can feel my Ajja’s and Papa’s smiling approval from their place in my heart.
Please visit her blog to see more, say hello, and welcome her to our wonderful community.