I Can’t Write My Child’s Name 56


We are planning to have Rohan’s naming ceremony next month (better very late than never) and we have started to think about how we will do it. We know the venue, who we are going to invite, what food we are going to serve and we’ve decided to decorate the hall ourselves, to add a personal touch. I suggested we put Rohan’s name in Devanagari (the Indian alphabet) in huge letters on the wall, and as soon as the suggestion passed my lips, I had tears in my eyes… I can’t write my child’s name!

I would not even be able to pick it out of a crowd words. I’m surprised now much the fact I couldn’t write Rohan’s name in his ‘father tongue’ hurt, and it really did hurt.

Was I just being silly?

Family and friends have asked me, “do you want to improve your Marathi now you have a Marathi child”. Honestly, before that moment, not particularly. I just felt I would continue to pick things up here and there and learn as Rohan learns. After all, we live in Maharashtra, he doesn’t need me to teach him (secretly looking forward to him being able to translate for me).

Since moving to India, I have been bombarded with “why can’t you speak Marathi yet?”, “you only speak English?” and more annoying “you should be speaking only in Marathi by now”. Okay, so maybe I am  intellectually challenged because so many people are surprised I’m not fluent. It has been a struggle for me and the constant (yes, constant) badgering I get over it left me unmotivated and pretty defensive. Furthermore, I have found that my weak Marathi skills paired with the widespread understanding of English, is enough to get by. I can understand a reasonable amount of Marathi. I can follow the odd conversation and I definitely know enough to get the wrong end of the stick.

I cannot decide why I felt so strongly about this it brought me to tears. I guess I felt guilty that I didn’t know something so fundamental about half of my baby’s heritage, how to write his name in the native language of the place we call home.

Mother guilt, the psyche’s way to motivate us to try harder?

I had to do something about it, so I asked my husband to write Rohan’s  name, I watched him do it and practiced myself. Over and over again until my fingers knew it by heart. A substantial amount of practice later, I can now write my child’s name. I tried my hardest, I don’t know whether or no my handwriting is really bad, but I can do it.

rohan written in Hindi

Logically, I know that this didn’t make me incompetent and it turns out I’m pretty proud of the result. I can write one word in Devanagari, and I think it’s lovely that my first word is the name of my first child (luckily it’s a short one). I also have a little more motivation to increase my Marathi vocabulary. Not so I can teach Rohan to speak Marathi, he has an Indian family who are already trying to do that, so I won’t be the mother who can “only speak English”.

***

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About Lauren Mokasdar

Lauren fell in love on the internet, took a one way flight from England, got married & started a new life & bicultural family in India. She writes about finding happiness & balance between two very different worlds, when her baby takes a nap.


56 thoughts on “I Can’t Write My Child’s Name

  • Susan

    Good luck, Lauren! I have been married nearly 20 years to a Croatian, and I only understand a little and speak even less. We’ve always lived in the US, so that gave me less motivation or reason to learn it. I wish our two sons spoke it, though. Your son’s name looks beautiful in Marathi, but it the letters look difficult! How many letters are there? I speak French quite well but had a lot of trouble with Russian and eventually dropped it because of the alphabet. I bet speaking Marathi will be easier than reading it. Take care!
    Susan

  • VK

    Remember you are in NAGPUR ..It is a big populated but still a village with small and petty mentality (It may sound harsh but true and it may not be their fault since they have known no other world) ..Most people over there have not stepped out of their conservative village. If they had been even to a place named Mumbai they would have found families living for HUNDRED years without speaking Marathi.
    So chill , relax and MOST IMPORTANT BE THICK SKINNED (turn a deaf ear to those mean ignorant comments) else you will not survive to live in your fifties.
    And lastly there is absolutely no need to be so sentimental ..A script or a language is just that ..How does it matter if it is in Roman or Devnagari. If it all you can try learning Sanskrit (which sadly 99.9 % Indians do not)
    By the way congratulations on your baby ! He is absolutely adorable.

  • Marilyn Gill

    Good for you Lauren! I learned Panjabi with my kids as they grew up. Being married 33 years and around my in-laws now more often helped too. Don’t feel pressured. It will come and you will want to learn with Rohan. My frustration is that now they think I understand everything and they don’t want to speak English with me. Even in my home. I do pull out my cell phone when I am being left out and nobody cares that I don’t understand everything or talk to my nieces and nephews who will speak english. Give it time. The more you are around it the more you will learn. You wrote his name great!

  • wcg2

    Your handwriting is way better than mine!!!! Dont worry, I am also a person who learnt writing marathi the hard way. I studied in an English Medium School, due which my Marathi was pathetic in reading and writing. I was a blacksheep in my family because I hated learning languages. My mother tongue is Tamil, and I can only speak and read the language because of my Mumbai upbringing. I speak the famed Mumbai Hindi because of the same reason as above. In my school days I used to write in Mumbai hindi which is a greater sin than the original sin. From my 3rd Standard(Grade) till my 9th Standard languages were my weak link, which included English as well. It was in my 10th grade I developed a taste for languages. Now I speak 6 languages and can read and write 5. Now I am accused for writing Archaic words like thou, art, thee, thine, whilst, methinks etc etc in my thesis.

  • SOURABH KUMAR VERMA

    All the best. I have been following your blog for quite a long time (2-3 years) and I like the way you have written about your experience in India.

  • musicofchance

    Oh.my.god you have very nice handwriting. Kudos! And it’s so moving that the first word you learned to write in Devnagri is your child’s name. I wish you good luck on this journey of motherhood and language 🙂

    Also, look at it this way. Learning Marathi in Devnagri will also help you work with Hindi, as they follow almost exactly the same script.

  • S

    Expecting you should speak only Marathi is too much of an expectation. Ask them if they are sent to Karnataka can they be fluent in Kannada in a year! It is as alien to you. And the words you using like Dohaljevan etc I should say it is a lot. Accepting and wanting to make it your and child’s culture is itself an achievement. Many would have refused saying what we have is best! Had I been you, I would talk to them in English, and ask them you can’t still understand me after more than a year! I am a Marathi and if someone talks to me in ‘rural’ Marathi or faster I too don’t follow. In Nagpur cardboard is called ‘kharda’ we call it ‘puttha’ in Pune. There are a lot of differences
    Also, a child will learn any language faster. Grasping power is highest till 5-6th year. So them expecting you learn before him is high and irrational expectation. I bet he will also talk to you in British accent and others in Indian English!
    They say if you want your child to learn a language sent him to neighbours whose mother tongue is different than yours and ask them to speak to him/her in their language only. They do learn. I had seen a Doc’s girl learn fluent Kannada as her nanny was one at the age of 3!
    To help, you can buy Balbharti school books from 1st and 2nd. It will help you write and also make 3-4-5 letter words 🙂 and learn the turns of the alphabets.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      I have heard that Nagpurians speak a ‘strange’ version of Marathi and people in Pune find it funny lol. I’m sure Rohan will learn Marathi that way, with his Grandparents and out neighbours speak Hindi 😀

  • Kelly

    Keep going Lauren I am sure you will do it. I also love the fact that the first word you ever wrote was your child’s name, what a lovely memory to cherish every time your hear, speak or write Marathi.

    I do understand a little of where you are coming from. I am struggling to learn Malayalam and I really thought I would be able to do it, especially as I was a modern languages teacher in the UK, but the sounds and letters are so alien to me I have not gone past just a few words. I know this frustrates my husband because he really wants me to communicate with his family who don’t speak English but each time I try I realise I am just saying the same things…that makes for a boring conversation!

    Anyway I wish you the absolute best of luck learning Marathi. When your son begins to speak that could help you to learn as well because of how we teach babies language so hang on in there for that too. I would love to hear more about how you are doing as I am sure that it will keep me on the right track!

    Have a lovely day and enjoy every moment of the Naming Ceremony, a very special event for a very special baby. xx

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Thank you, Kelly!
      There are so many Marathi sounds I can’t get my tongue around. Best of luck learning Malayalam. I hope you will be able to have a conversation with your in-laws soon xx

  • friend

    @Lauren

    I can understand your predicament. However, don’t get depressed. If this inspires you to learn hIndi/marathi, then it would be a welcome addition to your life. I suggest that you learn to spell your husband’s and your name in hindi too. Abhiram= अभिराम, Lauren= लॉरेन

    BTW your handwriting is perfect, better than many people I know. You would be successful in whatever you set your heart to. If you feel defensive about marathi, try to practice it with your husband, with whom you are comfortable and feel less intimidated.

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      I would not say I was depressed about this, more eager to learn now for sure 🙂

      I’m so happy my handwriting is okay. There is no way for me to know other than being told! Thank you 🙂

      • friend

        @Lauren

        I suggest you start watching Hindi movies on Youtube with English subtitles. Alternatively, you guys can also go to movies. I stress on Hindi because it is a template for most languages in India including Marathi and you are better off learning Hindi. I am sending you a wonderful movie with english subtitles. I know you are a little busy with Rohan, but do have a look.

  • Antonina

    It’s a wonderful effort and a great start. Lauren. My Hindi is still very poor, and I just keep picking up here and here, though I’m planning to make a deliberate effort to improve it. Here in Mumbai everyone asks me whether I speak HIndi, not Marathi. I suppose it’s because it’s such a cosmopolitan city with people from all over India. Anyway, I do speak 4 languages – two of them are my native ones, and the other two took me a lot of time and effort to master. So, if I’m rather relaxed with the fifth one, I suppose it’s ok 🙂

  • Dasi

    It is hard to learn a 2nd language. I’ve tried French(while living in France) Portuguese, Telugu, I’ve given up for now since I live in an English speaking country. 😛 My sister in law, from Russia, learned English and speaks it quite well now (4 years later), but none of us over here speak any Russian so she was kind of forced. I know its actually quite easy to get by in India without speaking much of the language. So many people there speak English! A lot of Indians speak multiple languages as it is. It easy to learn to speak a 3rd and 4th language, getting the 2nd one is the hardest bit. Also people who already speak more than one language think its so easy, But its not! Not for me anyway. 😛

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      It’s not for me either! I’m glad your sister-in-law managed to learn English. I guess it is “easier” to learn if you don’t have a choice haha. I hope you are well xx

  • Samrandomnumber

    Adult language acquisition is by no means straightforward, and not having picked up much Marathi when you’ve only had three years’ intermittent exposure to it signals no defect on your part. Some adults have the knack of it; many others don’t. Language tuition in the UK school system is deeply flawed, undervalued due to the ubiquity of English and in most cases starting several years past the magic age of acquisition, and I can’t feel we’re rather held back by that. And it’s even harder with a non-mainstream language. I’ve basically had to give up the idea of picking up my boyfriend’s language because there are so few resources out there, and as the dialects change from village to village and between different castes *within* his village, those resources that do exist (a chapter in a phrasebook and a few brief online vocab lists) don’t bear much resemblance to the version I hear him speaking. Plus I don’t get that much practice with it – people speak too quickly for me to even begin to follow, and as for total immersion, well, we only get three months at a time together as a rule, and if he spoke it to me exclusively during that time, we wouldn’t get much said. It’s not that I don’t have the motivation to learn it: I’d love to know how he expresses himself in his mother tongue, especially as his English, acquired entirely through casual exposure, is fairly idiosyncratic – we generally get our respective points across but there’s a definite lack of nuance; a limited palette of expression; frequent misunderstandings. He’s had no formal education, was in the workforce at the age of nine, is entirely illiterate in English and barely literate in his own language, so we can’t even write to each other when we’re apart – no letters, no email, no instant messenger, no Facebook. I long for better communication. It’s just very hard.

    *Pause to consider the manifold ways in which my relationship is not like the other relationships*

    So yes. I decided to stick with Hindi, which has a similar relationship to my boyfriend’s language as it does to your husband’s (my boyfriend doesn’t actually identify as a Hindi speaker and sometimes attempts to switch a conversation in that medium to English, but in truth he does understand about 50% of the vocabulary and I think it’d give me a better sense of his language construction habits anyway). Even that’s painfully slow progress. I’m not a natural at this game, and I don’t really have the time to spend more than an hour a day at it – you must have even less time. I also suffer, as I think you do, from an aversion to being laughed at (even though the people around me aren’t prone to that; even though I know when it does happen it shouldn’t be taken to heart), and feel I need to get myself up to a certain standard before attempting to speak it in public. I’ve found I’m much more comfortable speaking to kids, who you’d think would be more inclined to mock than adults but somehow aren’t in practice. Daily application is important. Casual exposure is helpful – day-to-day in your case, but I get a little of it too from Hindi-speaking Facebook friends and, when I can bear them, Bollywood movies. It’s not going to happen overnight. Nor will you learn at Rohan’s speed – I have a friend who’s learning Welsh in parallel with her three-year-old, and he’s already overtaken her, because that’s how growing brains work. But it will come to some extent. In the meantime, you’re raising a bilingual child between you, and that’s a wonderful gift to give him. You’ve nothing to feel guilty about.

    In summary, don’t beat yourself up over this. And here’s quite a helpful online Devanagari script game (there are Hindi vocab-building games on that site as well):

    http://www.digitaldialects.com/Hindi/alphabet.htm

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      Hi Sam,
      I agree. I think the first time I had a language lesson was in year 7! I definitely really hate being laughed at and it’s one of my biggest barriers to learning Marathi. Thank you for the link and encouragement. I hope you get to see your love soon.

      • Samrandomnumber

        Yes, same here, and then it was only one or two hours a week. I learnt French between the ages of 11 and 16, so five years in all, and I can barely speak it. Ah well. I hope you’ve been able to convey to those in your household at least that the laughter, while not unkindly meant, is unhelpful. And thank you.

  • friend

    @Lauren

    You can take the help of Crystal’s site “My Hindi Heart”. She has some great tutorials about day to day Hindi. It would help you immensely with Marathi as well as the script used is almost the same. BTW she has been blessed with a girl child.

  • Luma

    Hi Lauren

    I really enjoy reading your blog, I am in a similar situation as you and it always gives me a lot of comfort to read that someone else understands what I am going through!

    I live in an area where Hindi is the main spoken language. I also thought it would be impossible to learn the Devanagari script, but then I had a month of work (visa issues), and I decided to use the time to learn it. I learned it very quickly and quite easily (I am lazy so only really managed 15 mins a day or so). I now can read everything (albeit incredibly slowly). I know you must have a lot less time than me as you have a young baby, but if you dedicate 15 minutes a day to memorising the characters, I am sure you will be surprised how quickly you will learn them! I am writing to tell you this because I also thought it was an impossible task but found it surprisingly easy. I wrote each individual letter on a flash card with the corresponding sound on the back, then learned around 6 of them per day until I knew them all.

    Very best wishes

    Luma

  • Magda Lena

    Devanagari is actually very easy. Took me 1 week to learn the script. There are only some few letters which I find problematic to remember but I am able to read. Unfortunately I have no idea about the meaning hahaha I was thinking mastering the script would be tough and then I can move on into easier part – vocabulary. Unfortunately it was opposite for me 😀 Living in south India I don’t have much exposure with hindi 🙂 And my husband’s language – konkani is so rare I could find only 1 book which apparently was about different dialect.

    • Luma

      That was precisely my experience! thought the script would be far more difficult to learn than the language itself! My husband’s language is Urdu which is thankfully very similar to Hindi, but the script is entirely different. My family now keep suggesting I learn Urdu :S

  • *AndreA* (indianbyserendipity)

    I totally feel you here Lauren! In my world in India everyone speaks Hindi, not Marathi. Except the maids, who keep nagging me to learn Marathi and even though I love languages I totally can’t see the point of cramming my brain with yet another Indian language! hahaha But as an intercultural mother it is definitely very important to feel that your family is living both cultures equally for the sake of your kids cultural heritage. This is a great beginning for you, I admire your determination to write it properly! You did great! 😉

  • anenglishwomaninmumbai

    Awww don’t take it so hard and don’t listen to anyone who puts pressure! You are doing great! I would suggest maybe learning Hindi first and moving on to Marathi later on (quite a lot of the words are similar). If you have both Hindi and English you can get on in a lot of places in India even when you don’t speak the local dialect. Marathi is important as (I’m guessing) that is how all your family converse, but in the long run Hindi will be very useful and I’m sure they will be happy to speak it to you also. I’m doing the Rosetta Stone course online which is also teaching me Devanagari script. It is making so much sense learning both the spoken and written together and it is actually not as hard as you think it will be! Another good tip is cover your household objects in post it notes with the romanised and devanagari words for them. Good way to increase vocabulary and learn letters also. Good luck and you, like me, will get there in the end don’t worry! xx

  • Padparadscha

    I’ve been trying to learn Tamil for the last 8 years or so, and so far I’ve had little success, but I finally managed to learn the full alphabet last year. Fortunately for us most Indian language methods are written in English. You may find some mobile aps to teach yourself writing, I found one in Tamil.

    Meanwhile do you know the Book Box website where you can watch a cartoon in marathi with mrathi subtitles ?
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=book+box+marathi

    Tulika publishes bilingual books but not in hindi
    http://www.tulikabooks.com/bilingual-books/

    You’ll get there in the end, don’t worry ! Take care xxx

  • Rohit Khosla

    You are not alone. I have lived (for the first 20 years of my life) in Nagpur and do not speak a word of Marathi. Nagpur is flush with central government institutions and employees tend to be of pan Indian Nature.

  • RJ

    I won’t comment any thing on Marathi vs Hindi… if you want to understand the Maharashtrians you must watch P. L. Deshpande’s – Tumhala kon vhaychay Mumbaikar, Punekar ki Nagpurkar (KAR stands for A native or resident of that City), its funny from well know writer you probably might have heard from your husband. Its in Marathi do ask in your family to translate word by word you would probably die by laughing.

  • Nancy Coffin

    There is a certain luxury, I think, in not being able to understand a language – you don’t get caught up in gossip and petty drama. That being said, it’s also nice to know what’s going on. Rosetta Stone is great and there are also some apps for your phone that teach the script. Karan, now one year and two months, understands more Hindi than I do, and also the local dialect. I’ve heard that it’s good in multilingual households for each parent to speak their native language. I speak only English to him and Suresh speaks only Garhwali/Hindi. I haven’t made too much of an effort to learn Hindi, but I definitely understand more than I can speak just from using Rosetta Stone and listening to people. It is frustrating when you speak a little and then people think you understand everything they’re saying. Don’t worry about what others think – do what’s best for you and your family. You will pick up what you need of the language as you go.

    Nancy

    • Lauren Mokasdar Post author

      That is quite true. I feel much more laid back about not knowing everything that is going on these days. I used to be really annoyed by it! I guess even knowing it, if it’s a second language it might be easier to zone out?
      I hope you, Karan and hubby are well 😀 xx

  • HotMadrasCafe

    I feel your handwriting is very good. I have learned in Marathi school for ten years. Still your hand writing is better than mine. 🙂 I have been following your blog for long time now. But I am back here, after, may be six months. Feels very good while reading your blog as usual. Keep it up.

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