Having recently been initiated into the mysteries of non-English blogging, one feels that a bit of explaining is in order.
I, like many of my peers, read and write English much better than any other language. This, in spite of the fact that my first language (or mother tongue, as it is called in this part of the world!) is Tamil. The Indian education system, a not-too-evolved version of Macaulay’s mid-nineteenth century model of masters and rote, places a lot of stress on English as the medium of instruction. Add to that a set of parents who are fluent English speakers and a house filled with English books of every description and you have a perfect recipe for a very Tamil-deprived childhood!
However, Tamil was and is the language of everyday life. Friends, relatives, shopkeepers, strangers, bus conductors, the bandyman – everyone spoke to you and were spoken to in Tamil. Teachers spoke to you in English, even if some were not terribly good at it, and would hit you with a cane if they caught you speaking in “the vernacular,” as they called it. My parents switched easily between spoken Tamil and English easily and naturally. As a result, my spoken Tamil is as good as it can get – after all I am a native speaker. The only peculiarity was the lilt of the Kongunadu region that was firmly imprinted on my Tamil. This has now all but disappeared – the result of various wanderings in different parts of Tamilnadu, and more than a decade of living in Chennai. But the moment I am speaking to someone with the lilt, it reappears, as if by magic!