Monday, January 05, 2015

A Language Called Love

What is language?

The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.

Yet, we have used it for everything but communication. Language is alternately defined as a system of communication used by a particular community or country. Language, in today’s world, and more so in multilingual countries is that – an ingroup/outgroup dynamic. A tool to include or exclude people from groups. An identity that feels threatened by the presence of other means of communication, other languages. Language, today, is more form and less substance. It is the choice of words rather than ideas being shared. It seeks to exist for the sake of itself rather than for reaching out to others. Language is a manipulative tool that comes with its own politics.

But language is also any nonverbal method of expression or communication. Language that goes beyond the words and connects two people, whether or not they are able to use the right words. The language called Love.

All children know this language. All adults know this language around them. It is only in the adult world that we pretend it matters what language we speak in, more than what it is that we are saying. And we shove our languages down each other’s throats.

I remember going to Hampi a few years ago – alone and with barely any knowledge of Kannada. And I remember meeting two most loving women during the time. One of them spoke halting English but from the moment she met me, she took me under her wing. My safety, my comfort, my food…she ensured that everything was taken care of and I had nothing to worry about. It was the time of a great flood in the region and there were torrential rains. I had to report to her every day in the interest of my safety and also to let her know what I had seen around Hampi the previous day. With broken sentences but full hearts, we talked and helped each other and language never became the reason our ideas couldn’t reach the other. It was a time when words mattered less, communication mattered more and love led the way.

I remember, too, fondly my white mother in Slovakia. English, as a language, was technically foreign to both of us and yet, her love for me and mine for her are not defined by whether we understand each other’s languages or are part of each other’s cultures. Love is the only thing that binds me to her, millions of miles away. I do not believe that external concerns like our language and our words ever come into the way when someone is willing to care so deeply and love so selflessly. Even complete strangers and foreigners can find ways to connect if there is a will.

Language politics have been at the forefront in small personal groups and large national groups for some time now. Everybody is scared that their language will die. Everybody is petrified that their culture will be wiped out. It is ironic that these concerns come from some of the oldest countries in the world. Culture has been evolving and languages have been dying or being born for thousands of years. What matters is whether they have helped us integrate or segregate. 

The bottomline of all human existence should be concern for another human and today, language stands as one of the barriers to that. When people of a state demand that others must learn their language or leave, they are putting a mode of communication above a human being. When people continue to talk in a common language in a group ignoring the single person who does not speak that language, they are putting a tool and the illusion of their identity above including another human in the group and making him or her part of the conversation to bring in more ideas. It is only the language of love that transcends any differences and really connects people, uniting them in understanding rather than bringing out their differences. And this New Year, my hope is for the entire world to adopt the language of love for the sake of fellow human beings.

2 Thinkers Pondered:

Vandana said...

I agree 100%. Language was created to facilitate better communication.. not to separate us further.. but that's what it has come to, today! People like to complicate things at her than looking at the simplicity of it.. However, a message that comes straight from the heart will never be unheard.. in fact it doesn't even need words for expression..

Anupama said...

Completely agree with you Vandu! The complexity that we introduce just by using language as a crutch is immense. If we put understanding someone above language, what a different world this would be!