My Father

My father is a man of few words. Words matter to him and he uses them wisely. For the last three months, he has not uttered or typed a single one. I don’t think he will do so for a while atleast.

My father has a round face. If I stand beside him and remove the top half of my hair and cut the bottom half extremely short, you will probably not be able to differentiate me from him. I hope the next time I see him, he has hair on his head like he does in the black and white photo in front of me.

My father tells me that he sees himself in me. He will succeed when I do and he would finally have lived a full life. I have 7000 bucks in my bank account as off today. It would suffice to say that he has a lot more to wait for.

My father hugs me tight whenever i get angry. He repeats ‘all iz well’ in my ears till I calm down. He hasn’t done that in a while. But I have a feeling he will need to do that soon.

My father likes history. He tells me of Genghis Khan and Alexander; of Gandhi and of Mandela; of Nizams and of their servants. He has become a bit slow off late but soon all he will do is tell me stories.

My father writes e-mails to me. He writes better than he speaks. He claims to have a monotonous and off putting voice. So he avoids the telephone and sticks to the written word. He hasn’t e-mailed me in a while. But soon he will.

My father is a favourite among his students. He is a hard task master for me though. He never ceases to  point out that unnecessary adjective that I use against my noun. Off late he has been correcting me telepathically.

My father is dead for the world. But isn’t it a happy fact that I don’t fall into that group?

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Musings

I like treasure hunts. I like history. I like the thought of ‘El Dorado’ existing somewhere in my backyard. I like the search for things long gone. I strive to achieve the impossible. Yes, I like living in the past. Call me an escapist but I like fiction over nonfiction. It is more peaceful than the latter and allows room for imagination and possibilities. And I like my options.

The Evolution of English as a Language

English—the first global ‘lingua franca’, the most widely spoken language and the third largest native language after Mandarin and Spanish—surprisingly has neither a script to call its own nor the purity boasted of by other languages such as French and Malayalam. In order to understand the origin of this language, we need to turn back a few pages of our history books and revisit the past.

We travel back to 55 and 54 BC, Rome. A young man with the name Julius Caesar set sail for the unknown territories up north and discovered vast stretches of land which he referred to as ‘Albion’ (from the Latin word ‘Albus’ meaning white) owing to the white cliffs of Dover visible from the sea. The then inhabitants of this foreign land—the Celts, led by the lady warrior Boudica—offered resistance to his attacks by pushing boulders down the cliffs and destroying the huge Roman ships in the process. Caesar retreated to his country but came back the next summer with repaired ships. A man who learned from his mistakes, he entered Albion through a river estuary and this time he obliterated his enemies. This was the beginning of Roman Britain.

Skipping a few pages of history, we stop at 450 AD- the decline of the Roman Empire. This was the period which saw the movement of tribes across Britain and Europe. The Anglo Saxons, a tribe native to the region covering Germany and Denmark, shifted their base to Britain. The Franks, another Germanic tribe moved to Gaul and overthrew the Romans. The native Celts were pushed to the west (a region that speaks Welsh to this date). Around 600 AD, this region was dominated by the Anglo Saxons and called ‘Englaland’ or land of the Angles. This was when the evolution of the English language started—from its roots in Anglo Saxon (also known as Old English). Even today, Anglo Saxon and English share common words.

Moving ahead to 1066 AD, a Frank king by the name William the Conqueror, also known as William the Bastard, led a military invasion on Englaland. His ancestors hailed from Normandy and he spoke Norman as a result of which the administration of the new government was handled in Norman (modern French). The mixing of Anglo Saxon and Norman gave rise to what we know as ‘Middle English,’ a period which saw the rise of authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer.

The 1400s gave rise to early modern English which was a period of the Great Vowel Shift. It was further transformed by the spread of standardized London-based dialect. In 1604, the first English dictionary was published—the Table Alphabeticall. With the spread of the British Empire, the English language spread all across the globe and was influenced by the local languages and dialects of the British colonies. Overtime, it picked up words from other languages and became what it is today—a mode of communication for majority of the world.

For a language which borrows its script from the Romans—the same as Latin—it has made tremendous progress through the centuries. A ‘mongrel tongue’ lacking purity and heavy with pollution, it is indeed a funny language where there is a mismatch between the way a word is written and the way it is spoken. Despite having its constraints, it has done well for itself by adapting with changing times and molding itself according to the needs of the people.

The muse to her man

Only 19 I was when I met you;

That fateful day in spring;

When brother Andre unknowingly;

Seized my heart from me and gave you.

That day I lost all that was dear-

My sanity, my pride, my family

And most of all myself.

Yes, I lost myself to you.

Shy, petite, obedient, I was.

You charmed me by your darkness.

Your handsome face was my mirror;

And you were my God.

Ill-reputed you were;

They named you a lothario,

A womanizer, a vagabond,

The moody prince of Paris.

Yet I ignored all;

I heard not the pleas of my loved ones.

They cried out-

Dear Jeannette, to your doom you go.

But me,

I, who was in love;

Heard not the cries of sanity.

Followed my childish heart,

And came to you faithfully.

Forever yours.

Promises you made me;

Said you’d give me your name,

Your love, yourself.

Dear Modi, where did they go?

When my Jeanne was born,

All she had was an unknown father.

An alcoholic,

An artist living in denial of the world.

Yet I loved you despite all.

Sat through all your dark moods;

All your whimsical acts I bore;

All your violent rages I took to my skin.

Yes I loved you.

I was your ‘jeannette’,

Your wife, your muse.

Despite all, possess you I could not.

After all you were the artist and I your muse.

When all friends deserted you,

I was there was I not?

When the world spit on you,

You found comfort in the warmth of my bosom did you not?

Oh my Modi, my sweet love,

The web of sensual darkness

That you wove around me was now my home,

My reason to live.

And when you left this cruel world,

I left with you.

I was yours till my last moments.

Your ‘Jeanette’,

Your unacknowledged wife,

Your muse.