Thaatha, paper bantha ?

In mid 90’s when I first started to read and write Kannada, this used to be the first question asked in the morning. My grandfather was the News Editor of Samyukta Karnataka, a Kannada daily. He used to put me on his lap and read out the most important news of the day. His way of introducing me to Kannada scripts and it’s intricacies was very interesting.

I remember in a Kannada daily called ‘Prajavani’, there was a cartoon published called Raman. He was a simpleton doing silly things. I had just learnt Kannada Varnamaale, so the daunting task of reading of Kannada started. Some how a lot of letters had a similarity and I was totally confused with ಯ (ya) and ಝ (jha), ರ (ra) and ಠ (Ta) and so on. I remember reading it completely wrong sometimes, thaatha with his immense patience used to not laugh but put up with me. For every correct sentence I read,was awarded kallusakkare. Sometimes due to printing errors dialogues in the cartoon weren’t printed. I used to fill it up with my own creativity with a lot of spelling mistakes which he used to duly correct it with a purple ink pen.
This exercise went on for almost two years, to make me read kannada well. This used to be our morning routine. Sometimes I felt ‘Why does kannada have so many alphabets, ottakshara, dheerghakshara and grammar’. From the Sunday page I gradually moved on to the headline, reading it clear and loud every morning with annotations was fun. Again with ಶ (sha) and ಸ (sa) it was really painful to exercise the tongue.

My thaatha was a visionary to an extent that he knew we would be sent to English medium schools and would be doing technical courses. He very intelligently sown the seed of Kannada reading and writing in me,so that even if my education restricts me to learn kannada for only certain number of years I will still be in touch with the language.
For every ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ he taught me ‘ನಾಯಿ ಮರಿ ತಿಂಡಿ ಬೇಕೆ?’ (Naayi mari tindi beke), a famous kannada rhyme by his teacher G P Rajaratnam.
unnamedLooking back, I realize how fortunate that I still can read and write in my language whereas a lot of my friends and cousins struggle with it. My house never became a stage for me to showcase my English speaking skills, rather I was encouraged to speak completely in Kannada. My learning of reading and writing the language was mostly through kannada newspapers and magazines. I see that’s missing for kids nowadays. Most of the parents do not subscribe to Kannada newspapers at all for various reasons. Kannada learning through textbooks is restricted but through newspapers it expands the horizon. I can see the content of news is less readable but Sunday specials still have some literature content.

That is how the younger generation will learn and spread the language. May be we have to have a look at it.
So what is your experience of learning how to read and write your language ?. Share your experience


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