An ode to language

Muskaan Jadeja

I had grown up surrounded.
English characters spelled out, titles taped on objects as labels. Notes on lamps, radios and windows.
“What’s that say?”
“What’s that mean?”
Immigrant parents learned words with me.
Pink sticky notes fluttered around the small green room we lived in then.
My mother would point at one of the 9 cats my grandparents had loitering around and I’d dub them a new word.
Like, the yellow one, Simon, was known as “balloon”.
Don’t blame me, they started the tradition of naming cats oddly: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, those were already existing cats.
I’d even given names to some family members. They still haven’t changed, though not for the lack of trying on their side.
I called my step grandmother GG, my twin aunts’ meen.
Em ee ee en that is.
Because, of course, there were points for spelling.
As we’d drive by a store, “what’s the spelling?”
“Double u oh arr dee ess”
Because they were everywhere. I could count them too.
One two three four
There were other words for words
Akshar. Lavs. Mot. Shabd.
Some were real and some, apparently, were not.
Iridescentness isn’t a real condition.
Oblivity isn’t a real state of mind.
I suppose there’s frustration to it. After all, I’m bound. Everything that I was, am, will be, hope to be, pray I won’t be, can fit in near 4.7 letters. Everything that can ever be has to have an explanation, a definition, a title. The stretch we take in the morning is an angdai, the art of wandering the streets with no goals but for pleasure is flâner. The desire to live a fulfilling life is jivisha. The reluctance on a person’s part to let go of an illusion is won. I am drenched in meanings.
My parents used to tell me that I spoke too fast.
An “English spitfire”, a fountain of words and letters, arranged and rearranged.
I met words too. Ones that used to be strangers. Through the pages of books, pressed still in stories, or passed out in conversation, unexpected and novel, like it was a new shade of color and I, an enraptured child, never knowing that a purple could be so lavender.
Words that meant nothing and others that seemed to transcend reality.
Viraha, the realization of love through separation
A droplet craving to rejoin the ocean.
A piece just broken off in a brief reprieve to be an individual for a fleeting moment.
A worshipper praying to join their deity.
Rasa, the idea of communicating with the eyes, feet, and voice to express emotions and tell a story.
I sat on the floor of my room, my walls adorned with notes, quotes, lyrics, tangles of words and I wrote paragraphs, verses, and feelings down on paper.
“Pee ay pee ee ar”
Everything that I am is confined by that piece of stationary.
Drowning in adjectives, moving in verbs and defined by nouns.
Words. I am always surrounded by them.
Like a trashy film, the policemen have covered all four directions, and the bank robber is trapped.
The scripts of words also make me up. Some I took with me and stitched into my thoughts, a mess of invisible words.
Sometimes I learned new words and marveled over its spelling.
Pee ar ee tee tee wai
That’s what they were to me. Pretty.
Hell, unbearably beautiful.
The concept of defining emotions, feelings and intangible ideas. Because through misplaced letters and odd pronunciations, I drank the word. Sip by sip, like a sherbet. The word, the title, somehow invoked the essence of the idea. And that was enough.
When we sang prayers, the words were alien. Old and lyrical, Sanskrit laden. It meant something of great value once, and now, we sit in front of temples and ring bells and sing those words to evoke forgotten meanings.
They can be ugly too.
Horrific sounds that seem to wrench open the lips they escape from.
Macabre, the disturbing and horrifying.
Unworthy, not deserving of the effort or attention.
I am surrounded by words.
Pink sticky notes fluttering around like leaves, books piled high on my dresser, and scribbled notebooks were all one thing, but I was soaked to my bones in letters, characters, languages and synonyms. Spoken voices clung to me, whispers plaited into my hair.
I am surrounded by countless, limitless, boundless, endless