There are three things which I really value in life — sleep, solitary walks, and yes, reading! I grew up reading in Marathi, my mother tongue. But since moving to Mumbai in 2008 Marathi has got a short shrift while English has taken its place. But once in a while I pick up a Marathi book and realize what a fool I’ve been to neglect my mother tongue.
Last week I was at a friend’s place for a sleepover. He was showing us a few Marathi books he had bought. One of them was VP Kale’s most famous novel, Partner. I grabbed the book as soon as I saw it as I wanted to read it for quite sometime. I saw the number of pages — 159 — finishable in two-three seatings! I immediately put the book in my bag.
And I wasn’t disappointed. The book was engrossing from the very first chapter. Vapu (वपु), as he is fondly called by his fans, is an effortless storyteller and a philosopher. The two come together in Partner to create a beautiful masterpiece. Vapu tackles the age-old questions of relationships, marriage, family, attachment, love, etc. The book is full of Vapu’s philosophical moorings but he shies away from advocating any one way of living while painting the whole canvas of life from asceticism to sybaritism at the same time.
This was my second book of Vapu; the first one being Hi Vaat Ektichi (ही वाट एकटीची). Both books exemplify the fact that Vapu was a feminist at heart. Vapu’s hero gets up before his wife, makes tea for her and cleans the kitchen tiles too (Partner). His heroine dares to leave her parents and raise a child, born in unusual circumstances, on her own (Hi Vaat Ektichi).
I’ve read many English novels so far but it’s always the Marathi ones which leave a stronger impression on me. It’s not like I do not enjoy reading English literature but it somehow seems foreign (as a matter of fact, it is). It does not touch my heart the way a novel like Yayati (ययाति) does or Shala (शाळा) does. Only a Ratnakar Matkari story holds the power to give me sleepless nights. These works are rooted in the earth I live in, they are about my region, my people, my culture and, most importantly, in my language — with all its idiosyncrasies and beauty. Hence they are so effortlessly evocative and enchanting.
21 February was Mother Tongue Day and 27 February is Marathi Language Day. So this will be good time to resolve to read more in Marathi. I hope this post encourages you to seek treasures in your own mother tongue too.