Review | In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

#QOTD – Have you ever lived away from your language?

I have been in a linguistic exile all my life. My mother tongue, Assamese, is foreign in the city that I was born in and where I did my graduation from, which was Delhi, the city where I did my high school from, Jakarta, the city where I did my postgraduation from, Oxford, and finally the city that I married into, Calcutta. I have always spoken a secret, unknown language, lacking any correspondence to the environment.

The second language that I resonate to is Hindi, thanks to Delhi, yet I hardly read or write in Hindi. English takes over my mind when I think, and eventually is my first language. Now that I am in Calcutta, I crave to hear that typical Dilliwali Hindi accent, and not the broken Bengali-Hindi.

So here I am. I speak Assamese with my parents, relatives and cousins. It is not perfect, as I can read it only in a very slow speed and I cannot write it. I speak Bengali with my in-laws, but I speak without any authority over the language. I think, read and write in English, yet sometimes I crave for Hindi.

When the language you identify with is far away, you do everything possible to keep it alive. Because words bring back the place, the people, the life. Well, this is exactly what this book is about. It is about how people who are far away from their own place and language, are always aware of the difference. This book is about Jhumpa Lahiri’s journey of moving to another place and another language, and her attempt to make that language (Italian) her own.

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