Language Essay: East Sikkim, India

I come from a land where mountains stand as our guards, where clouds float around our heads as a symbol for thoughts, where it rains more than the sun shines, where you’ll see more monasteries than shopping malls, where people are quiet, calm and subtle about their opinions.The Earth is used as material for beliefs, and these beliefs, stitched into myths and these myths are sold for literature and culture, in return for respect. I come from Sikkim, the land of the Himalyas.

Going into depth, it surely is surprising to anyone, even a local I suppose, when I tell them that in my country India, there are over 1652 mother tongue languages spoken with over two thousand ethnic groups. And in this vast country, if you have a microscope, you might notice a small thumb like structure on a map of India. That is where I live.

Sikkim, a small state that is dense with stories and culture rather than people, has an influence from many countries including India, Nepal, Bhutan, and as modernization steps in, even America and its western culture. And what happens when these groups of countries influence one small state? You have lavish cuisine of numerous languages, festivals and beliefs. Each one is as scrumptious and satisfying as the other. Where I come from, Lachung, we speak Lachungpa a “rougher” version of Sikkimese (the language of people from Sikkim). Unfortunately I am not fluent and still a beginner at speaking Sikkimese and Lachungpa, as I was brought up at a place where Nepali was more densely spoken. My family converses in Tibetan and Lachungpa as well, and as much as I wish to understand them, it’s always such a pleasure to listen to them - even though it’s not understandable to me. They speak with such discipline, elegance, respect and surprising quickness, it almost sounds like lyrics. When we ask what someone’s name is, we say,”Tshey-gey ming kharey dhu lha?”. Even though this is a short and simple question, the vowels, pace and pronunciation is to be said correctly in order for it to sound proper. That is the thing about Sikkimese/Tibetan language, each word, syllable, and sound is so well put together. And when I write these comments, they sound similar to how I would comment on a poem. So in that case, language is so similar to a poem, and the speaker to a poet.

Each language has its own abilities and when I mention Tibetan, Nepali, Hindi, Sikkimese, their possibilities and abilities are countless. Even though it’s tragic that I cannot completely speak Lachungpa or Sikkimese, I do know how to speak Nepali and Hindi. They have the ability to show one’s emotions or connection with the speaker or reader really easily. For example, to somebody you would like to address with extreme casualty you would say, “toh” in Nepali and “tooh” in Hindi, to somebody with some casualty you would say “timi” in Nepali and “toom” in Hindi, and to somebody you highly respect you would say “tapai” in Nepali and “aap” in Hindi. However, in the English language, you would probably portray your feelings through one’s tone and sentences. Also it is interesting to note how similar Hindi and Nepali sounds. This is due to the influence the Sanskrit language has on it. In fact, Sanskrit has been a huge influence on English as well .The languages I have mentioned can be a beautiful addition to the BTL program, to study links between languages, and even for literary work!

I do not say this just because of my love for my local languages (although my love is endless for it), but because there are so many Nepali and Indian poets that have been my influence for my love of poetry. One well known example is a poet named Adi-Kavi Bhanubhakta Acharya, whose poem about him noticing a grass-cutter who devoted his time and effort building a well not for self-benefits, but for his villagers. The poet feels ashamed that he has done nothing to contribute to the society even though he has wealth, as stated by, “The grass-cutter is poor at home, but so rich in spirit. I, Bhanubhakta have done nothing with my wealth. I have no well, nor inns nor rest houses Whatever wealth and riches I have are in my home.” (Translated to English) This poem tells readers so much of the struggle for the meaning of life, identity, and also the nature of the people in a particular place. That is another thing about poetry - one can understand people, culture, and places thus Geography, Cultural-arts and psychology, and many other subjects via just a verse. We can say that it’s a spectrum through which we understand the world, no matter how confusing it seems at this age. And if poetry is a telescope in which we understand culture, Indian, Nepali and Sikkimese literature should be further explored to explore this part of the world that is often ignored and forgotten about in the fields of literature. I think BTL will be an excellent platform for India and its neighboring countries to have some of the recognition that it deserves. I love English poetry, but it would be refreshing to see poetry from places that are often not heard of as well.

Our communities are small and tight, one who's a Hindu often will go to a monastery or call a monk to pray for them, and a Buddhist will attend a Hindu festival and be equally celebratory as a Hindu. We respect religions and are highly enthusiastic about the,and going to B.T.L with such varieties of people and religion will only in-rich my learning on the world.. Being a Sikkimese, I can be very shy, quiet, and a sensitive teenager, but we do have strong attachments to our ancestral stories. We also have wild, strange myths to share with the world, ways in which we portray our respect and gratitude, how myths have influenced our lifestyles, and thus BTL can be an excellent stage to do so with other participants. It would be very interesting and educational as well to notice and listen to other participants' stories and experiences from their pasts, and then go back to my school and share their stories with my friends. It will be a link of learning for all of us. When there is a chain of learners, the chain will continuously increase.

Poetry and literature has been an important part of my life, and thus I would like to contribute for all it has done for me. One way would be bringing my language to a higher platform and exposing it to more people. Even though I live in a small place, I would like to represent my land to a huge country like America.