'I'm Not Any Less Indian, Just Because I Can't Speak Tamil'

  • 27 Aug 2019

This story by Divya was originally featured on Malaysian Indian Anthology and has been reproduced in Astro Ulagam.

I grew up speaking English most of the time. My mother was a Tamil language teacher and our conversations always consist of her speaking in Tamil and me speaking in English. I presume it might be entertaining for most people who hear our conversations.

Most Indians, upon uncovering the fact that I can’t speak fluent Tamil, always prompt me with the same question, “Can you speak a little Tamil?”. As simple as this question sounds, it makes me incredibly anxious.

My responses which consist of either refusing and staying silent or actually saying something, will always lead to me being made fun of. As I got older, it got harder to explain why I couldn’t speak Tamil fluently.

One day, a relative came up to me and said, “No respectable Indian man will marry someone that can’t speak Tamil”. I was shocked, but I couldn’t respond, as my broken Tamil could not have possibly articulated how ridiculous this statement was.

Given the right words, I would’ve responded, “My worth as an Indian woman is not valued by how well I speak Tamil and any man who would equate me to that is not worthy to be a husband”. Dramatic response, I know, but it’s nonetheless true.

I am not any less Indian, just because I can’t speak Tamil. There is no such thing as a “pure” Indian, there’s just Indian. I am proud of my identity regardless of what people say.

Photo source: Malaysian Indian Anthology

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