Nobody I have met so far has escaped a reaction, after hearing that I am from Calcutta , my hubby is from Kerala and we are settled in Ahmedabad. I have noticed automatically the listeners’ eyes going towards our wee duo. Some look confused, while others seem amazed. Infact, many have commented ‘woah, that’s quite a combination’.
Well, yes, balancing work, taking care of the family and raising them kids in my multicultural set up is quite the combo indeed – often confusing, a tad difficult at times but more often than not, amusing.
We speak a Cocktail Language:
English being the primary language in our household, followed by Hindi, we still use a some words of Bengali and Malayalam. So, the final sentence often ends up having maximum words in English with a couple of words in the vernaculars. That’s one big reason why my children’s friends look at us , with their jaws dropped, whenever we speak among ourselves!
(Read: Raising Multilingual Kids)
When Scolding becomes Entertaining
At times, we end up scolding the kids in our respective mother tongues, which amuses the kids more than scaring them. Yes! they don’t understand exactly what we are trying to say and also they don’t find us ‘real’. Quite the irony!
Using the Secret Code
Now, that the son knows how to spell out words in English , so if hubby and I need to exchange any information, not meant for the kids, we resort to either Bengali or Malayalam and speak very fast before the son can catch! ( yes, having spent the first 15 years of his life in Calcutta, my hubby speaks fluent Bangla and my in-laws made sure, I learn Malayalam for my own benefit.)
Our Own Fusion Cuisine
There’s this spicy , onion chutney which is my son’s favourite and is now the favourite of many of his friends too. We call it ‘jhaal’ at home. One day , I get a call from my son’s friend’s mum who asked me, (in a confused tone)”Hey what’s this ‘jaal’?. Ever since, my son had it at your place, he just wants that with dosa.” I controlled my amusement and explained to her that it’s ‘jhaal’ and it means spicy in Bengali. After which , I gave her the recipe. Later , that night, she sent me a text saying “it didn’t turn out the way my son expected it to. Can you please send some to my place?”
At home we don’t have just Kerala or Bengali food… ours is the ‘fusion cuisine’ or the ‘cuisine of convenience’ , for example, we love having sambhar with aloo bhaja ( potato fries) and our fish curry has more curry leaves in them than the famous Bengali mustard paste.
We celebrate Onam , Durga Puja , Vishu and Poila Boishakh with same vigor and ofcourse, we play the Dandiya, like nobody’s watching. And, since, we can’t break our childhood trend, we shop for new clothes for all of these festivals. ( Ask any Bengali or Malayali the sentiments associated with Puja or Onam shopping ?)
And when the two families meet ( not just the parents, but the uncles, aunts, etc.), hubby and I take the back seat and watch the comedy that takes place everytime. Each one tries to communicate with each other in the best way possible. Inevitably, our kids soon become the center of attraction and the point of discussion, contributing largely towards bridging the cultural/ lingual gap within the family.
So, here we are , after celebrating a peaceful day of Onam, now looking forward to a fam jam during the Durga Puja. Who wouldn’t want to relish the best of both worlds?
So, if you are raising multicultural children too, please share your ‘fun’ MOMents.
(Originally Published in ‘The Latte Mom‘ Mommyzine)