The bridge between ‘us’ and ‘them’

“Yathrigan kripya dhyaan de…”

Travel announcements inform us more than mere details of our journey. They also a reflection of our identities.

When I fly out of Germany, the flight announcements are made both in German and in the language of the destination country. On hearing the announcement in an unknown language, followed by German, I felt good. I felt good about being able to understand the words. More importantly, I felt good about hearing the familiar syllables of the German language. When I talk to German tourists abroad, I often see how their face lights up.

What is interesting is that I lived in Germany for barely a year now. It tells me how quickly language builds an identity and catalyzes connection. For tens of thousands of years, we have been conditioned to call people the who speak our language as ‘us’ and consider everybody else as ‘them’. It is telling that one of the strongest sources of internal stability in India, is the reorganization of states along linguistic boundaries after one person fasted to death.

And considering how true this is, there is also a twinge of regret that we Indians do not strive to learn the language of the state we live in.  Especially when managing with Hindi or English is an option. If I were to relive my days in Hyderabad, I would surely learn more Telugu now. I used to consider this omission primarily as being disrespectful.

But now I see this as an opportunity lost –  an opportunity to make a connection that is meaningful.

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