Unmourned Death of a Mother Tongue

The dusk crawls on the suburban town of Fairfield. The evening chill of February is starting to sting on his wrinkled hands.

Arjun sits on the park bench, watching over his grand-daughter playing on the swings.
“Let us go now, Pooja” he paused, “It’s time to go home”. He speaks broken English, with Indian accent. Over the years he has adapted to the foreign tongue, the only language his grand kids understand.
“Not yet Grandpa! Can you push my swing please – one more time,” says the little girl with big black eyes, as she struggles to keep the swing going.
“We have to go now, Pooja; the sun is going down.”
“It’s still light. One more push grandpa, please!”
Her delay tactics continue; she is winning every round of the exchange, or he is letting her.

After a few more swings and a long bargaining, they finally walk off the park. She skips along the sidewalk; their long silhouettes dragging behind them.

“Mom said you are making us a big kite. When can we fly it?”
“Soon. As soon as the winter is over and spring arrives.”
“Cool!”
“Look at the beautiful sunset, beta!” he points to the sun on the far western horizon as they turn the corner. their two story bungalow is within the sight now.
She casually looks at the sunset. Unimpressed, she skips along.

“Come on grandpa, Lets run to the house. Let’s see who wins“
“I am too old to run, beta”
“Mom says ‘beta’ means son?”
“That’s right”
“But I am a girl – a daughter, not a son.”
“That’s how we call little ones in our mother tongue, with affection! Son or daughter – the same thing.”
“But, mom and dad speak English at home!”
“I know, a bad habit!” His usual complain against her parents meant nothing to her. She runs off to the front door as he walks slowly, with measured steps of an old man.

“I won grandpa, I told you!” She turns back and shouts with a big smile.
“And, I told you, I am too old to run like you, beta!” But she has already disappeared behind the door, before he can finish his long drawn sentence.

In not-so-distant future, the grandpa will take his mother-tongue to the grave with him. His memory will last, the family will cherish his love forever; he will be dearly missed. But, no one in their family will mourn the death of a mother tongue.

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