Mitha Bol: A linguistic map of Mumbai . Tamil-Malayalam of Matunga.
In the book, 'If it is Moday, it must be Madurai' by Srinath Perur, the writer travels to Kerala's backwaters with a group of international tourists on a conducted tour. The book is a wonderful collection of his experiences with conducted tours for Indians across the world and this is one of the stories. On the trip to the Kerala backwater, one of things Srinath is fascinated by is the guide (aren't they always the most irritatingly interesting people on any tour) whom he observes with great interest.
The guide, a local not only folds his mundu (dhoti) better than Mohan Lal, Srinath is fascinated at how comfortable he is with the place and the surroundings. The true bhoomiputra, son of the soil in a very natural sense.
Srinath wonders aloud for all of us, about a question that occasionally arises in many of us, the ones who grew up in a cosmopolitan city with multiple languages on our tongues, visited kitchens of our neighbours as often as our own as children, and as we grew up and went to English medium school we buried our heads in book that took us to various geographies away from our own or later on plugged into the world wide web, made in India, moulded into a confusing identity by everything that we immerse ourselves in. But without a solid anchor to a specific place or culture like the guide Srinath was fascinated with.
I was reminded about his writing when I visited Matunga yesterday to attend a family function at the Kochu Guruvayoor Temple. It is called Little Guruvayoor after the famous Krishna Temple in Kerala. My mother tongue is Malayalam but I have never lived in Kerala and this was the first time I have visited the temple. The art in the temple is like what you find in parts of Tamil Nad, Southern Karnataka and Southern AP, the names of the gods are spelled the Tamil way. Guruvayoor Krishnan is actually just a small little shrine within the temple dominated by other gods like Ayyappa, Karthikeya, etc. There are a lot of little things to observe like in any place of worship.
However, it is the people who visit that make it a temple and they are mostly of Kerala origin and it was like stepping into Kerala and surrounded by people who live in Mumbai but with roots firmly sown somewhere down the coast. The children were different, quite a few looked lost like me or were dragged there by their parents. The older people seemed to have a content smile of having visited home.
Here is an article I stumbled upon online where we have short histories of 20 people who lost their fluency in their language and now use mostly English.
Mani's Lunch Home, Matunga