Sunday, May 10, 2009

Teaching Sanskrit and Re-learning Bengali


I was reading today, Srila Prabhupada says that the woman's foremost duty is to train the children early to become first class devotees of Krishna. He says they should be diversified and learn little ABCs, take prasadam, chant and see the Deities, play etc. that way they are always engaged by some activities and will be naturally inclined towards devotional life. Right now, Krishna Chandra already knows his ABCs and 123s... but that was really not all my doing. My sister had a bigger part in that, she was sitting with Krishna Chandra and keeping him company while I looked after the house, cooking, cleaning, worshipping the Deities, caring for Tulasi etc. She managed to teach him letters and numbers and I played my small part by regularly quizzing him after his daily lessons. I would point or show random letters and ask him to identify them, usually he was successful but sometimes he would be confused. We realised that his lowercase letters had to be clarified-- Maria quickly tutored him and soon enough, he could tell his lowercase 'L' from his uppercase 'I'. Soon enough he was increasing his speech and speed, we would mention to people that he knew his ABCs and they would seem kind of skeptical. It also didn't help that Krishna Chandra didn't feel enthusiastic to show his talents on the spot, either. That was almost a year ago that we started him first vowels, then consanants, little by little he has learned it all and has it memorized backwards and forwards. Today I started Krishna Chandra on Sanskrit vowels, mainly because I thought that he would grasp Sanskrit easily, he already recites Sanskrit prayers by his own volition and that would be beneficial for him as well. He already insists on doing the evening arati and with a little supervision I let him do it, just to keep him from throwing a tantrum. Usually he likes to sing Brahma Samhita prayers, "govindam adi purusham tam aham bhajami", especially in the early morning. Sometimes he will just sing that one line all day long from morning to evening, but somewhat broken and mis-pronounced. Sometimes he likes to chant "Jaya Jagannath" and when I hear it I really enjoy his kirtan. I think to myself, "Wow, even a child can do it so why not I?" Lately, I have not been in the practice of speaking/reading/writing Bangali and so I also wanted to keep practicing my Bengali. Nowadays a lot of letters have gone unused as they're only used for transcribing Sankrit texts and some people feel its unnecessary to have so many Bengali alphabets and plus there's a whole crap-load of conjunct letters. Those letters shouldn't be forgotten and removed from the Bengali alphabet, it is a very useful part of the Bengali literature and culture. There are so many wonderful renaissance Bengali poets whose works should be studied in universities across the globe. I think there should be a Bengali Language and Literature Major in every major university in the world, that way many people can read the great literary works of Chandidas, Vidyapati, Vrindavana Das Thakur, Krishnadas Kaviraj, and Bhaktivinod Thakur and benefit greatly. It is not just my opinion but the instruction of the acharyas that everyone should learn from Vaishnava literature about topics of Krishna, especially the Bengali literatures. Bangla is such a sweet language, I only regret that I have neglected it for so long and now I have no godbrothers to speak or practice with. Purandar Acharya-dada used to always inquire from me in Bengali, everything from "What are you cooking?" to "Where is your husband and what is that rascal up to?" and usually I would earnestly try to reply him in Bangla as much as I could but slowly I was degraded and lost my touch. I hope Krishna Chandra inspires me to re-learn that beautiful language, then I can read the literatures of all the Gaudiya Vaishnava acharyas in the original text very fluently. I can read the text and pronounce correctly but I am not very adept or fluent, sometimes I see a conjunct that I've not seen in a while and it confuses the hell out of me. This usually happens with transcribed Sanskrit texts because a lot of the symbols are rare and unused in modern Bengali print-- I just have to practice or I'll completely forget. Oh well, wish me luck.
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