India is a diverse country. Within India there are 22 official languages. I am from Kerala, the southern tip of India. God’s Own Country, as Kerala is often referred to, is filled with tall, swaying coconut trees with streams just about everywhere. Although India has its problems with equality, there will always be a special place in my heart for Kerala.
In the morning, the “kozhi “a rooster, crows and the sound rides over the houses and into the windows of my house. As the sun rises, I hear my grandma, or “ammamma” as I call her, starting her day by cooking breakfast. The “puttu” steam cake, and “kadala” curry a bean curry, cooking on a traditional Indian stove awakes me from sleep. The comfort that comes from that smell is indescribable. Calling for the “meenkaran”, the fish seller, as a child and even now excites me because there’s nothing like that here. Kerala, being at the coast, has an abundance of fish which means the fish are fresh and taste amazing.
Malayalam is the language spoken in Kerala. It is my first language. As a toddler, my parents only spoke Malayalam to me. Before going to school, the only exposure I had to English was from my big brother, who was already in school, and the T.V. shows I watched.
Being brought up in America, which is so different from India, my parents really valued their roots back home. They put me into classical Indian music lessons where I was taught how to sing and play an instrument called the veena and a form of Indian dance called bharatanatyam which I still practice today. Along with my brother, I was taught to speak, read, and write fluently in malayalam so that I would never struggle when I am back home.
Now as a 17 year-old, I am so happy that I can communicate and talk with people once I am in Kerala. Instead of sitting in the corner staring at my phone, at weddings, parties, and family get-togethers, I am able to fully engross myself with my loved ones.
Kozhikode, my hometown, is a place filled with culture and amazing food, and the best way to explore and fully immerse yourself in the culture is to be a local. I have been able to create many relationships with family and friends that I would have never been able to without knowing malayalam. I am ever so grateful for being bilingual because it has shaped me to become a more well rounded person.