Being relatively asocial during the masking era has had its spin-offs. Like, have you ever felt conversationally marooned, deprived of the fabulous taste of words, with thoughts making it to your tongue but ending in a rather dispirited squish-squash, instead of spilling out in a trophy of a sound?
I have, on several occasions. But this has had a converse effect. It has made me gobble up more words with zealous fervour, coining monikers, badgering aliases, in addition to snooping and sleuthing in the other languages and dialects.
I call it my friendship with new words, and I am grateful for my new friends. Call it the loosening of the vocabulary mandate, with foreign words dripping into our spoken and written English with gusto: From kawaii-cute in Japanese to fika with friends in Swedish to hanging out in hygge in Danish to doing the coffee klatch in Italian, we are moving mano a mano in Spanish, cruising along in and with a rich medley.
It was a bit overwhelming initially, with the manic flurry and pace swirling in. They rushed in from all sides, like springing peacocks, dazzling and defying. Then age-inspired wisdom took over and I began to savour the fullness of their sounds as I enunciated slowly and surely.
I remember how once upon a time the Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries ruled our lives in the convent, with the Irish nuns glowering in disapproval at any detours from the Brit grid. Then came Dr Seuss and his yummy rhythmic verses. How deliciously I am gobbling the gabble now, in the global girdle.
I have always loved mating words in a cross collaboration of disciplines, browbeating them into sweet submission. Agreed, there was a time earlier when friends and strangers sometimes balked at the monstrosity of the words that flowed naturally (nowhere Tharoor-esque though). Brows shot up in mock-shock at pejoratives. I clammed up, economising on my conversations in sharp reaction.
A few occasions later, the dithering made way for an avalanche as I have always had an appetite for loving the weird. Forget me, thumb through the Oxford dictionary that has gone way beyond the 'tikka', 'jungle' and 'bungalow' inclusions to make way for Indian expressions, including 'jugaad', 'aadhar', and 'auntie' that pepper our conversations galore.
There are Indian expressions that have no equivalent in angrezi. But then there are articulations in English that have no specific equivalent in Hindi either. Try explaining this - "I will not eat this food as it has been left over by you."
So, I have come to the conclusion that my linguistic life has evolved sometimes happily, sometimes jerkily, with the silvers settling onto my scalp with a satisfied sigh. I enjoy flirting with new words, they function like the secret garam masala that gifts an edge to those cooked morsels.
Back to the mask. There is my real self, and there is the masked me. The two of us have a word for the lonely gap in between: 'kodoku'. How about you?
(The writer is a Mumbai-based journalist and editor and can be reached at email@example.com)