From Ideas to WORDS

From Ideas to WORDS

Once, while composing Ramcharitmanas, the great poet Tulsidasji found himself in a strange quandary. He just could not find words to describe Ram’s beauty… Frustrated, he expressed his dilemma thus:

स्याम गौर किमि कहौं बखानी,
गिरा अनयन - नयन बिनु बानी.
How do I describe the dark beauty (of Lord Ram)?
The tongue does not have eyes - the eyes cannot speak.

To most of us, language comes naturally; yet we all have, at some time or the other, been in the same predicament as Tulsidasji. We know what we want to say but just as we reach for the word, it’s not there. And it continues to stay just out of reach, eluding us, tantalizing us.

It is then that we need a THESAURUS. Which literally means a TREASURY. A treasury of words and expressions that help us express our abstract thoughts, ideas and feelings ~ clearly, correctly, completely. Even an extensive dictionary cannot help us here. But a thesaurus can ~ because the thesaurus lists words thematically, as per their theme or concept.

Suppose you are, “Uhhhhh… what’s it called… that tiny Japanese tree, like a dwarf?”  Simply looking up the cue words ‘tree’ or ‘dwarf’ or even ‘plant’ will lead you to your target: BONSAI!

If you know the word but it does not express your thought precisely, then a thesaurus gives dozens of synonyms as well as related concepts AND opposite contexts. For instance, the other day when I could not express the concept of ‘no worry,’ I looked up ‘worry’ and came up with ‘worrylessness,’ ‘carefreeness,’ ‘insouciance’ and many others!


16th century AD poet Tulsidas composing the Ramcharitmanas, an epic poem on the life of Ram of the Ramayana fame.  

Our world of WORDS

Our world of WORDS

Language makes us human. When our ancestors invented language more than fifty thousand years ago, they forever sealed our fate on earth. They set mankind on a path of constant growth and development making us the most powerful species on earth.

Indeed. The power of words is extraordinary.

Words can inspire, words can demoralize.
Words can strengthen, words can damage.
Words can nurture, words can destroy.
Words can cheere, words can condemn.
Words can win peace, words can make wars.

As screenwriter-lyricist Divy Nidhi Sharma aptly writes:

शब्द हैं… अतरंगी, कुछ सतरंगी से… 
शब्द हैं... गुनगुनाते गीत गाते 
कुछ मस्त हैं, कुछ त्रस्त हैं, होठों पे करते गश्त हैं...
कुछ झूठ हैं, कुछ सत्य हैं, जादू भरे ये शब्द हैं!

Words are... many colored, some with the seven hues of the rainbow
Words are... humming, singing
Some merry, some distressed... swaying on the lips
Some false, some true... Words are full of MAGIC!

She then goes on to say…

जन्म से लेकर मरण तलक
सब खेल-तमाशा शब्द हैं! 
From birth until death
Life is a theater of WORDS!

Isn’t it?

Life is a story, Arham

Life is a story, Arham

Dear Arham

What will be the first word you say, I wonder? Your mom’s first word was ‘Dadda’ and your nanu’s happiness shot through the roof that day!

But there’s still some time for all that. For now, you love to listen your mom’s voice as she feeds you, soothes you, cares for you. I remember how attentively you, just four days old, listened to the story of the very hungry caterpillar as he chomped his way through pears and plums and pies. Of course, you didn’t understand a bit but the sounds were getting engraved in your mind.

You will be fascinated by other tales your mom tells you. You will love the three little pigs and their escapades; you will be enthralled by Jack and his magic beanstalk; you will listen wide-eyed when the big brown bear becomes a prince in golden armor!

For the moment, your own imitation games are on! You try to imitate everyone you see and everything you hear. And soon you will begin to use the same expressions and gestures when you play with your toys and cars and blocks, and as you grow older, invent characters and events and tales!

But you know what? It is not just you little ones who make up stories! We adults spin stories too and these stories help us make sense of the world around us. Two people live together within the bond of marriage, hundreds of men and women work in a company, thousands of people commit themselves to a country, millions believe in a common God… all these bonds and relationships are figments of our imagination; myths that keep us rooted in life.

And language has helped us pass these commonly believed stories from one generation to the next for tens of thousands of years. Indeed, it is storytelling that has kept us human and made us the most powerful race on earth.

Arham, this incredible journey of life – and yours has just begun – is nothing but a story.

Arham learns to talk

Arham learns to talk

Hello Arham.

You are four months old today.

You are far away in America and we yearn to take you in our arms! We eagerly wait for your video calls and I am sure you think your nani and nanu live in the mobile!

You love it when I call out Arhammmmmmmmmmmm… though it will be another couple of months before you realize it refers to you. You perk up immediately when we begin speaking to you – slowly in a singsong manner… I read somewhere such talk is helping you work out the sounds of language. This is why you love the rhyme and rhythm of your nanu’s silly songs!

You watch us closely as we speak… you pucker your lips and flex your tongue almost as if trying to form a reply! Your ooooooo and aaaaaaa and eeeeeee leave us enthralled! The other day when you came out with something like hiiiiiiiiiiiiiieee in response to your mom’s HI, we hopped around in happiness!

Within a couple of weeks you will begin to babble… you will begin to use back-of-tongue consonants and say baaaa, daaaaa, gaaaaa, paaaaa, kaaaaa… soon you will learn to combine these sounds and your babble will begin to sound like words. By one year, you will know about 50 words! And you will string them together to say sentences! Isn’t that amazing?

Come to think of it… A few sounds build hundreds of words that combine in thousands of ways to create millions of sentences that can express a zillion feelings, thoughts and ideas! And this amazing way of communicating is unique to us humans! We begin to absorb our mom’s voice much before we are born, and as we grow older, keep learning new words every day till we become pros ourselves!

And all this complex language learning just from hearing it! We all – me and your nanu, your maamu, your mom and dad – learned it from hearing others use it!

Isn’t it fantastic? Isn’t it fascinating? Isn’t it simply wonderful?!