I moved to Deoghar, Jharkhand from rural Begusarai in Bihar at the age of four. The mother tongue of most of the girls in my new school in Deoghar was Hindi. There was an assumed superiority in not knowing any other regional language, disparagingly called “dehati bhashas”, village languages. Anyone who spoke these bhashas at home was seen as “uncivilised”.

Unlike my Hindi-speaking friends, my mother tongue was Angika, a Magadhan language spoken in eastern Bihar. However, as a child, I lied to everyone in school that my mother tongue was Hindi. I didn’t want my friends judging me for speaking a “dehati bhasha”.

What I could not avoid, though, was the terrible discomfort that my fabrication caused. I didn’t want to lie about something as fundamental as my mother tongue. But so great was the fear of judgement that rather than simply tell my friends the truth, I decided to change my mother tongue itself: At the age of 8, I decided to unlearn Angika.

Abandoning Anga

I went to the extent of asking my parents to talk to me in Hindi at home – but they rejected my request outright. Instead, they began to talk about the importance of not losing one’s connection with her...

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