I happen to be a STNG junkie. For those who don’t know, STNG= Star Trek The Next Generation. The reason I mention this is because like the true geek that I am, I DVR episodes of the show to watch when I am busy doing housework or just want to veg out and not pay attention to what is going on. Today I watched an episode that always makes me think of my parents.
It is an episode called “Offspring” and it is about Data, an android, who creates a baby android and calls it “Lal”. While some may speculate that the reason I think of my parentals is because the episode deals with children and parents and the complex relationship that exists between such parties, that is not the case.
The name Data chooses for his offspring, “Lal” is a Hindi word that according to the show that means “beloved”. It also happens to be one of the terms of endearment that my father uses for his children. Ever since I can remember, when conversing with my Dad, he would drop a “mere chand” which means “my Moon” literally, or a “mere lal” which translates as “my beloved”. In my humble opinion, the translations do not do the terms justice. That is one of the drawbacks about translations. Beloved is flat. When my Dad says “mere lal” I don’t feel beloved. I feel more than that word evokes. My Mom is not nearly as affectionate as my Dad is but she also would drop affectionate phrases that when translated into English, don’t sound nearly as wonderful as they make one feel.
No offense to English, but the words in Urdu/Hindi have more depth, more sophistication. There may be ten words in English to describe something that Urdu has fifty words to describe. I remember when I was young, I once got into a discussion with a friend of my father’s who was going on about how English was not nearly the language Urdu is. I remember arguing that English was better and this “Uncle” laughing at me. Everyone who is friend of your parents is an “Uncle” or “Auntie” in the Indo-Pak culture. And now as I look back, I realize he was right.
I first noticed it when I was picking up a friend of mine and there was Pakistani music in my CD player. My friend, a lover or music regardless of language or being able to understand, asked me to translate, which I did. And I realized that as I translated, the words I used in English couldn’t convey the essence of what was said in the song. Alas, “Uncle” you were right. Mea Culpa.
Language is an interesting aspect of humanity. And I consider myself lucky that I am fluent in English and Urdu. I can tell my loved ones in several ways that they are my beloved.