Sunday, June 13, 2010


I dunno when these words and their worlds became fantastic to me. I learnt english from its story books, from the english countryside and food and customs and clubs and games. From their loves and hatreds and the way they said they lived and the things they said they believed in. From the best color of their grass and the magnificence of their history and geography.

All of this doesn't exist outside books and stories for an outsider. They don't live in people we cannot see, they cant be heard from a voice across the atlantic asking for a credit card or from a news report of ten people killed in london.

English is my language of thought, of beauty and idealism. It is the language of my expression, it is the way my mind has trained to work.

I learnt bengali from the eyes of a child, from the love of my maashi, she stole from us, but she loved me anyway. I learnt it from the first impressions of a loud noisy city from object shapes and people all melded into one confusing mass of the senses, from my mother talking to the maid and her colleagues, from my father who did not speak it, who listened to people who spoke in bengali and talked back to them in hindi. For my childs mind, it seemed a perfectly reasonable exchange, what they knew for what he knew

Bengali is a tongue I have mostly forgotten. I wasn't a child for very long.

I learnt tamil as a child and then, as an adult. From my family, from the food I ate, the way I ate it, from the texture of clothes and rituals, by living among the people that speak it every day, the way they thought. The way their lips moved, the way their hopes burst into song, their labors on the roads, their screams, their games, their movies, their politics, the way they loved, the things they hated, their passions, their apathy. Tamil became my language of relating, of emotion, feeling and understanding

I learnt hindi from movies. They taught me the lingo, the words of suave street people, the poetry of lovemaking, the sounds of larger-than-life dramas and songs that a people use to entertain themselves. I learnt it from school. From its poetry and high brow literature, from what the language was proud of, from what it wanted to teach to newcomers.

I also learnt hindi from the first man I loved. I learnt it from the way he thought, what he held dear, from the double meanings and puns he made, from the relationships he had with his friends with the bridge of the language. He never spoke hindi to me, strangely enough, although I was reasonably competent.

Then I learned that I have other languages. The language of code. Java, Unix and SQL largely. They are perfectly valid languages in their own right. Beautiful languages too, they harbor no bullshit, no poetry, no pretenses. They are what they say they are and thats that.

I found early that I cannot read descriptions of applications, big fat diagrams with arrows colors and animated slides, excel sheets with rows and rows of information to be divined using arcane textbooks of pdf, scrolled through left right and tab by tab, magnified and described piece by piece with links, cross-referenced ad-nauseum and talked about so much.

I don't need them. Give me the code that is the heart of it, that does the work, that actually transforms the errata into channels, that siphons data into tubes, that makes a vast complex mental-mechanical machine and runs day and night without any need for interference and it appeals vastly more to me.

I can read a program faster than another humans interpretation of what it does. I have found out that very few people can see a piece of code and agree about what it does. Everyone has their own opinion, everyone focuses on one piece of logic they like, or don't like, they magnify it, belittle it, color it pink, wipe it plain, theres always an opinion associated with it.

I discovered that the only way to truly understand the function of a language, or a piece of code is to read it while it is performing that function. The ideal viewpoints of every language as expressed in their best face to the world, their art, their movies, their power point presentations, are usually beautiful, compelling, false mirages. It is not their beauty or their bias, but their reality, their ability to perform a necessary human function, that gives them power


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