Sanskrit as a Spoken Language
You thought Sanskrit is a language that looks good on ancient texts and don't get why anyone would learn it? Read on to be convinced of it's power and surprising ease of use!
“Wait ...wait! That’s a marathi word”, I said, sitting straight up in my seat in a sudden excitement. "पुनः मिलाम:?” (pun-naH milamH) said Ashish with a smile, while passing the glass of chai over the lunch table to Krishna. “Yes पुनः is a marathi word too”.
The Sanskrit lunch meetup group at office, rapidly conversed in the dense and descriptive Sanskrit which sounded like a lot of “ch, mm, and aa”’s... put together like “aa-ga-cchaa-mahh”. The experience of hearing spoken sanskrit was very new! All indian languages are rooted in Sanskrit, so i was immediately, and strangely so, comfortable with the language. Read this aloud to check if you sort of understand
भोजनं इच्छति वा?
(Bhojan-naM icchhati va?)
I bet you sort of did!
Our experience with languages are related to the accent and unique sounds they have.
French sounds sexy -- “Je parle un peu français”
Hindi sounds cultured -- यह हमारे संस्करो का प्रतीक है (yeh humhare sanskaro ka pratik hai)
Urdu sounds polite-- तशरीफ़ रखिए जनाब! (tashreef rakhiye janab)
English sounds sophisticated-- “preposterous! this is an audacious claim!”
Sanskrit? It sounds highly educated and very respectful. It is logical and very efficient.
द्वादश वादने मेलिष्यामि, महोदय?
(dwa-dasha vadane melishyami, Mahoday?)
(I will meet at 12:00, mister?)
Dwa-dasha is 2 more than 10 making it 12:00. (so 4:20 is spoken as 5 more than Quarter more than 4 o'clock) which is logic and math. There are far more units in Sanskrit than any other language. पल (Pal, like "jiffy" in english) was timed as the blink of an eye. प्रहर (Prahar), popularly known through the word दोपहर (do-pahar) is equal one eighth of the day. See the list of units in wikipedia here.
Words are joined like a function. AND(x, y, z) instead of x AND y AND z, just like programming. So its Ram, Sita, Lakshman च
महोदय (Mahodaya) is respect-- “Sir” without the hierarchy. The language is very platonic-- all girls are भगिनी (bhagini), which means ‘sister’ (raising quite a laugh between the girls at the sanskrit class-- we can’t date sanskrit speakers as everyone addressed us as ‘sister’).
I was super excited at my first sanskrit lunch --my spoon hovering over the rice on my plate, I was hit with the temptation to convert all my daily slang into spoken sanskrit and asked the 5 experts seated around me, “Ok how do i say “What’s Up?”. The experts were regular software engineers who have taken Level 4 Sanskrit. Krishna made a sincere effort to cook a custom sentence for me and came up with उपरि किम्? (Upri Kim?).
Well, that sounded awkward.
So I tried again--my spoon now ignored and rested next to my plate. “Ok how do I say.... “I don’t know”? Pratik, between a mouthful of biryani, replied न जानामि (Na jana-mi), and I mentally had a silly laugh on the irony of that translation --a regular high school joke: ”Whats IDK?”. The answer? “I don’t know”.
I was temporarily bummed that a literal translation between languages, does not work for daily slang use. The translation of “That’s Cool” is शीतलम् अस्ति (sheetal-am asti) which sounds awkward, but you can have a decent substitute in उत्तमम् (Uttamam). Once I learnt Uttamam, which sounded even cooler than “That’s Cool”, I answered every question with uttamam.
Them: “2:00 is good?”
and even non-questions with uttamam.
Them: “This biryani is is hot”
Now, Sanskrit became the new cool for me.
It took my 2nd lunch meetup, to understand the gravity of what I was learning. That 2nd day, I dug the spoon into the aalu gobi in front of me and asked no one in particular, “ soo…..how do we say “Gimme one minute””?
“That is एकः निमिष: (ekah Nimish), Pavan translated dutifully.
“Ek nimish, huh?” i repeated, a little disappointed that it wasn’t a familiar sounding word.
Then, that evening I bumped into my friend Kaushik while walking towards my bus.
“I’m learning sanskrit!” i told him, beaming with pride.
“Wow, they offer that here?!” said Kaushik in surprise, folding his laptop into the cradle of his elbow. “Can you give me an example?”
“Hmmm…. ek nimish means one minute!”, telling him my new word-of-the-day.
“Oh nimish? I know nimish. Nimish is 'minute' in tamil”, Kaushik said matter of factly.
It was a defining moment for me. The only tamil i had ever learnt and understood was ‘eh! Poda!' a slang word for get lost or something like that. Now, I had gotten a window into tamil, and the best part was, it felt achievable to learn other indian languages and hence understand their people. Language breaks barriers. A grand feeling, powerful and humbling overcame me. Now suddenly we are all one. We are all a single india.
I took 5 sessions of sanskrit, learning the cutest words!
Ruler is मापिका (mapika)! Very amusing!
A doll, is पाञ्चालिका (panchalika). What a royal name for the object!
Pen is लेखनी (lekhini)
Pencil is आंकनी (ankhini)
Learning numbers: प्रथम (prathm: 1st), द्वितीय (dvay: 2nd), तृतीय (tritiya: Third), चतुर्थ (chaturtham: Fourth) unlocked the beauty of Hindu texts. Ganesh strotram actually sounded like a compliment to god. Ganesh strotram goes like this
प्रथमं वक्रतुण्डं च
एकदन्तं द्वितीयकम् ।
गजवक्त्रं चतुर्थकम् ॥ २॥
First you are like <compliment>
<compliment> is second
Third you are <complement>
<compliment> is fourth
If I was at the receiving end of that prayer, I would totally be pleased!
I can’t believe indians are learning other languages-- German, French, Japanese! Ignoring their own language and am upset to see people look at learning sanskrit from a secular angle ! Our adoption is so poor, that the only good sanskrit to english translation website is from Germany! http://spokensanskrit.de/. Don't lose your identity India-- hold on to it tight.
However, I am gladdened because Sanskrita Bharati is teaching a new method to learn the language-- a spoken language, fit and functional for daily use. They offer classes all over the world, long weekend getaways and books too. So dear readers, DO learn sanskrit and unlock the key to other indian languages and people.
पुनः मिलाम: :)
Ps: You can start with these Youtube Videos