Find your tongue
On the suggestion of a friend, I tried my hand at understanding, thanks in larger part to the translated subtitles, a Kannada movie. Katheyondu Shuruvagide [A Story Has Begun] tells the story of love, loss, and, something more important, more intrinsic, more forgotten. Something which brings out the love, something which exacerbates the loss, something which magnifies what was at stake, and what can be regained.
Three stories, one person, she said. Her hair immersed in the sand, he by her side, as the sun setting and the bonfire loses luster. Three stories, yes. But one person who finds an escape, an escape from something she never wanted, from feeling inhibited, and from not being able to speak, to live, and eventually to love. But she finds it. On a planned journey of one, meant for two.
Why go there? Why still go there? Of all the places in the country, in the world? Why there? And why go alone? That’s what I kept asking throughout. She looked like she could’ve traveled anywhere, yet she chose to go to that very place. Neither was she familiar with the air of the mountains or the breeze of the beach, she only longed for the talks of the people.
To forget? To remember? To grieve? To deny? Or was it to go back to where she came from? To finally admit that where she was, wasn’t where she wanted to be all along? Because she was never herself.
What changed? What changed her? If I’d have to venture a guess, I’d say Language did. Yes, language with a capital L. It's funny how teaching someone to speak, will allow them to speak up. And so she did. She did speak up. She did spew it all. She didn’t hold back. She let it all out. She said it in the tongue she wanted to. In the tongue, she was born with. In the tongue, she could be powerful in, and not in a tongue she felt powerless and cheated.
Her life was suffocating. Having to be someone else, not just in action and appearance, but also in thought. They say we think in the language we are most comfortable in, the language we know, the language we grew up in. But what if we can’t? What if the more we think in one language and talk in the other, we feel betrayed, like we’re playing a lingual facade, like our mind and our tongue are of different bodies. People who think in one language and talk in another often have overlap, confusing the people around them as they speak in foreign tongues. Her story is the same.
Having to hold her tongue, while her better half doesn’t let his rest. Having to suppress her true self, while he allows himself to go about being unfaithful. She felt restricted, not just outside the mind, but also inside it. She felt restricted when every time she intended to speak, her thoughts were in one language, and the words spoken in another.
She felt trapped. Not just in the relationship, not just in the city, but in her head. She could never truly express her words as she conjured them in her head. Her spoken word was but cheaper version of her thought, her mental word if you will. And in that, she couldn’t survive.
When tragedy struck, one which she knew was the last straw, she left. Not to venture to an exotic foreign land, an intoxicating journey, or a mindful retreat, as most people would, but to a place where she could finally express herself. Express herself in the only way she wanted to, in words, the same words in her mind, and the same words on the tip of her tongue.
Lying in the sand, eyes gazing at the remnants of the shooting star in the stary night sky, she wishes, if the falling celestial body could act turn lady luck, “I’ll ask it to bring my old life back.” But if she got her wish, which old life would she lull back? The same old life where she had to hold her tongue? Not in the words, she spoke, but in the language, she spoke in. Even when her “old life” walked back into her current life, to bring it back to the good old ways, she resisted, not in an adopted tongue, or a learned one, but in her own.
Spoiler alert for those who haven’t watched the movie.
In the penultimate scene of the movie, when her “old life” returns, with a bowed head, tears crusting at the eyes, and hands clasped in forgiveness, she forgets her wish. Or does she? Because, once again, language takes over. She voices it all, every ounce of pain and suffering she’d been holding in for years. Not since the relationship with him started, but since the relationship with her tongue began to erode. All the emotions she kept inhibited in an ‘adopted language’ she let out in the only tongue she knew how.
“All these years, even while I spoke your language, you never tried to understand me,” she confronts him. In this she speaks a truth she’d been holding back, not simply in the words it manifests in, but in the language, it's spoken in. This scene perfectly encapsulates the person she’s been keeping inside, ignited by the four days in which she could finally speak in the tongue she wanted to.
One can clearly see the sacrifice she endured in order to not just fit in, and bite her tongue, but swallow her pride and be with someone who doesn’t allow her to practice her tongue. This journey made her realize what she was truly holding back, what she was not expressing, what she was keeping inhibited from the world. Finally, after all these years she found her tongue.
She sums up her predicament in the only language she knows how with the words,
“In this whole rigmarole of not losing you, I ended up losing myself.”
At first watch, the movie presents itself as a typical romance. Struggling and hopeful boy meets broken-hearted girl and they fall in love because of, and not despite, circumstances. But on introspection, she didn’t just fall in love because of him, she fell back in love with his [and now her] language.
Edit: The quotes are limited to Amazon Prime’s subtitles, so please excuse me if I’ve misquoted the scenes.