Thursday, 23 July 2015

Sanskrit Abroad

My experience of studying Sanskrit in Indian has definitely been an interesting one! I'm used to either working in my room at college or going to the library or having classes in a small office covered in books. The library here is a world away from my faculty library, all the windows are open, the sunlight pours in and the fans are the only form of ventilation. Crows fly in and cry from the tops of the book shelves and chipmunks scatter across the wooden floors. 

Yesterday there was a power cut in the building so the coolest place to work was the roof. We all brought our laptops upstairs and read in the evening warmth with the sound of the waves crashing from the beach behind us. When it's February, freezing cold and I'm translating some obscure piece of Sanskrit, I'll think of this.

I do find studying Sanskrit in India, especially in Tamil Nadu, quite strange. Mainly because Tamil Nadu is the only state which has rejected Hindi as an official language and their local dialect, Tamil, is not Indo-European or stem from Sanskrit at all. For that reason, having an epicentre of Sanskrit manuscripts and texts in the middle of a state that has no particular affection for Sanskrit, interests me.

Another thing which I find striking is that when people at home hear about Sanskrit they think it's something totally obscure, random and pointless. The same goes for India. There is no real appreciation for studying the ancient mother of their modern dialects as there is a respect for studying Classics in the West. But rather the response: why study something so useless, why not study engineering? With that being said, there are some who find it fascinating that you have chosen to study a language that seems so far removed from modern society. But of course that is where the allure for these languages comes in. Perhaps for some the question isn't: what's the point of studying a dead language? But rather, what's the point in studying a language that isn't dead? I can't really say that this is always my way of thinking though because I often find it such a frustrating and infuriating language and question why at all I'm studying it haha.

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