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Raaghav Lele

Grade: 11

University High School

Instructor: Jim Garrett

Mai tumase pyaar karatha hoon

Personal Essay/Memoir

Mai tumase pyaar karatha hoon

Ever since I can remember, I didn't care about learning Hindi. Since I lived in Cleveland, I never thought I would want to learn Hindi because I wouldn't have to ever use it. In fact, my parents took me all over Cleveland and even Akron every Sunday to in order to learn Hindi, but I didn't make an effort to learn. At some point, my parents stopped making me learn Hindi, and even when they spoke Hindi at home, I just learned to understand them and continue using English with them. With some of my relatives, I didn't find many problems talking to them as they were somewhat proficient in English. Even with my relatives that couldn't speak Hindi, I didn't make an effort to communicate with them because I didn't feel I was close to them. My refusal to learn Hindi earlier would be my biggest regret following my grandma's death.

It was the summer of 2018, and my sister had just had her 18th birthday party, and we were all cleaning up after. She had finally become an adult and was ready to head out into the "real world." Just as we were wishing her a happy birthday, my dad entered the kitchen with a hollow look. He announced our grandma had died. I cried the most I ever did that night, partly because I would miss all the time we could have spent together, but mostly because I hasn't been able to tell her that I loved her for more than three years.

My grandma was an integral part of my life. When I was younger, she used to stay at our house for about half a year and return to India for the rest of the year. Not a dull moment passed in those six months every year as she made every day eventful and taught me countless lessons. She taught me how to ride a bike, times tables, and even taught me English even though she wasn't fluent in it. My grandma played an integral part in my life when I was young. However, when I got older, she wanted to live in India because she wasn't physically able to travel back to the U.S. Nonetheless, I still visited her every year and kept in touch constantly. As she got older and older, she started to forget how to speak English, and only spoke to me in Hindi. Soon we weren't able to keep in touch that much because we couldn't understand each other. Slowly, I stopped talking to her, and we became distant. I didn't think much of it until my dad told us my grandma died.

My grandma was the most influential person in my life, yet I wasn't able to tell her that I loved her for more than three years just because it was literally impossible for me to say that due to the language barrier. To make things worse, I made no effort to learn Hindi in order to talk to her and my other relatives. After she died, I realized how out of touch I became with my relatives. I didn't want to make the same mistake and not keep in touch with them or not be able to tell them that I love them. I wanted to make every moment worthwhile with them while they were living and not run out of time like with my grandma.

I took it upon myself to learn Hindi. Not only did I want to understand and talk to my relatives, but my grandma also wanted me to learn Hindi at some point in my life. For me, this would be a daunting project because I was not good with English and wasn't that good at learning foreign languages like Spanish. Additionally, I've been around my parents and relatives who spoke Hindi, but I didn't make an effort to understand them or try to talk to them in Hindi, so it would be difficult to completely change how I talk to someone. Nonetheless, I spent the summer before my freshman year studying Hindi.

I started by learning the Hindi alphabet, which was already a challenge. There are at least five sounds in Hindi that aren't in English; however, I was able to acquire an elementary understanding of the alphabet within 2-3 weeks. I then moved on to basic vocabulary, which was my biggest challenge yet. This is because there is no way of telling if a word is masculine or feminine; the word would either be one or the other, and this would need to be memorized. Despite this struggle on my journey to learn a new language, I endured and persevered towards what I wanted to achieve. A year later, I had gained an intermediate understanding of the language and was able to consistently speak in Hindi with my parents and relatives. It felt good. I was doing what my grandma would have wanted me to do.

The last time I visited India, I wanted to demonstrate my proficiency in Hindi, so I spoke to most of my relatives and Hindi. The person I spoke to the most was my grandpa since he always loved to see me even though he couldn't talk to me. When I first spoke to him in Hindi, he had the biggest grin that I could never forget. At that moment, too, I could see my grandma's smile, too. Even when I left India, I still talked to a lot of my relatives in Hindi. I was able to learn many things about them and their lives that I wouldn't have learned had I not learned Hindi.

Looking back now, I didn't realize how out of touch I was with my family until after my grandma died. Considering that they live over a sea and a continent away, it was hard for me to try and see them and talk to them. Before, I was passive and didn't make an effort to keep in touch with my relatives. After realizing I had made this mistake with my grandma, I made an effort every day to talk with at least one of my relatives. I don't want to waste any moment with them, so every time before I hang up, I say to them "Mai tumase pyaar karatha hoon," which means "I love you".


Idealism as Portrayed in Sonny's Blues and Recitative

Critical Essay

Idealism as Portrayed in Sonny's Blues and Recitative

During the early to mid-1900s, Harlem saw race relations start to boil over when civil rights issues such as bussing, and egalitarianism started to take root. These issues were split between racial lines with black people advocating for broader civil rights, and white people advocating for the opposite. Not only was there a disparity in beliefs, but black and white people lived in separate worlds. Black communities were ridden with poverty and drug use, while white communities were wealthier and prosperous. Toni Morrison's "Recitatif" and James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" properly observe the experiences that people encountered during this time. Specifically, Morrison's piece illuminates the conflict between white and black people through the lens of Twyla, a black girl, and Roberta, a white girl. Similarly, Baldwin's piece highlights hardships the black community underwent by describing Sonny's fall into darkness. In both "Recitatif" and "Sonny's Blues," the narrators are confronted with the realization that their idealistic view of specific individuals was flawed. This understanding, in turn, leads to a loss of innocence in both narrators because their worldview and thought process completely change with this realization. Their changed views are demonstrated respectively through the setting of Harlem, the characterization of the narrators and the people close to them, and specific symbols that represent the minds of the narrators.

The setting in "Recitatif" focuses on the interaction between the white and black communities, while the setting in "Sonny's Blues" solely observes the black community in Harlem. In Morrison's piece, Twyla and Roberta lived in an orphanage that provided a bubble for them from the outside world. As both girls grow up separate from one another, Harlem caused their perspectives on life to change due to the massive civil rights movements. This change in perspective was exemplified when Twyla found out that Roberta was against bussing: Roberta and Twyla are in conversion and Roberta says, "Well it is a free country" "Not yet, but it will be." "What the hell does that mean? I'm not doing anything to you." "You really think that?" "I know it." "I wonder what made me think you were different." "I wonder what made me think you were different." (Toni Morrison, 111). At this moment, Twyla lost her innocence because Roberta wasn't the idealistic friend Twyla originally met in the orphanage. This epiphany, among others, broadens Twyla's perspective of the world as she realizes someone who was somewhat prolific in her childhood would go against something Twyla supported. Similarly, in Baldwin's piece, the setting of Harlem caused the narrator to view his younger brother in a different way. Specifically, drug use was rampant in black communities of Harlem at this time, and Sonny fell victim to it. Upon hearing the news, the narrator couldn't believe the only view of his brother that existed in his mind was an idealistic version. Upon reflecting about Sonny's life, the narrator thinks "And he'd always been a good boy, he hadn't ever turned hard or evil or disrespectful, the way kids can, so quick, so quick, especially in Harlem" (James Baldwin, 226). What the narrator doesn't realize is that Sonny was just a normal kid who was influenced by his setting and those around him. Similarly, the kids in the narrator's math class were delinquents who fell into the dangerous parts of Harlem. These kids gave the narrator the perspective that not everyone, even his brother, could be perfect. The setting that the narrator was put in helped contextualize his thoughts and realization about Sonny. The experiences that both narrators went through shaped their loss of innocence in that their perceptions of the people close to them were completely altered and caused them to alter certain aspects of their characters.

Symbolism was utilized by both authors to describe the mental state of Twyla and the narrator at each stage of their respective losses of innocence. The main symbol Morrison employed was the race of Maggie, someone who worked at the orphanage Twyla lived in and was beaten up by some girls in the orchard. Although both girls remember different things about this instance—Roberta thought Twyla beat up Maggie, while Twyla didn't think this was the case—they aren't completely sure of their individual memory of the event. Maggie represented the inner conflict between the girls that was hidden when they were young. Something that distinguished Roberta and Twyla was their race, but it had not been an issue until Maggie was mentioned by Roberta. Twyla finally remembered that she didn't beat up Maggie, but instead wanted to help the girls do so, which shows that she had always been a flawed character but had not realized it. While recalling the event where Maggie was beat up, Twyla remembers "I didn't kick her; I didn't join in with the gar girls and kick that lady, but I sure did want to" (Toni Morrison, 113). Just as she realizes Roberta doesn't fit her ideal standards, she herself doesn't either. A symbol used in "Sonny's Blues" was the narrators dead uncle. The topic of the narrator's uncle came when the narrator's mom told him about how his uncle died; his uncle was run over by a car of drunk white people. The narrator's uncle is symbolic of Sonny in that he was the same outgoing and musical guy that Sonny was. The fate that the narrator's uncle met would be somewhat the same as Sonny's because of these similarities. Furthermore, the narrator has a job to protect his brother as his mother reason "I'm telling you this [the story] because you got a brother. And the world ain't changed". The narrator had not done his job of protecting his brother considering he had barely kept in contact with him after joining the military. To the narrator, his uncle represents what will happen to Sonny without guidance and he realizes that towards the end. Symbolism in both stories depicted how Twyla and the narrator weren't ideal versions of themselves and that they needed to look introspectively as well.

In addition to symbolism, characterization provides insight into Twyla's distaste for Roberta and the narrator's appreciation for Sonny. In the beginning of "Recitatif," both Twyla and Roberta were depicted as naïve girls and weren't driven by anything when they were young. This was demonstrated when the girls described their parents in simplistic terms and through their poor performance in school. After realizing Roberta's stance on bussing, Twyla became colder and more spiteful. "As soon as she hoisted her "Mothers have rights too" I began to wave my new one, which said, "How would you know?" I know she saw that one, but I had gotten addicted now. My signs got crazier each day, and the women on my side decided that I was a kook" (Toni Morrison, 112). Twyla is at the protest just to be in spite of Roberta. This is evident when she would just make signs to counter Roberta's. This shift in characterization demonstrates how impactful this loss of innocence was on Twyla. Specifically, she transitioned from a friendly person to someone who antagonized her former friend. On the other hand, the narrator in "Sonny's Blues" is cynical about the lives of the kids he teaches while being idealistic about his younger brother, Sonny. Conversely, Sonny wanted to live by his own ambitions and be accountable to no one. The question of Sonny's future came up constantly between the two, and the narrator was stubborn in his approach to this subject. The moment where this changed, his loss of innocence, was when he heard his brother play the piano in a club. While hearing his brother play, the narrator thinks that "I saw my mother's face again, and felt, for the first time, how the stones of the road she had walked on must have bruised her feet" (James Baldwin, 247). The narrator was taken aback by Sonny's playing, something he would not have done years prior, and he's able to empathize more with many people in his life. This moment demonstrates how much the narrator changed and depicts that he is finally able to understand Sonny better. Not only this, but he understands that there still remains trouble and that he needs to be there for his brother. Twyla's loss of innocence was realizing that anyone, including people that she knew well, could go against her ideals, turning her into a spiteful person, while the narrator in "Sonny's Blues" is able to change into an understanding and empathetic person.

In both "Recitative" and "Sonny's Blues," both narrators grow up during a turbulent setting. Civil rights issues caused divisions between the black and white communities. This alongside rampant drug use in black communities helped shape the identities of Twyla and the narrator in both stories. Both Twyla and the narrator go through a loss of innocence after understanding that the people close to them as well as themselves aren't idealistic. This epiphany was demonstrated by the setting of Harlem, the characterization of every person in both stories, and symbolism to describe Twyla and the narrator's thoughts and emotions. However, after the loss of innocence, Twyla and the narrator go down different paths as Twyla becomes more spiteful, while the narrator of "Sonny's Blues" gains a better understanding of himself and his brother. A loss of innocence isn't the same among different people and it happens that the experiences of Twyla and the narrator led them towards divisiveness or understanding.