While Naveen Patnaik has failed to learn Odia, the language of the state, even 16 years after entering state politics and 13 years after becoming Chief Minister of the state, an American researcher has learnt the language in just three months. It just goes to show that Odia is not a difficult language to learn even if one has never come across the language before.
“Odia bhasa bhari madhura, Cuttack bhari sundara” says a smiling Carlie Fox in fluent Odia, a language foreign to her. Again as if she had forgotten something to tell adds “han han.. Odia geeta bhi bhari bhala.” Carlie can speak fluently in Odia, a language she has learnt within three months of her stay in Cuttack. She has no problems reading Odia texts. She can also write a few lines in Odia, though her handwriting may be child-like messy and cursive, claims Carlie.
The 30-year old native American works as a professor in New York City’s Cornell University in the department of Anthropology and Religion. She has come to Cuttack to learn Odia language on a scholarship from the American Institute of Indian Studies. Staying in CDA area of Cuttack, she is taking lessons in Odia language from retired Odia literature professor Dr Natabar Satpathy.
Within a short period of two months, Carlie learnt how to communicate in Odia language and even sing Odia songs. She is currently undergoing training with Dr Satpathy to sharpen her writing skills after completing her two month course. She will be taking her lessons from Dr Satpathy till April.
Carlie’s language lessons with Dr Satpathy begin every day at 9 in the morning and continue till one in the afternoon. Later in the day, she practices her language lessons. She first learnt words and sentences commonly used to express oneself in day to day transactions. After quickly mastering these, she began learning Odia alphabets and nuances of typical Odia pronunciation. Later she took to writing in the native language.
“It is her interest and determination that made Carlie learn Odia so fast. Though I have applied special methods to teach her Odia, her tremendous eagerness to learn the language made everything easy”, said Dr Satpathy. On the other hand, Carlie gives Dr Satpathy all the credit for her success. She said she considers herself to be a part of Dr Satpathy’s family.
The main reason Carlie wants to learn Odia is to do research on the emotional links of the people with the local god and goddesses and its effect on politics in the state. Her interest in Hindu gods and goddesses is nothing new; she has a remarkable interest as well as curiosity in Indian culture. She holds degrees on south Asian religion studies and Sanskrit from Harvard University.
After mastering the Odia language, Carlie plans to research on Odisha’s religious traditions.