Published: 14th June 2021
This Bengali woman teaches you Tamil and Telugu through Instagram!
We talk to Abhilasha Chatterjee, a Bengali woman who lives in Bengaluru and teaches Telugu and Tamil through Instagram
Abhilasha Chatterjee left Kolkata to explore the southern part of the country four years ago. She had landed a new job in Bengaluru and was keen to move to a new city. In her words, she couldn't stay in the same city for too long.
All of a sudden, she found herself in the Garden City surrounded by people from across the country. "To my surprise, in all workplaces, I was interacting with more Tamilians and Telugu people than Kannadigas," she says. That was perhaps the period of time she heard these two languages the most. It was also when she fell in love with Tamil chartbusters by Harris Jayaraj and Anirudh Ravichander.
Slowly, she started picking up a few words in both languages - enough to get by. That's when it struck her that there may a great many people who could benefit from real-world language tips from an outsider's POV. So, a few months ago, she started an Instagram page called Bhaashawithabhilasha to take the basics of Tamil and Telugu to people who do not speak them. To her surprise, the videos went viral overnight, and now, Abhilasha has over 46,000 followers.
"I started the page sometime in February. I wanted to create content during the lockdown and I thought, 'Why not start a page where I teach people the basics of Tamil and Telugu?'. I thought it will be interesting because I am a Bengali and a non-native speaker of these languages," she says. The 27-year-old works as a recruiter for Hotstar.
Abhilasha agrees that her accent isn't perfect and that she is yet to learn to have long conversations with people. However, she is confident that she can make her way home, in case she is stuck in any Southern state. But why did she choose Telugu and Tamil specifically? She says, "I learned Telugu because of my friends and I was attracted to Tamil because I found the language very beautiful," she says, adding that she was scared to try out Malayalam, which she thinks is the most complicated of the four major South Indian languages. She also notes that while Telugu and Kannada are similar, most Malayalis and Tamilians understand each other's languages.
Three months back, she had to pinch herself twice when she saw a video of hers crossing more than 1.7 million views. But right now, what overwhelms her are the messages that she receives from people. For instance, there is a young Tamilian woman, who is learning Telugu from her, to impress her mother-in-law. A 56-year-old Gujarati woman follows Abhilasha, to learn Telugu to communicate better with her son's fiance. "What left me astonished was the feedback that I received from a young mother. Her baby hasn't started saying even 'mama' or 'papa'. But apparently, she follows my videos and repeats what I say. Also, a lot of people send me photographs of them taking notes," she says, adding, "I don't promise to make you pros. But if you're moving to a South Indian state, you will learn enough to communicate with your maid or cook or a rickshaw driver."