Friday, June 24, 2011

Meaning to words

"Veil?" I wail,
What does that mean?
I prod in vain
To ask someone? shy;
I know a savior. Sly,
I dig into my bag
Its almost in rag,

My dictionary! ah! the feel of pages,
Words galore, would take me ages,
To learn, to imply, to know
I will find the meaning; I lie low.
Placing it on my lap,
Head down as if I nap,

Pages I turn,
Along my finger I run,
Elf and then gulp;
kelp and then self;
My search is near
At last; V is here,

Voila! The VEIL
My joy I conceal.

In the drawer of my bed side table is a special place - for my dictionary. The Oxford English dictionary. I treat it as if it were a treasure - it is! why not? The navy blue hard bind long torn; the initial few pages of introduction and revision details gone; the book is naked. The threads are loose and the sides worn but I feel its decently fair to have sustained man handling and abuse at my hands for 16 long years. 

I moved to a new school for 8th grade onwards - a convent known for quality education. It was due to  my stubborn and nagging tantrums that my parents decided to put me in this new school. I knew I wanted to be here - to learn, to grow. English classes were nightmare - the teacher was strict and was very prim and proper with her language; expected the same with the girls. I troubled my parents to buy me a dictionary so that I could learn new words and improve my vocabulary to fit into that elite group of girls. 

The struggle was long, the battle alone since my parents never felt a dictionary was a priority. But I did succeed. This tiny blue book was my buddy henceforth. Learning new words, challenging my limit; using those new words learnt; mucking up with them and getting them finally right. 

Now; when I skim through the pages; I realize how outdated that dictionary is; I dont find many words - English evolves right? That was the time when 'prepone' was not accepted yet and "metro sexual" would mean a sexy guy from the metro!

I may not find everything in my dictionary; but it exudes the memories of those days - in school; when I used to search frantically for a new word I would not have come across till then; amidst queer looks and my English teacher's dismay. I still recall those few minutes when my teacher uttered "Veil" and I was clueless. Sensing that I was unaware of the meaning; the girl beside me offered to help. But I was shy to admit; and the poem actually describes the later part :)

I owe to my dictionary - these words; these sentences, the posts and this blog :) 

Here is my dictionary - my treasure 


  1. Back after a 4-month loooong hiatus, and what do I see! Loved your little tribute to your dictionary. Your writing style is also vivid and free flowing in this blog. Nice!

  2. Superb poem .. The poem itself could have become separate post :)

    Entire post has kind of flow (vividness) enjoyed reading ..

    In school and college days even i used to refer to oxford dictionary..but now google has become my dictionary.. just type define:WORD
    and you get all the meanings of that particular word :)

  3. When i started using dictionary sometime in school , i found one in my dad's drawer . It was a English to Hindi one.When i grew a bit older i saw my friend's using Oxford. I remember how much i have to convince my dad to buy an oxford one as he has still treasured that old dictionary of his and according to him words remain the same and their meaning too in any dictionary that you use :P
    I got an oxford one when i was in 9th standard :). And it's still in my books cupboard used now by my cousins and nephews and nieces. Some things are inherited i think .;)

  4. hmm.... well dictionary was one of my close pals back in school... its been sometime since I parted from my dear old dictionary... the poem is lovely and the post reminded me of a silent old friend who was always there when I needed it :-)

  5. hey, this post is indeed touching...

  6. Even now, in this age, teachers insist that kids carry a dictionary. I remember learning how to use the dictionary. It was like an accomplishment. Similar feeling you get, when you learn to decipher the log book. :)

    Have you ever used Hindi - English/Malayalam dictionary? I am enjoying this thrill now! :)

    Poem and the Writing both in perfect tone. Nice!

  7. The little Collins Gem dictionary that my father gave in 1968 is still with me, right on my table. Its leather bind is still intact, but the pages are a bit folded and dulled with age. Since more than 15 years I type rather than write when it comes to English and I hardly refer to the dictionary; instead I use Wordweb. Yet, I still keep my old dictionary fondly, where I can see it. How many pieces of writing, of essays, of love letters were whetted by my Collins!

    It was such a pleasure to discover the meaning of a strange word and I would keep on using that word, whether in place or not! That spirit was captured in your poem. And thanks for reminding me of my Collins!

  8. Always a pleasure to see my daughter looking at the pages of my old Oxford . Reliving my childhood through her.
    Your post brought a smile on my face.Beautiful:)

  9. One sentence describes my feelings about the perfection of this post "I am wordless"

  10. Super post. Nice poem. We have come a long way from the old dictionary. This world has too many neologists nowadays. Even EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) has been added in The Oxford American College Dictionary.

    And then, there are funny dictionaries in the web. Argument = A discussion that occurs when you're right, but he just hasn't realized it yet. This definition fits both of us as you and I argue frequently. Hahaha.

  11. We use to have a Teacher in english Mr. Sidhu in school , I rmmeebr he would come and give us essays to write but gave us a few words that we had to use in our essay , and he even made sure ot tell us the meaning ..

    I rmemeber I use ot have a small pocket dictionary red in colour and the paper was wafer thin on it , I am sure i still have it somewhere back home ...

    but i guess over time Google helps :)

    lovely post enjoyed it a lot and the poem in the start beautiful ..


  12. When you were describing your dictionary , my dictionary was coming to my mind. It is no different., front pages gone. But it is much more older than yours. its as if it has lost a few teeth. Poor old thing,
    Nice post Bindu

  13. Really nice of you to dedicate an entire post for your dictionary. I love my dictionary too.

  14. Oxford dictionaries were a staple at every child's home. In my case it was ulta, I did not want to read the chotu font wala dictionary but dad insisted that I must learn words from it and use them regularly :) his mehnat paid off to an extent.

    An entire post dedicated to dictionary, awesome your dictionary would be proud of u :)

  15. I loved this post. Touching.The dictionary tells everything.The way you have ivolved.The same dictionary made you feel, that was not enough for today !

  16. Oh yes, I remember how that Oxford dictionary was so cherished by us in school and we referred constantly to it in school. But now, I just turn to online help when seeking a meaning. Btw, prepone is actually Indian English; it is not really used in American or British English.

  17. i always wonder as how and what people comment, times, many of mis the insight of author for writing the particular post...

    i can jz feel your need of this post..

    truely wonderful, and ya as PRASAD said.. the poetry was truely awesome..

    optimism and passimism surround us, its we who has to balance them to gain fruits out of both...

    lets try, am sure we all can succeed

  18. do visit if time permits...

    read " khwaish" recently posted, change the criteria when you read and you may feel the essence...

  19. First off, sorry, sorry, sorry! Despite my assurance that almost sounded like a promise, I've hardly been reading your posts and commenting on them despite your enabling subscription by email. Though, I did read one of your posts about an aged gentleman deriding the younger generation for getting it so easy in a bus. But I didn't really have much to comment on that. :)

    I had my first Oxford English Dictionary when I was in class 5. More precisely, it was Oxford *Pocket* English Dictionary. Of course, like most Indians would do I myself was left wondering who has these kind of Godzilla pockets! And then it was much later after more than 10 years that one of my friends explained that Westerners wear coats, which indeed have such huge pockets that such a dictionary could be accommodated. :)

    My dictionary has some pages in the 'S' range that were not printed. :(

    Anyway, though my parents had bought the dictionary quite willingly (your own remark and comments by few surprised me as to why parents would not want to buy a dictionary that would help one with *academics*), I had not taken much liking to it till I reached class 9, I guess. My English teacher, who had incidentally also been one of my all-time favorite teachers, used to insist that we first try to guess the meaning of the word in a given context, and then look up its meaning. That was also the prescribed 'ideology' of CBSE back then. Don't know if it's changed now. :) My interest was piqued not because of reasons related to vocabulary, but because of pronunciation. :D Many times when I used to read out aloud in class or answer something or ask a doubt, some girls would make fun of my 'Gujju' pronunciation. Also, once a social sciences teacher had pointed out that though my English was "good", my pronunciation gave away that I was a Gujarati. :) Those were the days when I used to sort of dislike Gujaratis. Also, somehow it is in my personality that I wouldn't want people start prejudging me because of things like my mother tongue, city I live in, my profession, religious beliefs (or rather their lack), etc. And hence, started a search to make out a certain word was to be pronounced 'right'. :) My dictionary used to use a Latin-based script for phonetics. So, for the first time I'd gone back to the key given in the initial pages (which might be missing in your photographed dictionary). They had also given examples of nouns, verbs, etc. My dictionary also used to have etymology of words. It was then that I realized how easy it was to improve one's pronunciation. Prominent examples of common words that that could be pronounced 'right' and yet were pronounced wrongly by many including myself were, (ironically) 'example' and 'president'. :) Then of course, there were especially French words like 'rendezvous' that had made me look silly in class 11 for taking their pronunciation at 'face value'. [ :D ] Over the next 3 to 4 years, I guess, the 'Gujju' touch in my English was lost. I now don't remember when was the last someone had guessed right from my dressing, conduct, pronunciation (of English as well as Hindi) or profession (LOL!) that I am a Gujarati. :D Again ironically, however, no longer do I dislike Gujarati as a community. :)

    It is silly, but this small change in my personality is one of the very few things I am proud of. Maybe, because that is one of the very few changes that had to be cultivated by way of conscious effort, which is sort of against my basic nature.

  20. And yes, I forgot to rub it in, but I was way too intelligent by the time I'd reached class 9 to first open such an 'early' page in the dictionary for it to features words starting with 'E'. :P I'd have directly opened some page with S- or T-words, or on days of exceptional luck, even 'V'. :D I hope you'd just taken poetic oops... 'journalistic' liberty in making that part up. ;)

  21. After a long time i got time to surf the blogs and i saw this post on the top..Good one!

    Oxford English Dictionary, we all have grown up with.. I loved the pocket version earlier as it used to tell me that there are lesser words i can do with, to know and learn.. (have always suffered this fear of reading "BIG Fat" books). lol

    But sooner the original piece replaced the pocket one... I still prefer to surf the pages of my dictionary over one click option sometimes. :)

    You rightly said, Language evolves and every language does, hence the new ones are gonna be fatter and Bigger.. :P :D

  22. I dont remember my first dictionary coz my Mom had an Oxford dictionary with red cover and " Oxford dictionary" printed in golden letters on it.

    From the time I can remember she used to ask me to find words from it. She also made me learn 10 new words from it when ever I return home from hostel. I dont remember when that habit stopped...

    Your post is beautifully written and I could feel the young girl's thirst for knowledge and to do better in life. Thanks for sharing and I am going to ask my daughters to use their dictionary more often too...

  23. RGB,

    Where had you been? Long time, no see. Glad to have you back. Missed your writings as well.

    Thanks so much; for all that hard time I gave it to my dictionary; this is nothing.


    Hey buddy, thanks. I didnt have any idea of a poem. I started writing and this flowed. :-)

    Thanks, glad you liked it.

    Yup, now its the internet for me as well. But this one sure took me back in time :)


    :-) You got it at last. Nice to know your cousins use it yet!!


    :-) Thank you, somehow the dictionary has traveled with me this far. I hope it will remain with me forever :)


    Thanks dear


    Oh yeah! talk about learning how to read time, find a word in dictionary and the log table! Phew!!

    Oh you know I have not used a multilingual dictionary yet. How would it be? Hmm...should start using it :)


    Wow! you have taken good care of it, havent you? Yes, it was that pleasure to find the meaning of a word and then keep on using it and invent situations to use that word!!

    Thank you, did you go feel your Collins yet? :)


    :-) I know how you must be feeling :) Thank you.


    Thank you so much, thats a huge compliment.


    Thanks. Yeah, I noticed that even "Jai Ho!" is part of the dictionary now.


    Thank you, yeah we out grow of it, but still those things remind us of those beautiful days.


    :-) I hope you have it with you chitra.


    :-) Thank you


    Haha thanks G3. For what I did to it; it deserved a place here


    Thank you. Glad you liked it


    Yeah, we outgrew it, now its the web. Yes, "prepone" is not accepted yet. I recall during my engineering days when I and a friend went to a book store and took the latest Oxford dictionary to make sure 'prepone' didnt exist for sure. I won the bet :)


    :-) Each one's own perception, but I am glad my readers take time to read my post and also comment

    Thanks, glad you liked the post. Sure, I would visit your blog sometime

  24. Ketan,

    Dont worry, I can understand your commitment towards Twitter :-P

    Haaa, oh!! few missed pages? Hmm...

    I can answer to my statement regarding why my parents were not that willing to buy me a dictionary. They were not privileged to attend good school. They had minimal education and so when I asked them to buy me a dictionary; they could not understand why I would want something extra; they were of the opinon that the school text books were all that was needed.

    Interesting! we do tend to have MTI. I used to pronounce 'H' as 'hech' as recently as my engineering days :-P It happens. Now I have learnt to pronounce right; thankfully.

    Yes, definitely; we must be proud for sure; its not a small change after all :)


    you are really funny. I was as intelligent as you; I knew where to find V by the time I'd reached class 8 :-P I literally didnt skim starting with 'E'. Its for the poem's sake! :)


    Thank you. Yeah skimming through pages and finding a word is anytime nicer than a one click :)


    Wonderful. My teacher made us do that while in school; learn a new word everyday

    Thanks, glad you liked it. :-)

  25. Very nice poem..I have the same dictionary and it is in pretty much good shape..Dad always told me to read five words each day to learn new words, which I never ever did..the reason was sinple - one shouldn't do things others ask one to do! Ain't we still like that? sigh! If only I had paid attention then, I would have come up with the poem like yours! If only!

  26. As such I could've pretended to not know who KetPan is, but I won't do that. You're a dear friend after all. And an intelligent one at that. I'm usually not given to bragging, but you see my intelligent eye could spot that 'Elf' was just your taking journalistic liberty! :P

    Even my parents are from a very modest background, but they always used to insist that I learn English well. I don't know about the environs in which you'd grown up, but in my colony there was immense competition, plus, the building in which I used to live used to house over 300 families!! All these families were of young people who had got recently married, and thus almost all the kids were of comparable age, so comparing their wards' progress was the favorite pastime. :P Imagine, of the 45 odd class mates I had, 8 used to live in my building itself! My parents never let me have those costly general knowledge books like 'Childcraft' or 'Young Scientist', which around 15 years back used to cost a few thousand rupees! But yes, I used to read lot of stuff like 'Children's Knowledge Bank' published by the modest 'Hind Pustak Mahal'. :) So I guess, this kind of competition and peer pressure is what led my parents to pressurize me into learning English, and hence, they were more than willing to buy me a dictionary when I'd asked for one. :)

    PS: Despite your 'journalistic liberties', I admire you for your honesty. :)

  27. I guess, 'MTI' stands for 'mother tongue influence'? I've never come across that acronym. :)

  28. dictonary should die no? long live spelling mistakes. or just mistakes. if there was no dictonary the world would have been a better

  29. Bindu,
    That was exemplary.
    Your language teacher can be proud of you, having taught you good English. I have often wondered,how well you write and how good your language is.
    There is nothing to feel sorry about Indian English.We have cotributed liberally to the English lexicon.We speak Englsih in the typically Indian way.But then,how many of the English can pronounce Indian languages?In many parts of Europe,people do not know even a word of English,or will not speak even if they know it.

    Most of us have learned from Non English speaking teachers,and so that will reflect on the way we handle the language.

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. B, the difficulty I find following your Blog is the time and patience that is needed to read all the comments on your post.Ha you have one too many followers!!!!
    Nevertheless I enjoy your post. This ome is quite nostalgic from the point of view of any one who was gifted a dictonary in the early days in middle school. I always loved heavy big bonded books. But the only ones I possessed that related to my education were the big old Oxford dictonary father bought for me and then it was the book on Advanced Accountancy that I held in hand all the way to college as something that I thought displayed the lofty subject I studied.
    And B, you are right the dictonary throws you back to certain days and moments into the past when you were searching the meaning of a new found word. In fact that is the case with books, one can relive!

  32. enjoyed reading tribute to oxford dictionary
    i also got one

  33. Even today most of the houses, offices have Oxford English Dictioary on the book shelf

  34. Loved this post. As I read through the lines only thing running on my mind was the thought of my little pocket sized dictionary which still stays on my book rack. I still run over to seek meaning of new words that I come across.

    The poem is a great tribute to your dictionary. Liked the read.

  35. Neha,

    Thanks. Haha there is always time to learn even now ;-)


    You dare not pretend to not know who KetPan is :-P

    Thats a lot of kids in your block. Thank God I didnt have any peer pressure. In fact, my parents always felt that I was studying/learning more than normal for my age and feared about it.

    Thank you, I can only be honest :)

    Oh yes, MTI is Mother tongue influence; its a well known acronym.


    :-) Spelling mistakes is fine, but without dictionary how will you know what words mean?


    Thank you doc. Just came straight from the heart.

    You know what? I never really liked my English teacher. She has made me cry; she was very rude towards me, insulting me all the time in front of the class. That determined me to learn more. I dont know if she did that just to wake my spirits up! But yet it did leave a scar and her classes - I would dread!


    Oh! Oh! I dont know if I should say sorry or feel good about having so many readers. It feels nice when you all take time to read what I write and leave your opinion behind. I cherish them.

    I also dont know any solution to your problem now :-/

    Thank you so much. It did turn out to be quite nostalgic; I didnt expect it this way :)



    Chowla sir,

    Yes, I wonder when it will change. People are looking more towards internet for help


    Thanks :)

  36. Hope you teacher at convent doesn't read this post. Though there is something called the poet's license, the verse has lost the meaning concentrating too much on rhyme.

  37. A wonderful post for a pal we all grew up with!! I remember finding and learning and then writing in a notebook, 5 new words everyday during vacations, for many years!! But now it's!! :)

  38. Holy Lama,

    I hope she doesnt read this. She sure would find mistakes. Oh! Oh! I am not sure if the verse has lost meaning. Maybe you may want to read it once again? Everyone else seem to have understood what I am trying to say :)


    Thank you. Yes, seems most of us have stopped referring the dictionary. For me its


I'd love to know what you thought :-) Please shoot!