language that was invented - you know the one that was supposed to be used by everyone?"
"Do you know anything about it?"
"A little. Why?"
"Just wanted to know."
I am none the wiser. Now why would anyone stop me in the middle of a crowded supermarket aisle and ask about Esperanto?
Later that day my father came home from his exercise class and asked, "What exactly is Sanskrit?" He did Latin at university. Sanskrit was apparently not mentioned - and almost seventy years ago is a long time to forget it. He still remembers some Latin, probably more Latin than I do.
Why were they talking about Sanskrit? Oh, that was the Global Village programme everyone seemed to have been watching. It was on Kuttinayam theatre, the highly stylised form of Hindu religious and dramatic performance. That has its roots in early Sanskrit literature. We watched those two episodes as well. It was very foreign and strange to us but also fascinating. The training for it takes longer than the training to be a doctor and would be just as rigorous. The language was unintelligible to us and so were the gestures. We had some idea of what was going on only from the actions and the facial expressions. There are things you need to know before you can understand what is going on.
Some years ago there was an Esperanto conference here. I happened to be at a three day planning meeting in the adjacent building or I might not ever have known about it. There was nothing in the media. It was, and remained, a non-event for the media. My colleagues had never heard of Esperanto. One of them asked which country it was spoken in. I had to explain what it was. It was clear they thought it was a ridiculous idea. It was impractical but it was not ridiculous.
English is now widely accepted as a universal spoken language. Those of us who have it as a first language are perhaps fortunate although it tends to make us lazy in terms of language learning. Far too often we assume that everyone else will speak at least some English -and all too often that assumption is reinforced by the fact that they do.
Watching the Kuttinayam performers training I was again aware of how little language I really know.