My Background

I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India. My ancestral family hails from the Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh. I did my schooling at St. Dominic Savio High School and my Intermediate Education (10+2) at Mithibai College, Mumbai. I have a BE in Mechanical Engineering from Dwarkadas J. Sanghvi College of Engineering, Mumbai. During my undergraduate days, I developed a strong affinity and passion for languages. I started to study a few languages in-depth, especially my mother tongue Urdu, or more generally, Hindustani. I encountered an area of study by the name 'Linguistics' or 'Language Science'. Being a science student, this aspect of language study attracted me the most, rather than literature.

After completing my undergrad degree, I joined the Masters' program in Linguistics at the University of Delhi (DU), Delhi. There, I got interested in language documentation, especially on the lesser-explored languages. I received good training in language description from Dr. Gail Coelho, a former professor at DU who has done extensive documentation of Betta Kurumba, a minority language spoken by a small tribal community in the Nilgiri Hills in Southern India. Dr. Coelho taught me five courses during my MA, of which four were core courses (Phonology, Morphology, Historical Linguistics, Field Methods), and one was an elective (Structure of Language). Besides her, our batch at DU was the last fortunate one in learning from diverse and expert faculty members such as Prof. Tista Bagchi, Prof. Tanmoy Bhattacharya, Dr. Shobha Satyanath. In the Field Methods course taught by Dr. Coelho, we chose Ladakhi, where we elicited data from two consultants—Jigmet Dorje and Nilza Angmo. To know more about our work on Ladakhi, please visit the page on Ladakhi. The data gathered and analyzed culminated in my MA thesis titled- 'Interrogation in Ladakhi'.

It is not always a painless task to find a topic for your research once your masters' studies approach completion. The Ladakhi language seemed challenging, especially in phonology and a lot more in morphosyntax, as it exhibits a complex evidential system. However, the nuanced evidential system and interesting phonology of Ladakhi fascinated me. Meanwhile, I also started picking up some basic Ladakhi, and side by side started learning to read the Tibetan script—special thanks to my friend and first consultant of Ladakhi, Jigmet. This formed the basis of my interests in related Western Tibetic languages and paved the road for my research work on them. After hunting for languages of the targeted region, I started digging for the available literature on each of them and then deciding which one to choose. I finally chose Balti—the phonologically most archaic variety of Tibetan.

I got selected for the M. Phil. program at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) under the guidance of Prof. Pradeep Kumar Das. Be it mere coincidence or something pre-written in destiny—when I joined JNU as an M. Phil. scholar, our second consultant Nilza too joined there for an M. Phil. at the Center for Historical Studies, and moreover, we were allotted the same hostel among two dozens of hostels situated in the JNU campus. This gave me the chance to work on her language—Eastern Purik. Also, with the availability of the speakers of Sham Ladakhi and Purik in Delhi, I did some exploratory works on their language. I was fortunate enough to find a (lone) speaker of the language in the JNU Campus itself and started some initial sessions of data elicitation with the consultant. But having learned that proper fieldwork there would be almost close to impossible due to constraints in time and resources—considering the short duration of M. Phil.—as well as getting official permissions for fieldwork in the Nubra villages situated near the ever-volatile Line of Control, I abandoned all the idea of documenting Balti.

After thinking for a while, I finally ended up documenting my heritage language Azamgarhi, a unique Indo-Aryan language spoken exclusively by a significant section of the Muslim population concentrated mainly in the Azamgarh region. Azamgarhi speakers are shifting to Urdu at an alarming rate. Being a member of the community and a semi-speaker, I understood the advantages I had to document it compared to an outsider, besides always having some intrinsic feeling of moral responsibility since joining linguistics. So, I undertook two field trips, in early and late 2020, gathering all the oral texts that I could. For a detailed note on the documentation of Azamgarhi, please visit the Azamgarhi page.

With whatever minimal resources and facilities I had, I also conducted dialect surveys to determine the extent of the language and also recorded oral texts in Bhojpuri, the vernacular of the Azamgarh region that has exerted sub-stratum influence on Azamgarhi. Refer to the Bhojpuri page for notes on the Bhojpuri of the Azamgarh region.

The opportunity to work on my heritage language gave me an excellent first-hand experience in language documentation. Thereafter, I gained expertise with language analysis and lexicography software such as FLEx, ELAN, Say More, Phonology Assistant, Praat, to name a few, which proved to be of great help. Currently, I am writing my M. Phil. thesis, titled 'Verb Morphology in Awadhi of Azamgarh'. Here, besides describing the verb component of Azamgarhi, I argue for its distinct sociology from Awadhi as well as Bhojpuri.

Through Nilza, I met Sonam, her first cousin, a native Zangskari speaker. I read about the language and went through the available literature on Zangskari. I learned that it is relatively much understudied and endangered. Hence, for my doctoral research, I became interested in carrying forward the work on a Western Tibetic language, like Zangskari, which I began with Ladakhi. For further information on the documentation of Zangskari, please visit the Zangskari page.