The silence of the last surviving Majhi-speakers

In truth, it has gone. Just a few easily remembered words, such as those for mother and father, and a prayer said for the souls of the dead.

Other than that, Thak Majhi’s command of a language that was once inextricably linked to the culture of his people – so much so it shares their name – has disappeared.

“When I grew up, the language we spoke in the house was Nepali,” said the 80-year-old, a body of skin and bones but eyes still bright. “We spoke Majhi for special occasions.”

A recently completed study, carried out over four years and involving more than 3,000 academics, officials and volunteers, has suggested India to be home to as many as 780 languages. Some are spoken by hundreds of millions, others by just a handful.

Apart from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, few places can boast of such linguistic diversity and it may be that India is home to more languages than any other country.

Read more: The Independent

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