I was born in Kerala, but I grew up in Jamshedpur, a small town at the confluence of two rivers, near the tip of the lower jaw of a roaring Jharkhand. My parents are Malayalis, but they rarely spoke in Malayalam at home to each other or to my brother and me.

I can understand Malayalam because most of the time only Malayalam news, movies or serials would be running on our television. But I couldn’t speak in Malayalam, because I had no one to speak to. And that was a big problem whenever we would go to Kerala to visit our relatives during summer or winter vacations.

None of my relatives knew Hindi, and most of them did not know English. So, I would mostly talk to them in broken Malayalam. While I could get basic ideas across, there was no chance of deep or free-flowing conversations.

A few years ago, I realised that I missed out on important connections with my family members because I could not speak in my own mother tongue.

Then in 2020, when COVID-19 struck, I took the time out to learn Urdu. I had been fascinated with the snake-like script for a long time and used the time afforded by COVID-19 to learn to read and write in the language through YouTube. There also was no standard, consistent way to learn the language. I would learn the script through YouTube videos, and practice reading short stories online. For auditory content, I would try listening to DD Urdu, but it was too fast-paced for me to grasp much.

Then in 2021, when I was in Kolkata for an internship, I tried to learn Bangla. Script, I managed through YouTube and a “coursebook “ I found online. But I couldn’t find any “one-stop solution” that could teach me Bangla.

And that was why Portal was born.

The app in its current form is just 25% of what I want it to be. But we gotta start somewhere, right?