I thought it is better to start the column with a disclaimer. Hindi and Tamil Nadu (the state I belong to) when uttered together gets a political colour most of the times. It is almost unpalatable for a section of people, but this column is anything but that.
Though there are 22 languages which are recognised under the Eight Schedule of the Constitution, but only Hindi and English are the official languages for the Union Government and for the Parliament. This is according to the Official Languages Act, 1963.
Hindi is a language which I have been associated with for 3 decades but am not still confident about my diction or my grammar.
In 1990, domestic compulsions led me to shift from Bangalore to Chennai and I was informed, out of the blue, that elders in the house had decided that I would be better off learning Hindi rather than Tamil, which was, at that point in time completely alien to me (written Tamil, I mean). I was so comfortable learning Kannada and loved the language completely, but I had no choice. My exposure to Hindi then was limited to a few times I chanced upon seeing ‘Chitrahaar’ (a TV show which would play Hindi film songs) or a few words that I picked up from a neighbour who was from Kolhapur.
For a very long time, I thought ‘noko’ was Hindi!
Tamil movies had a strange way of projecting people from North – inserting the words ‘Achha’ or ‘Bas’ in the dialogues did the magic. (or so they believed!). Or a few ‘arrey’ scattered here and there.
Soon, I was all set for the new routine – which is a long drive in a cycle rickshaw ably steered by my grandfather’s trusted aide, to a Hindi tuition teacher. My tryst with the language thus began.
Within a month I was adjusting to the language, meaning I knew I had little choice and so started accepting the reality. From then on (Class 5) till I finished my schooling, learning Hindi meant getting 85+ marks in the examinations. No one at home knew Hindi and I was not a self-driven enthusiastic linguist.
Every time we had a visitor at home, my grandfather would announce proudly that he was making me learn Hindi so that I could have ‘a life beyond Central’ Central refers to the railway station in Chennai from where you can travel to other states.
One very common phenomenon that you would find in Tamil Nadu is that lot of students would be made to appear for the ‘Hindi exams’ conducted by the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha.
There would be whole lot of Hindi teachers preparing students for these exams which are conducted twice a year, in February and in August. According to the website of Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachan Sabha, almost 4 lakh students write the examinations in a year. There are different levels before the students get a ‘Praveen’ degree from the Sabha.
With due respects to all the Hindi teachers who taught me, I somehow find it strange that they never insisted on spoken Hindi. Even if they did, speaking in Hindi was beyond my radar of imagination!
I have now learnt through my experience that only exposure to language and also practicing it, will get the desired results.
In the last two decades, lot of things has changed. In my personal opinion, I think many kids are now learning Hindi which is opting to master the language by taking it as an option in school.
This is due to the professional parents who would be transferred across the length and breadth of the country. Students who are only learning the regional language will have to face the same problem that I did. (Kannada to Hindi!).
While it is extremely important to keep the various regional languages of India rich and alive, it also helps if we learn Hindi. Till I left my state and moved to Jammu, I was one of those creatures who would show off by saying I know four languages – English, Hindi, Tamil and Kannada.
In about a week’s time in Jammu, the bubble burst. I found it so difficult to converse with people. I understood that the Hindi marks on the certificate meant nothing as I was not able to put it to any practical use.
In my efforts to learn Hindi (properly), I had to fight a long list of demons – my ignorance, lack of exposure and practice, inhibitions and fear of ridicule.
The fight took many years. There were lot of people who, without understanding that people in Tamil Nadu have little to no exposure to Hindi, would make fun of my accent and slang.
Beyond a point, it stopped bothering me. I told myself that as long as my message reached the other person, I had nothing to worry about.
I understood that Hindi is the connecting language in most parts of India and this truth dawned on me after my travel to various parts of the country. Now I can speak Hindi (fairly enough!) and that has been extremely helpful both in my professional and personal life.
Languages are a means of communication and we have the duty to protect and nurture it!
Let’s learn the mother tongue, the regional language and the official language. The more the better, isn’t it?
The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.