The World Hindi Secretariat’s new building is expected to be ready by March 2018. Shri Narendra Modi Prime Minister of India will inaugurate the splendid state of the art structure at Phoenix, next to the Indira Gandhi Centre for Indian Culture (IGCIC). On that same occasion the 11th World Hindi Conference will be held in Mauritius. This statement by the High Commissioner of India Shri Abhay Thakur was made at the Hindi Diwas held immediately after a ground breaking puja ceremony on 8th October last for the commencement of construction of the World Hindi Secretariat.
Who gave Hindi a backseat?
One remembers the great struggle that had to be made for the inclusion of Hindi and other Oriental Languages for ranking some time back at CPE level. Though the Privy Council brought justice to the cause of Hindi, now it seems there is a laxism among parents and some who used Hindi as a ladder for social mobility. Fortunately there are dedicated souls around still.
“Modern day society, culture and politicians have given Hindi a backseat in terms of priority. On one hand they say Hindi should be a world language, but are not investing in teaching the Diaspora who is begging to be taught.”
This statement was made by Ms Varshinie Singh of the Guyana Hindi Prachar Sabha at the Regional World Hindi Conference held in Mauritius in October 2014 organized by the World Hindi Secretariat. She continued, “At present in Guyana amongst the majority of the population there is the misconception that there is no economic value to learning Hindi, unless you wish to become a pandit…” This trend of thinking is certainly reversible. Does it also ring a similar bell in Mauritius too?
Pertinence of Hindi’s presence
This brings us to the pertinence of Hindi’s presence anchored so deeply on Mauritian soil since the very first implantation of Indians in Mauritius almost two centuries ago.
Mauritians should consider themselves fortunate that this is the only country outside India where after the considerable struggles, sacrifice and human and material investments of our forefathers and selfless stalwarts decade after decade, Hindi has reached the portals of the university. We can proudly state that Hindi has made a heroic step forward from thatched covered baithkas, or makeshift buildings and garages later on, to allow access to a wider public and now to a modern urbanized sophisticated public through the Internet, blogs, websites and other modern ICT gadgets. . Nowadays, online courses are available as well as instant translations and transliterations.
The Hindi Pracharini Sabha recently celebrated ninety years of its existence. This is a long sustained historical achievement built solely on private and individuals’ donations and contributions, principally the Lekhman Mungur Bhagat and Ramlall Bhagat families of Montagne Longue but also other intellectual giants like Jai Narain Roy, Oomah Shankar Geerjanan, Srinivas Jugdutt, Anirood Dwarka and others who consolidated the base of Hindi Pracharini Sabha. The present-day leaders of the Hindi Pracharini Sabha continue to follow in their footsteps.
If once resistance to learning and teaching of Hindi was apparent as an outside negative force, such as the Ward Commission, today the attitude of parents’ is inflated with consumerism, individualism and quick money returns. Who seem to forget that without a strong mother tongue base and culture, their wards may become empty barrels with all their degrees and professional achievements, with a deep something missing inside them.
“Qui perd sa langue perd son âme” so rightly stated the poet laureate Frédéric Mistral. This meets the “Bhasha Gayi to Sanskriti Gayi” prized motto of Hindi Pracharini Sabha. That is, if language is lost then culture too is lost. Hindi’s base in Mauritius is Bhojpuri which nurtures and nourishes it. Bhojpuri is in the DNA of all Hindi writers of Mauritius. Thousands of teachers have been shaped and moulded in the lap of Bhojpuri. The Minister of Education should take care. Nothing should be done to minimize the teaching of Bhojpuri it schools in the light of the safeguarding measures proposed by UNESCO to protect and promote ancestral and linguistic heritage. To do so would amount to a lack of farsightedness and be a mistake on the part of the authorities. Great local writers of international fame like Abhimanya Unnuth, Ramdeo Dhurundhur, Deepchand Beehary, Raj Heeramun, Somduth Buckhory reflect this pulsating undercurrent of Bhojpuri in their writings.
Why should we study Hindi?
Hindi is learnt not only as a mother tongue. Hindi has been venerated by the immigrants since their arrival not only in Mauritius but throughout the Indian diaspora.
Varshinie Singh of Guyana makes a cri du coeur appeal to us Mauritians as a beacon of light, to help the maintenance of Hindi in Guyana and the Caribbean in general. Here, we have been more fortunate than our fellow Girmitias and their descendants in the Caribbean countries. The succeeding governments of Mauritius have been receptive and encouraging in the promotion of Hindi in their global language policy. For this, we are grateful and commend the Government in their wisdom and farsightedness.
But I am amazed to see a parallel in attitude of parents in Guyana and Mauritius. Parents stop their children from studying Hindi at a certain level, thinking it is a waste of time, in favour of subjects that show a mirage of material well-being to them.
Hindi and other Indian languages are part of our cultural ethos. Hindi and Bhojpuri nurture our souls. We should as Mahatma Gandhi said “Let our doors and windows be open to the cultures of the whole world, but let us not be blown off our feet by any of them.”
Today Shri Narendra Modi’s strong stand in addressing in Hindi prestigious international forums be it UN and other foreign countries has given the language more lustre and prestige. The fact is that Hindi is the second most spoken language in the world. With India’s phenomenal rise as a giant world economic and nuclear power and slated to become number one in Asia, Hindi will definitely be the language of the future. Indeed the Oxford Dictionary itself contains more than 1000 Hindi words.
Hindi is a very fluid and easily adaptable and accessible language. Derived from Sanskrit it can make and shape new words. It has also absorbed immensely words and terminologies from other languages, specially Urdu and English. It adapts itself marvelously to modernity and to the fast moving pace of the world. Bill Gates himself recognized Hindi as a precise script for the computer. Hindi’s script Devanagri derived from Sanskrit is most scientific and accurate in the facilitation and learning of lexicons.
We are fortunate to house such prestigious institutions like the World Hindi Secretariat and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Mauritius. The MGI has made a name for itself in the preparation of professionals and pedagogical materials. They can act as catalysts and hubs in disseminating and providing professional cadres, equipment and tools as well as pedagogy adapted to modern western-based urbanized learners of all age groups. The Indian Missions in these countries could also sensitize the Indian Government about the real needs of these overseas Indians and PIOs.
Furthermore, selfless and dedicated groups and individuals continue to run thousands of small and medium evening and Sunday Hindi Schools in Mauritius and in the old diaspora. The Arya Sabha and Arya Ravived Pracharini Sabha are other giant voluntary socio-cultural organizations which dedicate themselves to the promotion of Hindi. Mauritius has produced the greatest number of creative Hindi writers outside India and continues to do so. Although these Hindi writers running into 400 now do not always get media coverage or come into the limelight, yet they continue to produce poetry, short stories and novels in Hindi.
True, the President’s Fund For Creative Writing operating under the Ministry of Arts and Culture does help in a modest way to assist writers in all languages. But the urge to write in Hindi and nowadays in Bhojpuri too is so great that writers publish books galore in Hindi every month on their own merit.
The MBC too has upgraded its Hindi programmes giving Hindi prime time and one sees many debates and focalized exchanges among youngsters on the TV. This is positive. At the recent Hindi Diwas celebrated at the IGCIC on 8th October and at the Hindi Bhawan Long Mountain I was amazed to see the great interest in Hindi creative writings of poets from several generations reciting their self-written poems with verve and emotion. If the older generations came with their handwritten papers or notes, the younger generation read their poems from their smartphones or tablets. The themes chosen by the younger generation on the other hand demarcated from the older through their incisive and globalized approach on current issues.
I would like to end here with Ms Varshinie Singh’s cry of heart again: “Let the MGI, Mauritius take the lead and with the Government of India and the Government of Mauritius and the World Hindi Secretariat, let us continue with the International Conferences and let us build on the expected concrete foundation we long to be created here.”
The time has come for one and all to prepare a solid plan for us to be the lead for the diaspora. To do so, the preparation for the 11th World Hindi Conference should start from now only, with well-laid projects in terms of promotion and dissemination of Hindi and associated languages like Bhojpuri among younger generations using modern methods in the language of the young – smartphones, tablets and other ICT gadgets.
Parents should know that languages especially mother tongues are part of humanity’s heritage. That is why the UNESCO exhorts all countries of the world to celebrate the International Mother Language Day.