From 10th-12th September 2015
The history of the World Hindi Conferences organised by the Government of India through its Ministry of External Affairs is now 40 years old. The first historic World Hindi Conference was held in Nagpur from 10th to 12th January 1975. It was inaugurated by Shrimati Indira Gandhi.
A big official delegation from Mauritius comprising eminent Hindi writers, poets, Hindi lovers and social workers was led by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Prime Minister. He in fact had the honour to preside over the August conference, attended by over 3000 delegates. It had gathered erudites and scholars of Hindi from across the world, and the great Hindi litterateurs from India. There was much hope and enthusiasm among the participants for the future of Hindi. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam had proposed the setting up of the World Hindi Secretariat and the holding of the 2nd World Hindi Conference in Mauritius in August 1976. That generated much fervour in favour of Hindi world over.
World Hindi Conferences
Much water has flown under the bridge since then. Out of the several resolutions voted, the most prominent one was the setting up of the World Hindi Secretariat in Mauritius. However there have been huge gaps at times between the different conferences. That does not mean that the development of Hindi was halted. But somehow the ardour for the WHC cooled down. It was after 23 years in fact that the World Hindi Secretariat really started taking shape. It kept being voted in every succeeding Conference though
Another project that materialised was the setting up of the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University at Wardha where Mahatma Gandhi himself had moved for Hindi to be recognised as the National language of India in the 1930s. Another big resolution that has been voted in all the nine World Hindi Conferences is that Hindi gain recognition as an official language at the United Nations. This has yet to materialise. Of all the World Hindi Conferences, the most professionally well-organised was the one held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 22-24 September 2012. It was systematic and well-planned.
Over the decades, Hindi moved slowly from the days of the pen, then typewriter to eventually reach the world of ICT. It was at the fifth World Hindi Conference in Port of Spain from 04-08 April 1996 that moves were made for Hindi to become a digital language. This was a breakthrough. Since then, a great leap in the world of technology for promoting Hindi and other Indian languages has been made by ICT savvy technicians and engineers who followed the succeeding World Hindi Conferences and exhibited the new developments, softwares and hardwares that revolutionised the teaching, learning and promotion of Hindi.
I remember at the fifth World Hindi Conference in Port of Spain, the then Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Basdeo Pandey was elated to discover that Hindi could be taught through the computer! This was unimaginable to him! Like most of us he had learnt Hindi on the blackboard through the ‘Bartani’ of learning the Devanagiri script at the Baithka sitting on mats. He was fascinated and excited like a little boy and proposed that he would introduce both Hindi and Hispania at school through the computer. However, politics changed course. He lost the elections and with that the introduction of Hindi in the primary schools in Trinidad and Tobago took a sharp blow. The various socio-cultural organisations are still struggling to promote Hindi there. Writings in Hindi in Caribbean countries need to be supported as Hindi is still a matter of pride among the people.
Mauritius has been luckier with its closeness to India and the frequent visits of great personalities. As well as a sustained effort by politicians and socio-cultural workers of the day in each succeeding generation to steer Hindi through the oppressive prevailing socio-political atmosphere on matters relating to the Indian community as a whole. Until it became thoroughly democratised and its teaching in government schools gained ground. In the 1940s the Ward Commission set up by the colonial government had moved that Hindi be removed from the formal school system.
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam’s Contribution
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, then Liaison Officer for Education, took the initiative to call Prof Ram Prakash from India to teach Hindi to trainee teachers at the Teachers’ Training College. That bold move changed the scenario completely and hundreds of young men and women saw job opportunities as Hindi Teachers. Today Hindi has moved from the baithka into the formal education right up to the university level, to postgraduate studies.
Mr Modi’s Concern
When Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India inaugurated the laying of foundation of the new complex of World Hindi Secretariat at Phoenix on 12 March 2015, he did express his concern at the fact that the project of the building had lagged. He hoped that it would be ready by next year so that it would be fully functional. But one should applaud the work of Shri Gulshan Sooklall, the Acting Secretary General who, together with a team of ICT sharp perceptive young Hindi lecturers and technocrats, has been able to revolutionise the teaching of Hindi from chalk talk to the integration of techno- pedagogy known as the massive application of ‘’Widgets’’ – or “Pedagogy”, that is the introduction of IPad into the learning system.
This is for the 4th consecutive time that the World Hindi Secretariat has called upon the expertise of Shri Balendu Sharma Dadhich from New Delhi to conduct workshops to familiarise software use in the promotion of Hindi among students, teachers, Hindi Officers. This year the experiment has been conducted with the private secondary school Hindi teachers of the PSSA with the support of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource and Scientific Research and the Indian High Commission. It has been a major thrust and holds great promise in the future for the promotion of Hindi through smartphones, IPad and new advanced technologies, thus shifting pedagogy from mere consumption to creative learning.
Balendu Sharma: The Hindi Software Wizard
Indeed, every time Balendu Sharma comes to Mauritius he does so with a new invention. It was amazing to see that the characters out of his E-book story could converse with each other or that the author could read and turn the E-pages on line and one could hear the voice too! Soon anyone could learn Hindi, sitting at home and hear the sound of the language without fear or favour or prejudice and at his own pace and freedom. This revolutionary approach in the teaching and learning of Hindi should be capitalised upon. Of course, administrative delays should be slashed out. Supply of IPads and application of Skypes, You Tubes and other tablets with sound, games and visuals should be put to advantage and be made available to all schools. These should be accessible to one and all – as teachers voiced out their reserves during the workshop.
In fact Hindi is a major language to access to Internet. With PDF versions of textbooks, audio versions in all Asian languages, opportunities will increase. Some 500 million people speak Hindi which equals English on the global front. According to statistics, Indians are the world’s second largest population of Internet users. Half a billion Indians use online. India’s rise to prominence and its frontline role as global player in international policy and the global market combine to make of Hindi “a major part of Information Technology today”. According to one report “Indians are waking up to the fact that you can get most software and hardware in Hindi- specific versions”.
Narendra Modi has given a big fillip to Hindi through his remarkable bold step of use of the language in his official trips worldwide whether USA or Japan or China. This has given a great visibility, acceptance and prestige to Hindi. The World Hindi Conferences, Hindi cinema and songs, the temple prayers and bhajans and TV serials too have contributed their mite towards popularising Hindi. The diplomatic missions in each country too have done their best.
Under the chairmanship of Shrimati Sushma Swaraj, who heads the Advisory and Programme Committee, the 10th WHC will surely capitalise on all this windfall gain to take Hindi to the United Nations this time. Moreover, the use of ICT in the promotion of Hindi such as the innovations and inventions of Shri Balendu could be utilised worldwide in the countries of the Indian Girmitia Diaspora to facilitate and revolutionise the learning of Hindi to ever thirsty learners. The translation from one language to another could facilitate learners in each country whether Anglophone, Francophone or Dutch as in Suriname and Holland or through Spanish-Hindi versions and in Mauritius Hindi-Creole versions, etc. The World Hindi Conference in Bhopal would surely move from beaten tracks to make Hindi accessible to younger generations conversant with IT, in a new global perspective.
- Published in print edition on 7 August 2015