Promotion of Bhojpuri and Hindi – Meeting the Challenges Ahead 

By Vishwamitra Aashutosh GANGA

Winter school holidays are here. What an opportune time for children and parents to enjoy conversing in Bhojpuri among themselves! That would be real fun indeed for those children who have always replied in Creole and French whenever elder family members have addressed them in Bhojpuri or Hindi. And there would be still more fun when these children would surprise their friends with their newly acquired linguistic skills upon resumption of school in August. It is incumbent upon those very parents to encourage their offspring to contribute to the promotion of Bhojpuri and Hindi because both are among the ancestral languages which have to be safeguarded. The family together with the warmth of home constitute the cradle of knowledge, hence it is the ideal launch pad for such a noble endeavour. It is the duty of parents first to shed all shyness and inferiority complex that often surround oriental languages and motivate their kids. Without this support from home, the rise of Bhojpuri on the school premises we are forecasting, may not be that spectacular.

It is an undeniable fact that by distancing themselves from Bhojpuri, parents and their wards have done a great disservice to Hindi. Today, the size of the community of Hindi students at secondary school level, especially in higher forms, is not what it should have been. It has been observed that whenever Hindi and other subjects are in the same group of options, it is generally Hindi which is mercilessly sent to the sacrificial altar. Students as well as parents have their share of responsibility for this situation.  Had they dutifully done their homework by keeping the flame of Bhojpuri and Hindi burning in the homely hearth, the number of students of Hindi would have been much higher at school today.

Bhojpuri and Hindi are homogenous subjects and, ideally, children would be well inspired to study them simultaneously. What are the elements that make this co-existence successful? The two languages share some fundamental features such as common script and quasi-common vocabulary and syntax. In simpler terms, someone conversant with Bhojpuri can understand Hindi with little effort and vice-versa. Hence they are mutually supportive tongues and the promotion of one represents a windfall gain for the other.

However, quite a few people are convinced that the good neighbourliness of Bhojpuri and Hindi is fraught with some peril. In our country, Bhojpuri does not, as yet, carry the status and prestige of Hindi, but as a folk language haloed with its own beauty and strength, it does pose some risk of corruption for the latter, especially considering the fact that both languages have to coexist in a small area like Mauritius – hence the need for some cautious handling.

Constant exposure to the influences of Creole and French has considerably eroded the faculty of Bhojpuri- and Hindi-speaking Mauritians to pronounce aspirated consonants correctly, thereby altering the very meaning of many a term. But the biggest task on the path of promoters of Bhojpuri is probably the filtering of the language which has suffered significant loss of identity as a result of indiscriminate adulteration through the adoption of foreign words and expressions. Indeed, many of our so-called Bhojpuri sentences have only the basic skeleton left. A genuine revival calls for the gradual replacement of imported vocabulary by Bhojpuri and/or Hindi counterparts.

Bhojpuri Going to School is undoubtedly a milestone in the history of Mauritius. This is a moment of pride and deep emotion especially for descendants of North Indian immigrants. Challenges, however tough, will have to be met and the solutions found. Bhojpuri and Hindi will learn to coexist in mutual respect and contribute together to the socio-cultural refinement of the people of Mauritius thanks to the efforts of the large number of citizens devoted to this cause. Coming generations will remember with gratitude this highly patriotic act of theirs to safeguard all our ancestral languages for posterity. 

* Published in print edition on 30 July 2010

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