Dr Sarita Boodhoo & Satyadev Tengur awarded Vishwa Hindi Sammaan

At the 9th World Hindi Conference in Johannesburg, S.A

By Sarita Boodhoo

The Commendation Certificates and Awards were signed and presented to the awardees at the 9th World Hindi Conference held at Johannesburg, South Africa on Monday 24th September by Mrs Praneet Kaur, the Minister of State for External Affairs India, and Chairperson of the Conference Organising Committee.

Was also present to confer the Awards, the Minister of Arts and Culture of Mauritius, Mr Mookeshwar Choonee who created a great impact with his emotionally charged speech in Hindi. A large audience of Hindi lovers from several countries gathered at the spacious Nelson Mandela Conference Room of the imposing and state-of-the-art Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg.

The three-day conference from 22nd to 24th was focused on nine main themes. These ranged from the vision of Mahatma Gandhi towards moving for Hindi as the national language of India to the contribution of Youth in the promotion and teaching of Hindi in South Africa; Hindi and the Information Technology and Science; the practicality and scientific base of the Devanagri script; the contribution of Overseas Indians and PIO creative writers in the development of Hindi; Hindi and the Media, Bollywood, TV serials, Theatre; the impact of Bharat in the world through its ancient scriptures, culture, art and literature.

The Organising Committee was headed by Mr Madhusudan Ganapathi, former High Commissioner of India in Mauritius and currently Secretary (West) at the External Affairs, New Delhi. A whole team of MPs, prominent academicians, distinguished litterateurs, editors, diplomats, consultants and high cadres of the External Ministry were present to steer and monitor the whole conduct of the Conference. Mr Mimansak, Second Secretary to the Indian High Commission in Mauritius also formed part of the team. The day-to-day operation was effectively and meticulously overseen by Mr Anup Mudgal, the Joint Secretary (Administration).

The High Commissioner of India, Mr Virendra Gupta spared no efforts to see to the success of the Conference, jointly organised by the Government of India and the Hindi Shiksha Sangh of South Africa under the dedicated and devoted leadership of the indefatigable Shri Heeralal Sewnath. The cultural programmes highlighted the academic sessions and gave the Conference an air of magnificent celebration: celebrating Hindi’s onward move as the second most spoken language of the world. The fusion dances performed by African artists were indeed a delight to the eyes. The artists were as vigorous in the African items as they were graceful in the Indian folk, Bollywood and classical items.

Twelve resolutions were voted and the 10th World Hindi Conference is slated to be held in South India. It was acknowledged by one and all that this 9th Conference was by far the best organised and conducted of all World Hindi Conferences.

Some twenty foreign scholars from across the globe and twenty Indian scholars, littérateurs and poets were honoured with the Vishwa Hindi Sammaan.

* * *

Sarita Boodhoo’s contribution to the promotion and propagation of Hindi

Sarita Boodhoo born in Port Louis, has been deeply fond of Hindi and Indian culture since her tender age. Though a geographer by training, she went on pursuing the studies in Hindi all through life until she earned a PhD.

After her primary schooling, Sarita Boodhoo’s education in Hindi took a backseat. Hindi was not taught then at Queen Elizabeth College. She continued to read Hindi books and magazines obtained from the Nalanda Bookshop, encouraged by Mr Bikramsingh Ramlallah, uncle and mentor, before she went to the Calcutta University to study Geography on a Government of India Cultural Scholarship.

Upon her return from Calcutta, she taught Geography at the Royal College Curepipe and the Queen Elizabeth College as an Education Officer. But the passion for Hindi kindled a flame in her heart that could not be extinguished. At the Seva Shivir movement of Swami Krishnanand Saraswati which she joined in 1968 she became intensely involved at grassroots level, after hours, with the promotion of Hindi and Indian Culture for decades. She was involved in promoting Hindi as a mother-tongue, as a language of esteem and the vehicle of Indian culture and ethos all over the country. She sacrificed her youth-hours along with the fiery band of volunteers trained by Swamiji, in going from village to village and wrote the story of Hindi in an intense grassroots andolan. And she pursued the campaign till Hindi was eventually given recognition at the entrance examination for secondary schooling. Thanks to the energetic move of Mr Satyadev Tengur, with whom she collaborated along with other socio-cultural volunteers in the issue of Hindi at the CPE level. She deponed in front of the Commissions of Enquiry for Asian languages. She also intensified the movement for the teaching of Hindi at the secondary level and militated for its acceptance at the University through the MGI.

A major landmark on an international level in the life of Sarita Boodhoo was the setting up of the World Hindi Secretariat in Mauritius. She was instrumental as Adviser to the Government of Mauritius to initiate, plan and monitor the setting up of the World Hindi Secretariat from 1996 to 2001. She conceptualised the whole project and doggedly piloted it until its successful concretization.

Another major achievement in the promotion of Hindi has been the setting up of a modern 24-paged standard Hindi weekly newspaper from 2001 to 2007 – the Jan Vani under the Sunday Vani group. Sarita was the managing editor and wrote hundreds of incisive editorials in Hindi on burning topical local and foreign issues of the day ranging from politics; economy, trade and commerce, culture, art and education. She wrote features and conducted interviews of prominent personalities and writers. She gave space to World Hindi Conference activities and encouraged new writers in Hindi. She encouraged and trained young Hindi graduates in Hindi Journalism at the seat of the Jan Vani. She wrote and created awareness on sensitive nation-building issues.

Sarita Boodhoo has attended all World Hindi Conferences and presented papers and interacted with writers and scholars for the past 40 years. She was secretary to the official delegation from Mauritius to the World Hindi Conferences in New Delhi (1983); London (1999); and Trinidad and Tobago (1996).

Sarita Boodhoo has been recently appointed the first Chairperson of the Bhojpuri Speaking Union.

* Published in print edition on 28 September 2012

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