Each time I head to the US, my elder sister has one demand: to get as much pre-school material that I can on teaching Hindi to her two daughters. She has an ardent desire to teach her children to read, and eventually write, in Hindi as they grow up in a foreign land. As I was headed to the US again, for a third time, her list was pretty much the same – books, puzzles, wall charts in Hindi; and yes, a few Indian paper flags to adorn the kids’ bedroom soft board.
Once again, I began my hunt for learning material in Hindi that would make it interesting and engaging for children. I had seen a lot of such material in English for kids and thought it would be a breeze to procure it in Hindi. How wrong I was!
I went to supermarkets, most of them kids’ only haunts, and enquired for magnetic alphabets in Hindi. All they put in front of me were 10 to 12 varieties in English – all boasting of global kids’ brands. I told one of the salespersons that maybe in some corner of her store she would have magnetic alphabets in Hindi. The store owner was courteous and he instructed his assistants to look once again. The effort bore no fruit.
As I left one shop for another, I found no luck with Hindi. I couldn’t find any Hindi storyboard books, called so for the leaves are made from board-like material keeping them safe from children’s rough handling. They offered a low-quality paper version, and I was forced to choose one.
I thought maybe it would be easier to find wall charts which display, alongside their pictures, names of animals, flowers and other mundane things in Hindi. But no luck here too. I was again handed over charts in English. When it came to puzzles, they offered me just the ‘ varnamala’ (alphabets). The staff of pretty much all stores, big or small, that I visited, told me the same thing. It was as if they had all practised this one line: “Madam, these days nobody wants Hindi. They all want English.”
I checked with some of the moms in town whose kids are of the same age. Most of them didn’t know or showed little interest in any Hindi material. They reasoned that kids pick up Hindi easily here so they didn’t need to put in any additional effort. It was teaching English that they were most concerned about. In fact, one of my sisters-in-law even lamented that her three-year-old son preferred to speak only Hindi. My hunt came to an end, in part, when I searched for these items online. I was forced to pay six times for buying these things in Hindi as compared to the price for English ones. Now, I dread the day my sister decides to teach her kids Punjabi!