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Tryst with Hindi

chandigarh Updated: Mar 05, 2014 09:42 IST
Ritu Nanda

During my early schooling years my father was posted in Ethiopia. I used to study in a convent school run by Maltese nuns. Obviously, they did not teach us Hindi. Although my siblings and I were quite conversant in spoken Hindi, we were not able to read or write it.

It is generally believed that when you live abroad you tend to value everything related to your home country. This was exactly the case with my mother, who believed that knowing Hindi would keep us in touch with our roots.

So, on our annual trips to India our concerned mother used to pick up a whole host of Hindi books comprising alphabets, short stories, 'Champak' and comic books. We were thus acquainted to reading and writing the subject.

Then for a couple of years, I studied in a convent school in Jalandhar where I struggled with Hindi grammar. Somehow there was always confusion between the usage of 'choti Eee ki matra' and 'badi Eee ki matra', and not to forget the host of 'paryayvachi shabds' (synonyms) to learn.

Still, I shall forever remain indebted to my dear mother for having introduced me to Hindi, because this task would have become even more difficult without the primary knowledge that she imparted to us.

Now, I was at least able to understand Munshi Premchand's stories and be affected by Mahadevi Varma's poetry. I also remember that I managed to read and enjoy a Gulshan Nanda novel left behind by an aunt, during those schooling years.

My Hindi considerably improved when after several years I became tutor of this language to my own children, when they were in their junior classes.

Hindi is a descendant of Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha. Today, we should take pride in the fact that it is the fifth most spoken language in the world. The language is gentle on the ears and very expressive.

Over the years, the language has been influenced and enriched by other regional languages of India, and foreign languages such as Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Portuguese and English. The language is so rich that sometimes it is impossible to find a word that has exactly the same meaning in English.

The other day I was writing a piece, which involved mention of my 'bhabi', 'jaithani' and 'devrani'. I could find no substitute for these words in English, as all translated to sister-in-law. Similarly, 'mami', 'bua', 'tai' and 'chachi' all qualify to be called aunt in English.

It is no wonder then, that the language most (north) Indians speak or write nowadays is 'Hinglish'. As a parting shot, to highlight the richness of our mother tongue, I ask the revered readers to translate the following sentence to English if possible:
'Tum mujhe tu nahin aap kaha karo'.