Armed with books for third standard students, a group of 12 Delhi Police subinspectors meet at the police library every Sunday to take Hindi lessons.
While they wait in the classroom, assistant sub inspector Jai Singh walks into the class exactly at 11 am carrying a set of test papers, the 12 officers wrote a week ago. Singh is a rank junior to all of them but in the class they call him ‘sir’.
The officers, all from the northeastern states, joined the police force in 2015 and realised they had to be fluent in Hindi. They met joint commissioner Robin Hibu, who heads the Delhi Police special unit for northeast, and requested for Hindi lessons. Since August, for three hours every Sunday, Singh has been teaching them the language.
“I wanted to learn Hindi long ago but never found the time or the opportunity. I am grateful to get Hindi lessons here,” subinspector Birjit says in Hindi.
During the class, an officer asks Singh the meaning of ‘sair karne gaya (gone for a walk)’. The officer is confused, perhaps with the pronunciation, and says he thought ‘sair’ is the Hindi word for tiger. So what does the sentence mean? Singh explains the class that the word ‘sair’ is a ’paryawachi’ (synonym) and that ‘sair’ in the given sentence means a walk.
“They are improving. Initially it was very difficult but I am teaching them Hindi from the nursery level. They get homework and I evaluate them,” Singh said.
IPS officer Hibu told HT, “They are a bunch of young enthusiastic officers but not knowing Hindi was becoming an obstacle for them in serving people in Delhi. They volunteered to take classes and I helped them. The response has been good.”
After 16 years, in 2015 a team of Delhi Police officers visited the eight northeastern states, including Sikkim, to recruit men and women into the city police. Around 450 men and women were recruited. It is a part of the central government’s initiative to turn Delhi Police into a cosmopolitan force.
Two months after the classes started, subinspector Lungfu says his Hindi has improved. “Nowadays, while returning home after the police station we read the Hindi signboards. We also read Hindi newspapers. Give us some time and we will be fluent.”