We were in the 14th century Hauz Khas monument complex in South Delhi when we came across a woman there. Here’s the conversation we struck up with her:
Who are you? What are you doing here?
I’m Hiroko Naka, a teacher. I’m 47. I’m learning Hindi.
I like studying different languages. I want to understand their stories, how they evolved. Since I’m from Japan, I know Japanese. I’m also fairly articulate in English. But Hindi… I know only a little bit of it.
How do you know that little bit of Hindi?
I’m not completely foreign to Delhi. For four-and-a-half years, I was teaching Japanese at an institute in Kalu Sarai, near IIT Gate. It is impossible, you know, not to pick up a bit of Hindi while living in this city. Last year, I went to Ensenada, Mexico, to teach Japanese there. But now, I’m back, and have decided to learn Hindi more intensively. I’ve taken a room in Hauz Khas Village and enrolled at the Hindi Sansthan in Kalkaji. On Wednesday, I’m leaving for Japan to get a student’s visa. I’ll be back next week. In Japan, everyone speaks Japanese.
In Delhi, however, it is English, not Hindi, which is fashionable...
Yes, it is amazing. Delhiites converse in Hindi but all the documents, formal or informal, are in English. When I go to bookshops, it is difficult to find Hindi language books.
Shameful, isn’t it?
India is a very big country. When South Indians meet North Indians, they do not have a common native lingo to communicate. Maybe English is a better choice, because it is a worldwide language. Still, I feel very sad for the next generation of Indians. They may not be able to read Hindi at all.
What do you like about Hindi?
It is similar to Japanese. The structure of the grammar is same. You can easily translate from Japanese to Hindi or otherwise.
Do you visit this monument often?
Since I live so near, I come here every morning for two or three hours.
What do you like about the place?
Look at the greenery. I also like these birds and all these ruins. Here, I’m by myself. I think of people I have known in the past. Sometimes, I think about myself. And as you can see, I also study. Here, I can concentrate more than in the house.
What is your dream?
I’ve to see the world other than Japan. I want to be a traveller. That’s why I became a language teacher. I live in other lands, teach Japanese to their people, and sometimes learn their languages, as I’m doing now.