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From Europe, with 'Namaste'

If you are already weary of native Indians chatting in English at home, work and parties, be prepared to meet a group of youngsters from Europe greeting you with a “Namaste”. Vikas Pathak reports.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2008 23:44 IST
Vikas Pathak

If you are already weary of native Indians chatting in English at home, work and parties, be prepared to meet a group of youngsters from Europe greeting you with a “Namaste”.

Twelve young flagbearers of Hindi from Europe — chosen from among hundreds for their skill in the language — are currently on a 10-day trip to India.

Barring a few European students of Hindi, they are all persons of Indian origin who have learnt the language to keep alive an emotional link with their country of origin.

The trip involves meetings with dignitaries and commoners alike, and visits to historical places like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Agra and Lucknow. The UK Hindi Samiti of Padmesh Gupta conducted the test in February to select the youngsters — all aged between 16 and 25 — most proficient in Hindi and an organisation called Aksharam planned the trip.

“The whole idea is to promote Hindi in Europe. If Hindi dies among second generation Indians from north India in Europe, their links with India will also die, as language is a crucial aspect of culture. So we thought that inculcating love of the language was important for inculcating the love of India,” Anil Joshi of Aksharam told Hindustan Times.

But why Hindi? Gujaratis and Punjabis in Europe are already sensitive to their language and send their children to language classes. “We found that Hindi was ignored. So we began this initiative,” he added. Joshi used to work with the Indian High Commission in Britain when he first thought of this idea.

“In 2002, I organised the first Hindi competition in London and gave prizes to many students. The next year, we extended it to the whole of Britain, and later to different parts of Europe. Between 400-600 students take part in the competition each year,” he said.