Hindi is getting a fillip in Trinidad and Tobago, where around 23 per cent of the million population is of Indian extraction but only about five per cent of them speak the language fluently.
Satnarayan Maharaj, secretary general of Trinidad and Tobago's Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), a major Hindu organisation, has announced that his organisation has developed a Hindi curriculum to be used in its 60 primary and secondary institutions.
"We have also developed Hindi cards in order to give the boost that Hindi needs in Trinidad and Tobago," he said at the annual World Hindi Day celebrations in Port of Spain.
Maharaj said the SDMS would put all its resources into enhancing the teaching of Hindi. Maharaj pointed out that in its 175 mandirs or temples scattered across the country, Hindi is used in all its prayers with interpretations.
"Every morning, there is a half-an-hour prayer service in Hindi, which is another method used to propagate the learning of Hindi in Trinidad and Tobago and the most convenient channel is through the schools," Maharaj noted.
Hindi was brought into the Caribbean in 1838 when the first batch of indentured labourers, principally from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, came here to work on the sugar plantations following the freedom of African slaves.
Hindi is not too commonly used since the older Indian generation has died, and the younger generation seeks refuge in English. Even the sacred religious Hindu texts, like the Ramayana, Gita, Upanishads, Mahabharata among several others, are now available in English.
Most Hindu prayers or religious services are conducted in English, with some references in Hindi.
"In the context of teaching the Hindi language, I may inform that one of my primary tasks, when I took over my post here two-and-a-half years ago, was to promote the learning of Hindi by the large Indian community," said Indian High Commissioner Jagit Singh Sapra.
"We are able to accomplish the task to some extent as we are now conducting 18 Hindi classes in various parts of the country and well over 200 students are learning Hindi there," Singh said.
The contribution of other local organisations in teaching the language is recognised by the high commission, in particular, SDMS under the able leadership of Satnarayan Maharaj, he said.
"SDMS has been arranging teaching of the language in its schools."
"The high commission has also agreed to provide one of its Hindi teachers to conduct Hindi lessons in one of the schools from the next academic year. We hope to increase the number of such classes in the future," Sapra said.
In recognition of the contribution made by SDMS to promote and propagate Hindi, he presented a small memento to Maharaj.
"As you all know, Hindi is one of the widely spoken languages. In this age of globalisation when India is emerging a major world economic power, learning of Hindi is indeed good."
"The growing economic, political and cultural relations of world community with India are attracting the world populace towards this fascinating language," Sapra noted.
"Indians and the Indian diaspora are playing a pivotal role in promoting Hindi in practically every part of the world. We are all aware about the contribution of Hindi films in the promotion of Hindi," he said.