They are baffled when they go from China to Chandni Chowk and encounter Delhi’s Hindi.
Why do people say mereko, they asked this correspondent in a room stacked with the Manusmriti and Bhagavada Gita at Peking University. “Saying mereko instead of mujhe…theek nahin (not right),’’ said Jiang Jingkui, chairman of the Hindi department that opened in 1949.
This classroom in the communist nation’s top campus has job offers even during the recession, while seven million graduates in China are desperate to find work. Its elite batch of Chinese students — with alternate identities like Ajay, Sagar and Vishnu — study Indian culture and Hindi, watch Doordarshan and even the Mahabharata series.
Trade between India and China — the two economies more resilient through the recession than the US — grew 34 per cent last year. But on both sides of the border, businessmen barely understand each other’s language and culture. The demand for the few Hindi speakers of Peking University — China’s first national university — is growing with this rise in trade.
“My students even refuse job offers,’’ Jiang told HT.
The Amitabh fan said he is saddened India does not project Hindi as an international language. He pointed to management graduate Ajay, or Lu Xiaoliang, 27, who pursued an MA in South Asian culture and Hindi to chase career opportunities from India-China bilateral ties.
“Several companies are after him. He may go to India next year,’’ said Jiang.
Currently, about 200 students study Hindi in seven departments in China, with a new centre set to open this year in the Chongqing. “Only 10 Chinese were studying Hindi when I learnt it in 1985,’’ said Jiang, who is sifting through resumes of English and management students among the 60 applications he received this year.
“This year, there are more job positions than Hindi graduates available,’’ said BA final-year student Vishnu or Zhang Mingyu, who decided it wouldn’t be hard to learn the language after he read in a Chinese magazine that Sonia Gandhi had mastered Hindi. “My classmates were astonished. They asked me, Hindi, what’s that?’’ said Vishnu, who will join the MA course this year.
Sagar or Chao Wei is studying MA after four years as a business manager for China’s Haier in Delhi. “I want to help people understand India. I love India!’’ he said. Loving India is a criterion in his class, Jiang tells students. The department plans to introduce Punjabi and Tamil language training as well.