Change of heart: English is now normal, Hindi is the new cool
The Irrfan Khan-starrer Hindi Medium captures a Hindi- speaking family’s struggle to get their child in an upmarket English medium school. But there are many who believe that Hindi has never been ‘so cool.’ Take for example Manish Gupta, a film-maker, who works to promote Hindi. “Hindi is the new cool, English is the new normal,” he says.
And he is not exaggerating. Hindi now has a cool quotient, thanks to a whole new breed of writers, publishers and entrepreneurs who have been relentlessly working to promote Hindi for the past few years. Technology, especially the social media, has proved to be a catalyst of change in the fortunes of the language.
After Gupta returned to India from the US three years back, he started a YouTube Channel called Hindi Kavita with the objective of getting Hindi ‘the respect it deserves’. The channel has had top celebrities from Naseeruddin Shah to Imtiaz Ali to Manoj Bajpayee reciting works of famous Hindi poets.
“I realised that Hindi is an orphaned language and wanted to change that. Whether we accept it or not, the fact is most people in India are not good at the English language and their obsession with it is hampering their self-actualisation, something which is not possible in a foreign language. The limits of the language are the limits of the mind,” says Gupta. “And we need to understand that a deep, emotional relation with words is possible only in your mother tongue.”
Hindi Kavita has now become a volunteer-driven movement to popularize Hindi with chapters in many cities across the country, including Delhi. Most of those associated with the growing Hindi Kavita community are doctors and engineers, who are now practising what they are preaching. “All of them are upwardly mobile, English-speaking individuals who now prefer to use Hindi as much as and wherever they can,” says Gupta.
The Hindi language has also got a boost from new kind of publishers and writers. There are new publishers such as Hind Yugm, whose catchphrase is Nai Wali Hindi (A whole new kind of Hindi).
Its founder Shailesh Bharatwasi, an engineer by education, says the idea behind the publishing house was to find new, young Hindi writers who wish to experiment with themes, plots and language. “ The old publishers were only reprinting classics and not willing to take risks with new writers,” says Bharatwasi, who has so far published over 150 titles, both fiction and non-fiction written in simple, conversational Hindi. “We have removed the impression that Hindi is a difficult language and the books have appealed to a whole new kind of readers in Hindi,” he says.
Majority of writers whose works Bharatwasi has published are engineering and management graduates who can write in English, but chose Hindi. These writers, he says, are becoming the agents of a new revolution in Hindi literature.
Divya Prakash Dubey is one such writer. An engineering and management graduate, he is the author of three novels and is quite a celebrity: he gives TedX talks and gets invited to speak at lit fests and institutions such as IITs. “When I was first invited to speak at a TedX event, I was asked to speak in English, but I said I would speak in Hindi,” says Dubey.
The subject of the talk was ‘Hindi is Cool Yaar where he narrated what it means to be growing in a small town where everyone thought success in life was not possible without learning English. “Hindi was taught to me on my mother’s lap, but English was taught in school through constant fear and chastising,” he said to a wide applause at the TedX talk. His recent talk at IIT Delhi was titled ‘Hindi Medium Type’.
Talking about a change in attitude in the past few years , he says, “People no longer judge you if you speak Hindi, and there are people who flaunt speaking in Hindi,” says Prakash who is also popularising what he calls Storybazzi— a stand-up act where he narrates stories in Hindi in an informal way.
Many of these new generation writers are winning literary accolades too. Last year, Shubham Shree, 26, won the prestigious Bharat Bhushan Agarwal Prize much to the chagrin of the Hindi literary establishment. The prize is awarded annually to a single poem by a young writer. The jury included well-known Hindi Writer Uday Prakash. Her poem ‘Poetry Management’ was written in Hinglish-- a hybrid mix of Hindi and English.
“Most people have a certain notion of pure Hindi, but the fact is most use Hinglish on a daily basis and I do not think there is anything wrong in that,” says Shubham Sree. “A lot of young writers are now choosing to write in Hinglish and they have created a whole new readership for Hindi books. People who cannot write or speak in English are considered disabled, but thankfully things are changing slowly.”
Satyanand Nirupam, editorial director, Rajkamal Prakashan, says that technology has given a new life to Hindi. It has made Hindi ‘glamorous’. “So many well-heeled people are writing in Hindi on Facebook and Twitter,” he says. “And publishers are finding so many Hindi writers on Facebook.”
Smartphones with Hindi keyboards, many believe, have helped Hindi a lot. They have enabled budding writers to write a small poem and instantly get reactions and invite discussions on blogs and Facebook.
Then, there are platforms such as Kavitakosh, an online repository of Hindi verses, which has over a lakh pages of Hindi poetry, with two million page views a month.
The founder Lalit Kumar, an IT professional, says people contributing poems for the website are English-speaking professionals such as doctors, management professionals, engineers, and architects.
“They have discovered the poet in them and have chosen to write in Hindi because they feel that feelings and emotions can be best expressed in their mother tongue. The fact is that English is just your functional language, nothing more,” says Lalit Kumar. “The real change will happen when corporates adopt Hindi, when it becomes a language of white collar jobs.”
Nirupam says the market is now beginning to adopt Hindi. “It is not unusual to see Hindi signages and billboards in posh markets in metros. Corporates are increasingly putting out advertisements in Hindi and willing to sponsor Hindi literary events,” he says.