(First published in Northern India Patrika, October 11, 2014)
Last month Aavratan, a reputed research journal, organized a seminar in coordination with Deen Dayal Upadhyay University situated in Gorakhpur. This Gorakhpur based research journal in the past has published excellent papers revealing lesser known facets of critical issues. The seminar was dedicated to promotion of Hindi- the official language of India. The star attraction of the event was the presidential speech by Dr. Genadi Shlomper, who happened to be Hindi Instructor at East Asia Department, Tel Aviv University, Israel. It was a pretty interesting experience to hear from Dr.Genadi about his involvement with Hindi during formative years of his career. It was evident from his speech that even if Hindi has failed to emerge as national language of India, it has emerged as an International language like its counterpart Spanish and English.
His insights proved to be an eye-opener for huge crowd which had gathered there to listen a foreign visitor throwing light on worth of dealing in Hindi! After all, despite constitutional obligations Hindi has failed to get status of national language. Even in routine life of an average Indian enjoying upper middle class stature Hindi enjoys position of illegitimate wife! Indians have beaten Englishmen in exhibiting their love for Victorian ideals and, of course, for English. Besides Dr. Genady, listeners also had a wonderful opportunity to hear Israeli students pursuing Hindi language course at Tel Aviv University. Offir Mizrahi, Tal Gorsky, Matan Massika, Yakir Dahari, Alexandra Fer and Adi Fischer who were visiting various parts of India to understand the essence of Hindi in more refined manner had so many interesting tales to narrate regarding their experiences which they gathered during their current visit.
Dr Genady Shlomper, who is credited with introducing Hindi in Israeli Universities, loves to visit India so as to enable his students have first-hand-experience of Indian culture. That in his eyes would make his students grasp the intricacies associated with Hindi language in a better way. Informing about the curriculum associated with Hindi he said that at initial stages more stress is laid on making students familiar with script and grammar rules. The students who wish to pursue Hindi more seriously can get enrolled in third year of three-year graduation course. At this stage it needs to be informed that a student has to learn at least one Asian language as one of the subjects in first two years. However, he made it clear that government does not get involved in framing the curriculum. Above all, the students who wish to learn languages are primarily guided by career concerns instead of being charmed by the intrinsic beauty of ay language. Interestingly, Hindi is easy to grasp but once Israeli students become face-to-face with grammar the enthusiasm gets a big jolt!
Dr. Genady, who got fascinated with Hindi since Tashkent days, said Universities in Russia in those days had no course specifically meant for Hindi learning. However, Urdu was being taught as one of the languages. He had no other option left other than to select Urdu. In those days there were also no books for learning these languages and students had to rely on lectures delivered by Professors in class. Finally, during one of his visits to India he managed to get hold of books related with Hindi. One of the reason he selected Hindi was that in eyes of his mentors it provided greater opportunity for career growth. Even in our times as India is on the verge of emerging economic superpower, learning Hindi widens the scope of landing your dream job. More and more foreign companies are entering in Indian markets to promote their brands. That means increased role of translators in the grand scheme of things primarily controlled by Capitalism!
Dr Genady finally moved to Israel from Russia to ensure a better future for himself. Ironically, students accompanying Dr. Genady had some bitter truths to share pertaining to materialistic world in the process of unfolding their love for Hindi. Yakir Dahari, a die-hard fan of Hindi movies, hit hard at the prevalent corruption in Israel. Citing India’s war against corruption, led by Anna Hazare, Yakir informed that youths in Israel have also waged a war against corrupt institutions, which had resulted in ouster of influential people from public domain. Adi Fisher, a married Israeli student, says that living a decent life has become a herculean task. She has delayed the birth of child so as to ensure better days! In fact, costly living standards have forced the youths to share the home built by their parents since owning a separate house in limited income is virtually impossible. In lighter vein, Alexandara’s sweet gestures on Bollywood numbers along with other Israeli students gave clue about the rocking presence of Indian movies in distant lands! It was an unique experience to see them singing a gem from classic era: Babuji Dheere Chalna Pyar Mein Zara Sambhalana!
Israel continues to inspire Indians in one more way. Its aggressive stance against countries trying to sabotage its sovereignty appeals a lot to sentiments of Indian people who wish India to adopt similar line of action. Dr. Genady had to face barrage of questions in this regard much against his desire to be above controversial issues. He was interested in being seen as a professor involved in promotion of Hindi instead of being seen as a political analyst. He cleverly avoided all such disturbing questions but not without mentioning that not all Israelis agree with tough stand of Israel government against enemy nations. There are serious differences making it clear that opinion of people differ from the ones who rule the government. Whatever be the truth, Indian students who had gathered to interact with Dr. Genady were keen to know from him the elements that have gone into the making of an average Israeli committed to defend Israel at any cost! The questions from students give a clue about it. One student asked: Are students trained that way from the beginning? Another asked: Is the curriculum framed that way which ensures the rise of ferocious nationalists?
Dr. Genady is convinced that Hindi is going to strengthen its impact in coming days. It’s going to make its presence felt in a big way in International arena. What he does not realize that in India it’s losing its charm. Newer distortions like “Hinglish” and mindless aping of global values have made Hindi attain an object of ridicule in fast-growing middle class. It’s really unfortunate that Indians feel more pride in speaking wrong English than speaking flawless standard Hindi. That’s the reason why speaking courses in English are hot favourite among Indian students. It’s amazing that even after so many years of India’s independence the Central government is clueless about true status of Hindi in India. It continues to create ambiguity between “national language” and “official language”! The southern states continue to see introduction of Hindi not as something inspired by love for country but something arising of politics of language! That makes it obvious that foreign scholars like Dr Genady Shlomper might be a source of inspiration to embrace Hindi in a substantive way, the will to respect Hindi has to come from Indians alone. Indians alone need to develop an atmosphere conductive for growth of Hindi in significant way both in Indian landscape and in foreign lands.