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Today my daughter is appearing for her first Hindi exam conducted by Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha. The venue is a school 25m away from my home. The exam name, my daughter informs, is Parichay. I told her that either this was not there or I took directly Prathmic in my days. Guys who took direct Madhyama then were heroes to me. The venue for us, back in Srirangam, was always the TBHSSS for boys and TGHSSS for girls. (The Boys/Girls Higher Secondary School, Srirangam).
Studying Hindi at Srirangam, I think I had a record of sorts who had shifted to so many teachers(read Hindi mamis) in Srirangam. Finally I graduated with “Praveen” under the able guidance of a mama who was a retired railway employee. Being a small town, I was always afraid of my quitting classes with a teacher and continuing with the next for the fear of one of the teachers (catching me on the veedhis(streets)) encountering me with the question, “why are you not continuing?”. Neither I could have explained my new found teacher nor I could have lied. Luckily it never happened. Hence I used to skip one season (the exams were conducted twice in a year) whenever I shifted. There will always be a group of boys and girls from various veedhis (its a small temple town where the Lord is in the middle of saptha praharams) attending these classes in batches.
Any relatives who come home had these standard questions, “Hindi Kathukaraya?(are you learning Hindi?)” and “what about typewriting/shorthand?”. The questions were supposed to be great career-oriented questions with a worldly exposure, to prepare us for a better job market. So, before I finished my Praveen, I also undertook Hindi typewriting and passed Higher grade(40 words per minute typing in Hindi). I first took Hindi typing instead of English just to be different.
I took “Hindi” as second language in college, so that Tamizh(Tamil) period becomes free for us as our college didn’t have a Hindi department(meaning we can go out of the class and roam around). We wanted to be the envy of the class. Other than this, there was no reason why I took that. It so happened that the Tamizh professor designated for our batch was so popular with his classes and the whole class rocked with laughter and enjoyment. So instead of the class envying us for the privilege of roaming around during that period, we started envying the class for their enjoyment of such a good lecture from that Tamizh professor. So I decided to sit put in Tamizh class, though a Hindi student. For the last 20 years, my Tamizh professor, wherever he introduces me, keeps saying to others, “He has such Tamizh passion that though being a non-Tamizh student at college, he used to attend my Tamizh classes”. (to quote his words verbatim, “Indha thambi college-il ve(y)tru mozhi maanakanaha irundhaalum, Tamizh patru adhigam ulla thambi”).
To cover the semester portions of college-Hindi, we used to go for coaching to a professor’s house in our town, who is from another college, during week-ends. That professor used to speak only in Hindi to students at Hindi classes. We were always speechless. We could never imagine that. My vocabulary was so good that I once wrote “ bevakoof” instead of “koobsoorat” about a poet. But this insistence that he would speak only in Hindi to us,stood me in great stead later to attempt and show people that I can speak(ok, agreed the word is manage) in Hindi. I was a hero to the home folks as I translated what’s being spoken in Hindi serials like Inthazaar and Fouji(in Doordarshan on TV those days).
Now I know the art of mixing Hindi words and speaking in English so that people feel that I know Hindi. From time to time, to impress(when I have a doubt on other’s belief) I quote from Premchand, Kabir, Rahim and Thulasi which were our syllabus for many DBHPS exams from Prathmic to Praveen.
The sales jobs that I took up with some of the MNCs were known for random postings all over India. So I was eagerly looking for a Hindi-belt posting. The Murphy’s law had always worked. They kept posting me in the land of Tamizh all the time. While those who got posted away from home envied my posting, I envied them for the Hindi exposure that they were getting. Finally at my last employment(that also happened to be a Chennai company) where I was in the International Marketing department, there used to be guys who were from all over India. I thought that I would pick up my Hindi and make them comfortable in Chennai, but they were very keen to pick up Tamizh and even now speak to me with the Tamizh that they had picked up in Chennai.
With my knowledge of devanagiri script and good accent of Hindi, one day I still intend to do some video recordings in Hindi about Indian Epics. That is still a dream uninitiated. Stay tuned for that.