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Second Coming of Hindi: Technology reprimes near-dead language

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By Ajeet Bharti

September 14 is celebrated as Hindi Diwas to honour the most widely spoken language (along with its dialects) in India. However symbolic it may be, or may appear to be, it is a necessity to keep it alive. Spoken by almost 500 million (422 million by 2001 census data), Hindi and related dialects are spoken by more than 40% of population in India.

However, one fact that can’t be overlooked is the inception of English as the medium of instruction in schools and colleges as they have seriously hampered Hindi’s growth. The ability to write the language in its script, Devanagari, has been declining.

devanagari-manuscript1Historically, our Constitution says it is our duty to promote Hindi in Devanagari script. Article 343 (1) of the Indian constitution said: “The official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devnagari script.”

Article 351 of the Indian Constitution states, “It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, the style and the expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages.”

However, a backlash by Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and Marathi speakers asking why should Hindi be bestowed with such a privilege meant that it couldn’t be made a Pan-Indian language as intended. Politicisation of the issue meant the spread of Hindi was checked on purpose in these areas and there were no official attempts to promote the same.

Hindi in popular culture and its decline

In popular culture, it appears that Bollywood or the Hindi film industry, which uses Hindi as its primary language, witnesses good speakers of the language but most of the stars can’t write it in Devanagari form. This is evident by the fact that film scripts are often presented in Hindi language but in Roman script which is similar to the popular practice of chatting/messaging in Romanised Hindi.

The reason behind the decline is believed to be a fascination for English and a sense of inferiority complex while speaking Hindi. There is a perception that those who speak English are ‘more educated’ and those speaking Hindi belong to a lower rung.

Speaking on this topic in a casual conversation with Shailesh Bharatwasi, owner of Hind Yugm (the most successful Hindi Book publisher that gives chance to upcoming writers), he emphasised on the fact that schools, even in villages of Bihar, no more promote Hindi.

He claimed (and as a resident of rural Bihar I agreed) that Hindi is just a way to get marks in exams. The private schools even in the rural areas of third tier cities use English as a language of instruction. This means the books are in English and the only Hindi book that the kids get is their Hindi literature book.

With a sense of pride in speaking English and studying in English medium school, students inculcate a belief that Hindi is not necessary. However, they are fluent in speaking it but after class X, they gradually forget how to write Hindi in Devanagari script as there are neither compulsory books nor exams.

The Second Coming of Hindi

Champak

The limited circulation of magazines, from almost hundred in early nineties to a mere single digit two for popular child magazine Champak (as I asked a shopkeeper in Mayur Vihar area of Delhi) is an example that how we are still in process of decolonisation and how Hindi magazines, once edited by PremChand and others, are showing a declining readership.

Notable child magazines included Nandan, Champak, Suman Saurabh, GrihShobha, Manorma and the others. These sold millions of copies in nineties. But now the circulation is limited to thousands with none of the aforementioned magazines with even a circulation of 50,000 (according to Indian Readership Survey 2014).

The reason is evident that the children don’t read the magazines as they have other sources of entertainment as well as they don’t comprehend Hindi because of schools not giving ample amount of stress on the language. If you have Hindi as the medium of instruction, you have all the books in Devanagari script. A student who knows the script and has interacted with it for a long enough that there are chances he/she wouldn’t forget it even after schools.

Technology has helped out Hindi as it was certain to become just a spoken language. I remember the early days of SMS as a mode of communication on our mobile phones. As not all phones supported Devanagari, we would write the message in Roman. It was ease and universality of English text being readable on all handsets that promoted the culture.

For Hindi, only Nokia phones supported Devanagari script till 2005-06. It was the same case with Web 1.0 where only a few websites displayed text in Devanagari that too in distorted ways. The game changed altogether when Web 2.0 made it easier for users to write and type Hindi in its own script.

Smartphones, new ways of input like transliteration (as with Google input) meant, even if you don’t know Devanagari well, you can type in Roman and the Internet-based tool will convert the text in Devanagari for you. With smartphones, the limitation of plastic keyboards was gone and it was easy to have any keyboard on the touch screen.

This meant that Hindi news channels could opt for Hindi news sites to put their content in Devanagari. People started blogs in Hindi as native speakers, subconsciously treating this technology as novel and unique, took pride in writing the language in its own script.

The young people would easily compose blogs, Facebook posts, tweets, and comments in Devanagari with the ease of smartphones and Web 2.0. Further enhancements with instantaneous transliteration (type Roman, see Devanagari) revived Hindi.

This is, in some strange ways, a compensation to the English medium schools phenomenon as kids who earlier ignored Hindi could see it popping up on their phones and laptops, on social media and almost everywhere they go.

Technology giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft and others facilitated the path for Hindi by recognising it as the main language of India. India, being their area of focus after saturation of American and European markets, brought not only Hindi but gradually all the main scripts of India on web and smartphones.

Book FairIt looks all promising as of now but some sad facts remain. Publication of new Hindi books continues to lose face. Hindi books that sell a thousand copies, in a nation of 500 million speakers, become bestsellers. Literary magazines sales are seeing sharp decline. News magazines like India Today are just surviving and appear to have seen their glorious days a while ago.

Anglicisation of schooling system has severely hit the readership as kids fail to get interested in Hindi books because it is difficult for them to read it. Some people like Chetan Bhagat even said that Hindi should adopt Roman as its script in order to survive. This looks like a terrible idea because it will be like killing the script which is the mother of several languages on the planet. This was also a terrible idea just for the fact that we have technology to support us and revive the language in ways that were unheard just ten years ago.

As the population grows, Hindi speakers will keep growing. With universal access to mobile phones, increasing penetration of Internet, and people connected with today’s technology, Hindi and Devanagari have bright future ahead. We need to have a sense of pride as a generation which is fighting a struggle to keep this language alive for coming generation in innovative ways.

We have started to see more Hindi posts on social media, number of Hindi blogs and Hindi focussed Facebook pages increasing and people taking pride in writing Hindi in Devanagari script. This sense of pride needs to stay alive.

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Hindi Literature Festival in Delhi all set to give essence of pleasures through artistic culture of Language

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Books, Pixabay

New Delhi, March 18, 2017: A festival celebrating Hindi literature is all set to give youthful groups of onlookers an essence of the many pleasures contained inside the artistic culture of the language.

The festival titled, “Oxford Bookstore Hindi Sahitya Utsav” will be held at Oxford Bookstore here on March 19.

This event will serve as a platform for the people who are looking forward to explore this language through various discussions and intellectual sessions with the experts of hindi language.

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The day-long festival of Hindi writings and Hindi verses will be composed collaboratively with Rajkamal Prakashan samuh and upheld by Vani Prakashan, Hindi Yugum Prakashan, Westland Books, Rajpal and sons, Virtuous publications, and Kunwar Viyogi Remembrance trust.

According to the organisers, Hindi is a very expressive language. “In poetry and songs, it can convey emotions using simple and gentle words. It can also be used for exact and rational reasoning,” they said.

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“The occasion has been conceptualized as a tester’s menu, a sampler, a buffet of the many flavors contained in hindi language & writings, voices, subjects, tones and themes in Hindi,” they added.

The festival will start with an introductory note by Mrinaal Pandey on the topic “Bhasha aur samaj”. That will be followed by interactive sessions by Manisha pandey, Piyush Mishra, Divya Prakash Dubey, Urvashi Butalia many more literary personalities associated with Hindi literature.

It has been divided into sessions comprising readings and recitations on themes as diverse as wit, humour and satire, dissent, modernism, etc. (IANS)

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A Fiji University Celebrates ‘Hindi Diwas’ with Focus on History of Girmit Laborers

On the day of the popular ‘Hindi Diwas’, that is celebrated to honor and promote both the Hindi-speaking community of the world and the national language of India- Hindi; an amazing program was held in the University of the South Pacific

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Trinidad and Tobago
Indentured Laborers taken from India. Wikimedia
  • The Girmitiyas’ descendants spread up through the passage of time to influence the Fijian culture and politics
  • On  ‘Hindi Diwas’, that is celebrated to honor and promote the national language of India- Hindi; an amazing program was held at the University of the South Pacific.
  • The program included a Hindi essay competition and a movie screening, both focussed on the history of the Girmit Laborers

Sept 30, 2016: The relation of the Indians with Fiji goes long back to the time of 1879. That was the year when the British colonialists took the contracted laborers from across India, transporting a huge section of the population to Fiji archipelago. On 14th May 1879, a ship named ‘Leonidas’ arrived with indentured laborers from India to Fiji and that system of bringing laborers got popularized as “Girmits”; coined from the mispronounced term ‘agreement’ by the laborers who didn’t speak English.

The Girmits are the foundation of the Indo-Fijian history. After the agreements of the laborers had ended and the long-term torment of them was over, they had to stay back in Fiji following circumstances. From 1879 to 1916, Fiji saw the arrival of some 60,600 Girmitiyas through almost 87 voyages. After the end of the “girmit” contract period, their gradual settlement included the economical rise and the elevation of Indian culture, food, education, traditions began to flow.

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The multiple obstacles that the Girmitiyas had to face strengthened their fight and political participation of the Indians got gradually accepted. The Girmitiyas’ descendants spread up through the passage of time to influence the Fijian culture and politics.

To remain affixed to the culture, the Indians in Fiji have been putting constant efforts by celebrating cultural events and building temples as a sacred venue for holding matrimonial ceremonies. The ‘Arya Samaj’ in Fiji is a body that promotes Hinduism.

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One of the most major aspects that the intermingling of the Indo-Fiji culture holds the record of is the language. A new lingo was evolved through the multiple generations of the Indians who had settled in Fiji.

On the day of the popular ‘Hindi Diwas’, that is celebrated to honor and promote both the Hindi-speaking community of the world and the national language of India- Hindi; an amazing program was held at the University of the South Pacific. The program included a Hindi essay competition on the topic- ‘Girmit History’ as reported by Vishvas Sapkal, the high commissioner of India to Fiji. This also followed an award ceremony and Ms. Ranjini Raj won a trip to India of 25 days long.

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University of South Pacific. Wikipedia
The university of South Pacific. Wikimedia

Apart from that, a movie based on Girmit history by Dr. Mohit Prasad was also screened on the program. The movie is named ‘A for Apple’ and it received huge applause.

Hindi Diwas was celebrated with pomp and vigor at the University of South Pacific and as per the schedule, it started the celebration from 25th of September 2016.

– prepared by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Journey of Hindi from Dialect “boli’ to Official-National Language ‘rashtrabhasha’

It is officially the country’s first language that is spoken and understood, among all the other Indian languages

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August 27, 2016:

“Language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests.”
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A Language has a paramount importance just not in the terms of exchanging words, but also in terms of sharing  feelings, expressions and beliefs – in the form of words, signs, symbols or sound. It is an important source and means of human communication. But with time, gradual change and development of languages, have become more apparent.

Evolution of any language depends mainly on socialization and interaction. Most interactive languages have evolved rapidly, rather than any isolated language of any particular tribe, that resides distinctly far away, based on the geographical biases. Languages which lack in socialization and interaction, also lack in adapting values and behaviors from other culture as well.

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India is a multi-lingual country, and officially it has 22 languages and Hindi being one of them. It is officially the country’s first language that is spoken and understood by the majority of Indians.

  • Origin of Hindi Language: According to Griysen, Hindi is divided into two- Paschimi Hindi – Shourseni Apbransh and Purvi Hindi – Ardhmagdhi Apbransh. The root of Shourseni Apbhransh is Sanskrit, which came from Aryan language. Shourseni Apbhransh has developed into Khadi Boli, and later to Hindi.

Hindi, being the most interactive and socialized language is coupled with the influence of technology, lifestyle and other languages and culture, is no less far in terms of evolving.

Image source: YouTube
Image source: YouTube

Evolution of Hindi has occurred in numerous forms:

  • Change in writing and speaking: Hindi is written in Devnagri script originated from ‘Bahamani Lipi’, though later in 1935, few corrections in changing of letter’s shapes and use of the verbs took place in “Nagri Lipi Sudhar Samiti” by Kaka Kalelkar. Moreover, nowadays people are more prone to using ‘Bol Ki Bhasha’ or spoken word, rather than, ‘Manak’ or standard Hindi.

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  • Insertion of New Words: Over time, Hindi has been influenced by foreign languages- like Urdu, English, Persian Sanskrit, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Portuguese, Dravidian Languages and others. Hindi is full of loan words and one will be surprised to know that most of the words that we use in our daily conversation have a foreign origin. Therefore number of words like – Tadbhava (तद्भव/تَدبهَو derived from Sanskrit or Prakrit), Tatsama (तत्सम/تَتسَم identical, derived from Sanskrit), Deshaja (देशज/دیشَج local, derived from Sanskrit).
  • Influence of media: Hindi has got worldwide fame for the influence of media. Social media, film, and television have influenced the writing style of Hindi a lot! People who don’t know how to read or write Hindi to express his feelings in the form of Devnagri script can easily do the same in Roman script. Be it ‘sharyari’ or a film script; use of Roman script in Hindi in nothing new.
  • Popular songs and Advertisements: Exposure of Hindi through songs or adds helps the language to reach out to several people. Nowadays, to make songs appealing and catchy, lyricists and script writers prefer a combination of both Hindi and English and other languages. Due to this, directly or indirectly one comes across the language or gets aware of it. Thus, we can have an idea, how Hindi has evolved with the evolution of time.

– by Riashe Chakraborty from NewsGram. Twitter: @itzriashe

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5 responses to “Journey of Hindi from Dialect “boli’ to Official-National Language ‘rashtrabhasha’”

  1. Even though Hindi has a rich history in India, regional languages are still preferred in their respective region, like, Tamil in Tamil Nadu, Telugu in Andhra Pradesh, Bhojpuri in Bihar and they dominate with greater numbers.

  2. Hindi has no historic connection to India. It was brought by Islamic marauders and promoted by the British. Its the least Indian language. The government is hell bent on the complete elimination of Indian languages out of India and replacing them all with the Pakistani Islamic origin language Hindi. This is also the very reason why radical Islamic party BJP rejected the Indian language petition.

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