Conference brainstorms over Hindi’s future

India’ Foreign Minister S. Jayashankar and Fiji’s President Ratu Wiliame Maivalili Katonivere at the inauguration of the 12th Vishwa Hindi Diwas Conference in Fiji, February 15, 2023.
Photo: courtesy Dr. Menaka Tripathi

The twelfth Vishwa Hindi Sammelan (World Hindi Conference) was held last month in Fiji. Attended by more than 270 delegates, the conference was jointly sponsored by the Governments of India and the Republic of Fiji.

While the Hindi conferences aim to preserve Hindi language and Indian culture, the fact remains that those who left India with only the memories of their culture and traditions arriving in a strange country where they had to live in hostile conditions, held on to that culture tightly.

“Ultimately, all efforts have to be geared towards saving not just Hindi language but also Indian culture, because if the language goes, so goes the culture,” said Dr. Pragna Shukla to News India Times in an exclusive interview. Shukla who is a retired professor of Hindi and a writer based in Mumbai, said Hindi is enriched by inclusion of words from its different forms which developed as it grew from the classical language Sanskrit. “Caution must be taken for it not to turn now into Hinglish,” she added. “The need of the day is to protect all Indian languages which are in danger today, not just Hindi,” Shukla said.

Shukla said the Vishwa Hindi Conferences have contributed toward bringing an awareness about this danger to Hindi, and to find solutions to problems which are faced when teaching Hindi at school and university levels.

Fiji’s conference also tried to do its part. However, it left the participants a little dissatisfied with the program wanting in efficacy. Too many speakers were crammed into each session, making it difficult for participants to attend important sessions, participants said. Most participants suggested that there should be select speakers and single-focus, even if simultaneous, sessions.

Dr. Pragna Shukla (left) and Dr. Menaka Tripathi (right) outside the conference room at the 12th Vishwa Hindi Diwas Conference in Fiji, February 16, 2023. Photo: provided by Dr. Menaka Tripathi

Shukla and Dr. Nayana Deliwala told News India Times that the  presentation on Hindi and Information Technology by ‘Dadhich’ was precise and extremely informative, just like his computer class on YouTube in Hindi. Deliwala is a retired professor of Hindi from Gujarat University in Ahmedabad. In her presentation, Deliwala gave in depth history of how the language traveled from India to Fiji with the laborers who spoke only Hindi and the local language. Their hard labor contributed to the development and enrichment of Fiji where  later generations are now involved in business.  “Their Hindi was the Hindi used in their region when they left. This is the Hindi they handed down to their children,” Deliwala said. In Fiji, today, Hindi is one of the three recognized official languages. But to get that status, Indian Fijians had to suffer a lot, she said.

Hindi has acted as a leaf of ‘tulsi’ in enriching the life of Fiji, said Dr. Menaka Tripathi to News India Times. Tripathi is a professor of Hindi at S.S.I.C. Mehwad Kalan, Roorkee, Haridwar, and also a poet. Crossing over from Hindi in Fiji to ancient knowledge of India, Tripathi’s presentation spoke about the comfort the early migrants to Fiji found in a few books they brought with them, including the Gita, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. “After long days of labor, these books gave them comfort as they read them aloud. They spoke to each other in Hindi and preserved Hindi,” Tripathi said. Hindi spread to many parts of the world similarly, according to her.

The panel on Hindi cinema discussed Hindi cinema’s impact in the world. India’s senior journalist and film expert, Anant Vijay, spoke about carefully planned premier of their 1933 film ‘Karma’ by filmmaker Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani which exposed the western world to Hindi. Filmmaker Raj Kapoor’s ‘joota japani’ spread to countries like Russia, Iran, and also Europe, he said, adding such songs led to people of those countries wanting to learn Hindi, Vijay said. He also spoke about the contribution of filmmakers including Dadasaheb Falke, V. Shantaram, Bimal Roy, Rishikesh Mukherjee and more in making Hindi popular through their films and their songs. Today’s films and their songs need to come up to that level again, Vijay said. Dialogues of films also teach Hindi, said Japan’s Dr. Mizokami, professor of Hindi at the Osaka International University, in his presentation. Dr. Rekha Rajvanshi from Australia illustrated how Hindi songs were used by her to teach Hindi grammar.

The panel on migrant literature emphasized the important contribution made by Hindi literature of the diaspora. Speakers Dr. Neeraja Gupta, Vikas Dave, Janardan Reddy, Dr. Vijayanand, Dr.Arunkumar Bhagat stressed that the contribution of these writers should be acknowledged and given its due, Shukla said.

Beside academic discussion on Hindi, the conference also provided a unique opportunity to network with Hindi scholars and experts from other countries, Tripathi said. “It was delightful to meet people from Australia, from Kazakhstan and other countries and talk to them in Hindi and see their passion about the language and our culture, and learn from them,” she added.



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