Indian envoy's efforts pay off as Hindi takes roots in Jaffna
When the Indian Consul General in Jaffna, V Mahalingam, started Hindi classes at the Indian Cultural Corner at the Consulate, he did so with trepidation. He was not sure if there would be any takers for Hindi in a place more steeped in Tamil than Tamil Nadu.
But the response to the classes, launched in December, 2012, was surprisingly encouraging. “About 12 students, both men and women, young and old, enrolled, and picked up enough Hindi to do a full programme by themselves on September 14, the Hindi Diwas (Hindi Day). The hall was full, clearly showing their wide interest,” Mahalingam told Express over phone from Jaffna.
Students recited poems and a chorus sang A R Rahman’s rendition of Vande Mataram, which the audience appreciated.
The Consul General’s decision to start Hindi classes even though there was only one teacher proved to be correct. The lone teacher was the spouse of one of the Consulate’s staff who had the requisite qualifications. She delivered the goods single-handedly and cheerfully. “Mrs Karuna has been an excellent teacher, motivating us all the time,” said Thambithurai Srikanthan (58), whose love for old Hindi film songs drew him to the classes. “As a young man I used to be hooked to the Hindi service of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (formerly Radio Ceylon) listening to songs from Kati Patang, Aradhana and Abhiman. The war intervened and we in Jaffna were cut off from the rest of the world. But later, YouTube helped us get back to the good old days of lilting music,” he said. The craze for movie songs is not the only reason why people want to learn Hindi in Jaffna. “Very few people in Jaffna today are familiar with Hindi songs. Most boys and girls here want to learn Hindi to be able to go to North Indian institutions for higher studies,” Srikanthan said.
Echoing his views Mahalingam said, “Many students from Jaffna go to North India, taking advantage of Government of India scholarships.”