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Giving Hindi the due it deserves

| | in Oped

Hindi has gained acceptance across many countries and the diaspora is loyal to it, by patronising Hindi entertainment programmes. The neglect is in India

The intercourse between the subcontinent of India and the Western world has been established from pre-historic times in various ways. Resources, information, and innovations were exchanged between these cultures over many hundreds of years. For example, several great trade routes, even existing as far back as the Indus Valley civilisation, have connected India to the West. The most prominent of these is perhaps the Silk Road, a network of inter-linking trade route, which connected India, as well as other Asian cultures, to the European world. Articles of commerce, bearing their Indian name, were able to reach the West. However, the general effect of language on any of the concerned countries was not very great.

Hindi did not really begin budding as a language in the West until mid to late 20th century, with the arrival of an increasing number of Indian immigrants. Currently, the Indian American community is among the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States. For many of these immigrant families, Indian-American children are brought up in the household living under a different culture and speaking their parents' native tongues, while interacting with everyone else in English and balancing American culture into their lives. First generation Indian-American teenagers are brought up around American friends, and often they lose a grasp of their language. In most cases, this forms a language barrier between them and their past in India, sometimes even their parents.

Although this is the situation, typically Indian-Americans have a desire to touch base with their roots. This is fundamentally whyIndia related occasions such as Diwali and Bollywood films have increasing influence on a global scale. It is also why, in my belief, that Hindi, and also many other Indian languages on a smaller scale, is flourishing with a growing trend in America.        

Many universities such as Washington University in St Louis, where Hindi is part of the foreign language instruction, or even the University of Pennsylvania, which goes as far as to include Marathi, Punjabi, Malayalam, Tamil, and a number of other Indian languages. These are universities with a significant Indian-American population of students. They also hold successful Indian cultural programs during well-known occasions such as Diwali and Holi. By taking these efforts, Indian-Americans can lower the bridge between themselves and their roots. In addition to Indian-Americans, the increasing prevalence of India on a global scale economically, and socially, is inviting people of other races to study Hindi as a foreign language.

Many schools have study-abroad programmes with opportunities to travel to India, which many students take advantage of, and study Hindi in preparation. The rise of India as a dominant presence in the world invites many westerners to invest in Indian companies and infrastructures. However, quite often people put a damper on the prevalence of Hindi in such dealings is because the use of English has become more common in India, even being considered a national language.

Presumably, if one has heard of Hollywood, they have also heard of Bollywood, and vice versa. It is the largest producer of films and modern Hindi films have begun to amass an increasing appeal to all forms of audiences worldwide. Along with this global appeal has come the growing presence of "Hinglish" in dialogue and songs, or a blending of both Hindi and English in a sentence. Hindi films are also typically musicals, integrating songs with the storyline. The growing number of musical films in America can be mostly accredited to the influence of Bollywood musical films. Indian film composers such as AR Rahman are actively sought out for by Hollywood.

One cannot deny the instrumental role of Bollywood cinema in making the existence of Hindi more prevalent in America and elsewhere. This makes it considerably easy to find many Indian-Americans listening to Hindi film songs or watching Hindi films, allowing them to touch base with their roots and exposing them to more Hindi. Learning a language does not always have to be a studious task, it can even be a source of entertainment.

 (The writer is a linguist, and teaches at the Washington University in St. Louis, USA)

 
 
 
 
 
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