My Autobiography: How and Why I started to learn Hindi

Since I was born and brought up in Chennai, it was not considered mandatory to learn Hindi. Tamil and English were sufficient. Of course, the situation is changing now, but back then one needs to just study a third language for three years, getting to know some elementary words & mug up the remaining – That’s it.

When I was studying in Third Standard, the girl sitting next to me had opted for Hindi as her second language. Sometimes, she used to write her homework after coming to class. One day, she was writing in the Hindi Handwriting book (The one which has four rules per line and perfect handwriting printed above).

For some reason, the teacher asked her to stand up on the bench. So, I took the handwriting notebook from her desk and observed the Hindi script in it. I was fascinated by the script. I mean, you don’t write from above and over-line every word in Tamil or English. So, this was very new and I asked her if I could complete the handwriting. She said ok, and I did. I liked the language so much that I asked her to leave one page empty every week, so that I could complete it!

After a couple of years, my parents found me regularly watching Hindi serials, movies and songs at home. I mean, those days we had only DD-1 & DD-2 and there was very little programming in Tamil. So, there was no option – we had to see what was available! Since I was watching too much TV, they scolded me asking why I was watching Hindi programs when I did not understand Hindi?

Actually, their aim was to make me watch less TV. But me being me, I got enrolled in the Hindi classes immediately :) There is this Dakshina Bharata Hindi Sabha and they conduct certificate courses at various levels – Prathmic, Madhyama, Rashtrabasha, Praveshika, etc. Since my cousin sister had already passed Prathmic, I used that trump card to join the classes.

From that day, no one at home could question me on why I was watching Hindi programs :P There was this program called Superhit Muqabla in DD-2. I think it was telecast every Sunday from 9 – 10 PM. I fell in love with it, and got to know so many new songs. Yes, Hindi songs back then were as awesome as the A R Rehman, Illayaraja & Deva composed Tamil songs. My interest in songs were piqued by that single program! I watched it continuously for many years.

During that time, I also saw two Hindi movies – Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Dilwale Dunhaniyan Le Jayenge with my cousins in some movie hall in Chennai. There was no turning back after that – Most of the Hindi I know today was grasped from the Hindi movies/ songs that I got used to, back then.

You may not believe that I took Sanskrit as a Second Language in my 11th Standard, after studying Tamil for 10 Straight years! I used to memorize Hindi sentences, but  while doing that I ensured that I knew their meanings.

But understanding Sanskrit was very difficult as there was no way to learn it methodically, that too for just two years. To me, Sanskrit was like joining all the Hindi words and putting one big line on the top with a “:” at the end! I started memorizing so much (without understanding) that for the first time in my life I started to hate a language. I opted for Sanskrit only to score more marks, but I regret that decision till now even though I got the marks I wanted.

I don’t know if you have admired the beauty in languages but I always did – I liked Tamil for the richness of its poetry, Telugu for the sweetness of its sound (to listen), Hindi for the script, English for its Royal eloquence & German for its authority. The last one has escaped my learning clutches till now, but it will not for ever :)

Destination Infinity

The posts in this category, ‘My Autobiography’ are supposed to be a record of certain important events/ incidents that happened when I was younger, so that I can refer to these articles when I write my actual Autobiography after many years. My book will come out in the name of, ‘Destination Infinity’. Please buy it when it comes out.

27 thoughts on “My Autobiography: How and Why I started to learn Hindi

    1. Its a pleasure when after we master them. But trying to learn a new language is stressful. Especially when there is no opportunity to listen / speak in that language.

      Destination Infinity

  1. Sanskrit has been the toughest for me so far. I’ve seen my nephews who study in CBSE syllabus struggle with the same. Painful! Especially since the exposure to the language is otherwise limited since we do not speak it at all…..

    1. I was shocked to learn that Sanskrit was once the most commonly spoken language in India! If you have looked at the structure of that language, one can actually arrange words in any order and still make sense! But maybe if we had more exposure to programs/ people speaking in Sanskrit perhaps it would have been easier. I am sure even my Sanskrit teacher was not able to speak in Sanskrit!

      Destination Infinity

  2. I love hindi,it was my second language in school.Even social used to be in hindi for us and in 9th class i opted for social in english.

    I used to struggle in sanskrit,i used to mug up the words and sentence but still not able to score much in that.

    Me too admire languages,in tamil i love listening songs which i used to do in dubai,after coming here didnt listen tamil songs.And i like arabic language,that is the only language which has words for everything and the beauty is the arabs use those words unlike us.We use few english words in our mother tongue. For example word petrol is written in telugu but in arabic they have a word for that and they use only that word in written arabic.

    In school i didnt had telugu language,my mom taught me telugu.

    1. Social used to be in Hindi? We would have struggled with any other language other than English for the remaining subjects!

      I find that trend of writing most of the words in the native language, in Tamil. But then, they are restricted mostly to news channels! These days, its English mixed with Tamil. I think its good if one can speak their mother tongue without mixing other words. My Grandmother taught me Telugu characters in order to read Telugu but I read it so slowly that I become bored!

      Destination Infinity

  3. Well you learned Hindi because of that girl :)))) HAHA :)))

    You did not like Sanskrit because no girl.

    Well movies and television help. Great job in learning Hindi :)))

    1. I do agree that she was so sweet… That’s why she used to bring one unfilled page for me every week. Hmmmmmm……….. :)

      Destination Infinity

  4. Very interesting post! A BIG thanks to that girl, then, Rajesh, eh?!

    I studied upto Rashtrabhasha privately too! I was exposed to Hindi since my childhood because of my relatives – mainly Hindi movie songs from Binaca Geet Maala, Aapki farmaaish etc., I was listening to them since I started speaking, I think, but without knowing the meaning! Nobody spoke in Hindi at home.

    We recite shlokas at home, but I got introduced properly to Sanskrit via my son, whose third language was Sanskrit! Though I knew Hindi, learning to teach my son, the new language was difficult! I sent him for tuitions for the first time!

    Many old relatives of my husband became familiar with Hindi words via DD serials (two aunts of my husband were narrating ‘Hum log’ story in those days, without having any connection with Hindi before DD era!).

    German is a good language and Japanese too, my son says so and is easier to learn!

    Enjoyed reading and commenting like a post, to your post, Rajesh! Thank you!

    1. Japanese is easy to learn? I am struggling with German in spite of having the same Roman script! I guess I need to start watching German movies continuously :)

      I have heard of Hum Log, but I have never watched it! Maybe some day we should see all these old serials including Mahabharat – It should be interesting!

      Destination Infinity

    1. I know a lot of people who love French. There is something about that language that excites many people, but not me! I too wish I can learn more languages…

      Destination Infinity

  5. hii DI,
    that reminded of my school days. i was studying in a french school in Chandigarh. other then hindi english and punjabi as compulsory languages i had to choose between french and sanskrit as 1 optional language.
    french because of the institution and sanskrit out of indian history.
    i chose french and went on to study it for continous 3 years till it RIP!!!
    regards
    rahul

    1. People here choose French and Sanskrit because both subjects throw away high marks in the public exams. Its silly, but at that age we’re not able to think better.

      Destination Infinity

  6. What a great way to learn a language! The part about the girl initially made me think that you were trying to impress her ;) ;) he he he
    Anyway, I can totally understand your love for languages. I love learning a language because it gives me the opportunity to talk to different people. :)
    Personally, I want to master French before I die :)

    1. I just want to read some German – I have been postponing this activity for ages! I guess it takes a lot of efforts to learn a new language, after a certain age!

      Destination Infinity

  7. Superhit Muqabla was my favourite too..
    But I dont agree with you on Sanskrit. For me, it is the most beautiful language I have ever known. Have you tried reading Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit? It’s simply superb and so are some of the old books written in Sanskrit.

    1. I have memorized a whole chapter of Bhagavad Geeta in Sanskrit! I am sure Sanskrit would have been good if I had studied it methodically and understood the meaning that the words conveyed.

      Destination Infinity

  8. I only speak English, its a fault of our general attitude to the world. I have tried other languages for various reasons. I love the swirl and movement of written… er.. Arabic? and word shapes that sometimes feel as if they are formed backwards (thats the only way I can describe my feeling). I have tried Finnish, its one of those languages which seems to have little in common with most others (of course it has some) I love the sound of it and the way the words are formed…
    My party trick is counting to ten in Finnish, which impresses native speakers as they say its so complex no one bothers to learn it. Which of course is the attitude that has always driven me. If no one does it, I might; If everyone does it, its unlikely I will.

    1. Your attitude (as mentioned in the last line), resonates with mine! In my case, I go ahead and do certain things even though I know I will fail in it – just because others don’t do it! Is it contempt for others, individualism, or what? I don’t know, I guess certain people are like that!

      This is the first time some one has even mentioned Finnish. I was not even aware such a language exists! The sounds of Arabic are good to hear, especially when used in a song. Listen to this one if you have time – http://www.iranian.com/main/music/arash-alizadeh . I guess its Persian, but it seems very similar to Arabic.

      Destination Infinity

  9. oh god! i so remember the superhit muqabla program! haha can never forget it – for us as little children it was major entertainment in those days :))

    and your story about learning hindi is really interesting – the way your interest in the language started with a classmates notebook

    1. Yes, I loved the way the script was written… I have written many times about Superhit Muquabla in this blog. All my music interests/ tastes/ inclinations were formed by that program.

      Destination Infinity

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