My daughter studied three languages in class eight – French, English and Hindi. Her expertise was in that order too. I had even got her Tintin comics in French for extra reading. She was good at French, often topping her class in the exams. Her French teacher at school was very impressed by her aptitude.
The next year, the students had to limit the languages they learnt to two. English being compulsory, it was a face-off between French and Hindi.
Now, I want to add here that her Hindi is a bit shaky. I am thoroughly ashamed of the fact because, apart from being the national language and our mother tongue to boot, Hindi is an extremely beautiful language. A lot of soul stirring work has been written in Hindi, a source of much inspiration and pleasure to me. To inspire my daughter towards the language, I introduced her to Hindi poetry during the vacations after the exams. We started with my favourite poet, Harivansh Rai Bachchan. It was heartening to see her take to it and enjoy those lovely poems. Being a bit of a poetry writer herself, my daughter was greatly stirred by the lovely words and the intrepid meanings of his poems. So far so good.
On the first day of the new session, she brings home a circular where the parents had to fill in the choice for second language. As I said, we had to decide between Hindi and French. We had had this discussion in much detail earlier. Charity begins at home, I said, and one must first perfect their own language before attempting to master a foreign one. And what good would learning French do anyways. It is spoken in about half a dozen countries only. The standard of French was getting tougher too, and to apply for some government jobs, it is compulsory to have studied Hindi till the twelth.
So, acting under the impression that this matter was sorted out, I took out my pen to to put ink to paper and seal the deal.
My daughter, however, hung on to the paper.
Daughter: “So, what are you going to fill?”
ME: “Hindi, of course!”
Now here I smelt a rat! Something was not on. In that instant a story told by my mother flashed in my mind. It was when she was young and had to choose between instrumental music and economics. Her father was a bit of an autocrat and everybody was scared of him, especially my timid mother. “Instrumental music? Sitar? Who studies that! Its all bunkum. Economics it is!” he declared.