Our people should learn Hindi: Trinidad and Tobago minister

By Paras Ramoutar, Gaea News Network
Sunday, March 29, 2009

Port-of-SPAIN - Hindi should become a part and parcel of Trinidad and Tobago, a minister said here, adding that the language should not be restricted to the people of Indian origin.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister for External Affairs Paula Gopee-Scoon said that her government was committed to the teaching of Hindi. ‘Hindi must become an integral part of Trinidad and Tobago and the learning of Hindi must not be restricted to the Indian diaspora,’ Gopee-Scoon said Saturday at the celebration of International Hindi Day in this tiny nation where nearly 40 percent of people are of Indian descent.

The event was held at India House, the official residence of the Indian High Commissioner.

Gopee-Scoon said there was a need to extend the teaching programme of Hindi and she would speak to Education Minister Esther Le Grende about it.

She praised the initiatives of diaspora organisations, including the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Hindu Prachar Kendra and Hindi Nidhi, for perpetuating the study of Hindi.

Newly-appointed Indian High Commissioner Malay Mishra said that it was fitting that the day was observed in Trinidad and Tobago. Over 200 students of all ages at nine centres are learning Hindi in the country of over a million people.

Mishra said in this era of globalisation, India was seeking to have Hindi included as one of the official languages at the United Nations as one-sixth of the human population in the world speaks Hindi.

Hindi is the national language of India though there are scores of other languages and dialects. ‘Language unfolds the storehouse of literature to the world,’ Mishra said.

Mishra said that the first World Hindi Conference was held in Nagpur, India, in 1975, and there were similar conferences in other cities in the world, including New York.

Kishor Karat, managing director of the Bank of Baroda, gave $400 in cash prizes to three outstanding students in Hindi.

Mishra disbursed cash awards to several indigenous groups which have been promoting Indian culture. Among them were the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC), Gandhi Seva Ashram and Hindi Nidhi.

Hindi is spoken here primarily by the older people, but in recent years there have been efforts to have it included in the educational system.

East Indians came here between 1845 to 1917 to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the early immigrants only spoke Hindi.

All the major Hindu religious texts - Ramayana, Bhagvad Gita, the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and the Upanishads, among others - are now available in English, but all pundits reciting them at religious services and functions quote extensively in Hindi and Sanskrit.

Ramganie Bob Gopee, who has written two books on Hindi/English, was given the ‘Hindi Seva Samman’ at the function.

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