An international conference held in Fiji last fortnight highlighted the need to promote Hindi at all levels of education and ways and means of sustaining its standards.
Sunita Narayan, Coordinator of the Wellington based Hindi School, who has been advocating for acceptance of Hindi in the New Zealand Curriculum along with Satya Dutt, President of the Papatoetoe (South Auckland) based Hindi Language and Culture Trust of New Zealand and Teach Hindi New Zealand, regarded the Conference held at Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on January 25, 2020 as the curtain-raiser to the World Hindi Conference scheduled to be held in Fiji next year.
The one-day meeting was organised jointly by the Indian High Commission and the Fiji Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts.
Popularity of Fijian Hindi
“It was the largest ever gathering of Hindi educators and enthusiasts for a Regional Conference on Hindi. The meeting raised the level of interest in Hindi in Fiji and the Pacific region. In particular, the Conference helped to highlight the popularity of Fijian Hindi,” she said.
Her press note quoted Yogesh Kiran (Permanent Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, Suva) as saying that Fijian Hindi is unique in uniting Fijians.
“We should be proud of our Fijian Hindi,” Mr Karan said.
Earlier, in her welcome address, India’s High Commissioner to Fiji Padmaja spoke of the growing importance of Hindi and that it is a widely spoken language.
Official guests and speakers
Government officials who attended the Conference were Indian Council of Cultural Relations (New Delhi) Director General Akhilesh Mishra, World Hindi Secretariat (Mauritius) Director General Vinod Mishra), External Affairs Ministry (New Delhi) Deputy Secretary Hindi Harkesh Meena and Fiji Assistant Minister of Health Veena Bhatnagar.
Among the other speakers were Teacup Productions Founder-Director (Hong Kong) Dr Priyanka Jain, Australian National University Assistant Professor and Reader in Hindi Dr Peter Friedlander, National University of Singapore Hindi Lecturer Dr Sandhya Singh , Melbourne University Hindi Translator Dr Mridul Kirti and Ms Narayan.
They participated in five sessions to discuss ‘Hindi in Fiji,’ ‘Hindi Education in Fiji,’ ‘Hindi and Youth,’ ‘Hindi Literature in the Pacific,’ and ‘Hindi and Technology’ and identified the need for evincing the interest of the younger members of the community on the language.
“There is no doubt that Fiji and the South Pacific region must work together to strengthen the status of Hindi and Fiji Hindi in the region. Deliberations and feedback from the Conference are being compiled for review by the Hindi Section within the Ministry of External Affairs of the Indian government in New Delhi,” Ms Narayan said.
She said that the Conference was followed by 71st Republic Day Celebration of India at which Fiji’s President Major-General (Retired) Jioji Konrote was the Chief Guest.
“Ministers, Diplomats and New Zealand High Commissioner to Fiji Jonathan Curr.
About Fiji Hindi (Edited from Wikipedia)
Fiji Hindi or Fijian Hindi is spoken by almost all Fijian citizens of Indian descent, though a few speak other languages at home.
It is an Eastern Hindi language, generally considered to be an older dialect of the Awadhi language spoken in Central and East Uttar Pradesh.
Fiji Hindi has been subject to considerable influence by Bhojpuri, Magahi and other Bihari languages. It has also borrowed some words from the English and Fijian languages.
Many words unique to Fiji Hindi have been created to cater for the new environment in which Indo-Fijians now live.
First-generation Indians in Fiji, who used the language as a lingua franca in Fiji, referred to it as Fiji Baat, ‘Fiji Talk.’ It is closely related to Caribbean Hindustani and the Hindustani language spoken in Mauritius and South Africa.
Language unifying Girmityas
Girmityas (Indentured labourers from India taken to Fiji between 1897 and 1916) mainly spoke dialects from the Hindi Belt.
Initially, a majority of labourers came to Fiji from districts of Central and Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, while a small percentage hailed from North-West Frontier and South India such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Over time, a distinct Indo-Aryan language with an Eastern Hindi substratum developed in Fiji, combining elements of the Hindi languages spoken in these areas with some native Fijian and English. The development of Fiji Hindi was accelerated by the need for labourers speaking different languages to work together and by the practice of leaving young children in early versions of day-care centres during working hours.
Thousands of Fiji-Indians have migrated to other countries (especially after the first coup in 1987), mainly to Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada but have not forgotten Fijian Hindi. It continues to be their language of conversation at home, community gatherings and during private conversations.
The Bible has been translated into Fiji Hindi and the University of the South Pacific offers courses in the language. Fiji Hindi is written using both the Latin script and the Devanagari script.
- India’s High Commissioner to Fiji Padmaja and PMO Permanent Secretary Yogesh Karan lighting the traditional lamp at the Conference (Picture from Facebook)
- Sunita Narayan speaking at the Conference (Picture from Facebook)
- President Major-General (Retired) Jioji Konrote at the Indian Republic Day Celebrations (Picture from Facebook)