There’s a First Time For Everything


A few weeks back I was talking to my friend, Pallavi about my experiences learning Hindi and trips to India. After a while she said to me: “Hey! You should be on my radio show!”  Pallavi has a show on Radio Regent, a community-focused Internet radio station in Toronto. Her show, Stories with Pal, focuses on storytellers and the stories they tell.

I admit I was a bit nervous doing anything live. I’d recorded a number of podcasts before, including my own, but never did anything I couldn’t edit afterward so this was new and different. I was nervous but I also know myself well: I’m at my happiest when I’m pushing myself outside of what I’m comfortable doing. And so even as part of me said “No way! That’s terrifying!” the words “Sure! That’ll be fun!” came out of my mouth.

A few weeks later and the show was coming up. We coordinated on what we might want to do and settled on my telling a short story or story excerpt in Hindi as well as some interview questions. It was settled – except for one thing. I didn’t have a Hindi story.

And so it was that I found myself last Saturday morning working on translating Goldilocks and the Three Bears in to my best Hindi. I was actually pleased at how far I got and how few words I had to look up to get the basic gist of the story down. Yay me! After a couple of hours work I sent it out to Mitali, my teacher, who lives in India. She read it and agreed to work with me on polishing it in our class that night.

The class was good. I really like how Mitali teaches. Some people, including teachers, are so glad to hear me even trying to speak Hindi that they let little grammatical errors or pronunciation quirks go by. Not in this case. I’m called on my mistakes in the most constructive way.  At the same time, when I am successful I hear about that as well. The result is that I feel like I have a very realistic picture of where I am: I’ve covered a lot of ground but I also have a long way to go to meet my goals. But I have an excellent teacher leading the way.

We spent several hours that night working on the story. First we fixed the grammar and made a couple of tweaks to word choices. Then, after that, we practiced reading. I had trouble with a few words and sentences and so I repeated and repeated them until they improved. (And still I made a few mistakes in the final recording). Meanwhile, I was also learning so much – better pronunciation, new words and phrases that still stick with me.

I went to bed after about three hours of practice. That night all of my dreams were filled with Hindi. In one I found myself in the suburbs of Delhi with Sage. We were in a car with someone driving really recklessly. Eventually I remembered I had rented a car and shouted to the driver “ROKO!” – STOP! My voice was not like my own – it positively boomed and the driver was so afraid he stopped immediately. We got out and started walking until somehow I got to a car I knew was my rental. I sat down in it (I realize now my mind put the steering wheel on the wrong side). I was about to drive away when I thought to myself “I can’t drive in Delhi! But now I have to because if nothing else the car has to go back to the rental office at the airport.”

It doesn’t take a PhD. in psychology to understand that one: A dream in Hindi about being committed to doing something I wasn’t fully comfortable doing (but knew how to do in my own home) the night before my first radio appearance in which I would speak Hindi? Maybe I was a little nervous. I’m not sure about what the reckless drivers represented, though… I’ll ponder that one more.

In the end the recording went really well. Within a couple of minutes I felt completely comfortable in the studio. It went from being something outside my comfort zone to just another time hanging out with my friend Pallavi. After I read a short excerpt from the story (only a couple of mistakes!), we ended up playing a few games in a mixture of Hindi and English. It was so much fun that we both want to do it again.  If you’re interested, you can hear the show here.

After that we talked a bit more and I told her about how I really like pushing outside my comfort zone and that, in fact, Mitali was also pushing me outside my comfort zone by making me sing as a part of our class together. (I am really shy and nervous about it but I also really enjoy the experience so I know it’s the right thing.) I told her about one of the first songs we sang together and – uh-oh – now Pallavi suggested we sing together. Mercifully the show was already over and the mics were off, but how could I refuse? I can’t simultaneously say that I like being outside of my comfort zone (and it’s true) and then refuse to leave my comfort zone. So together we gave our best shot at this one (Or rather, she sang it well and I gave my best shot):

English speakers my age will recognize the tune of this song from another song from the 1970’s.

So after all that, it was a fantastic time – hopefully one I get to do again soon. So clearly it was pointless to have worried at all.  But I’m still not going to drive in Delhi.

For the curious Hindi-speakers who read this, here’s the full text of the story. (But you probably already know this one!)

सुनहरी और तीन भालू

एक बड़े जंगल में भालू का एक परिवार रहता था | उस परिवार में एक पिता, एक माता और एक शिशु भालू थे | उनका नाम मालू, शालू, और सोनू था |

एक दिन शालू ने नाश्ते में उपमा बनाया और उसके बाद सभी जंगल की ओर घूमने चले गये क्योंकि उनका नाश्ता बहुत गरम था |

उनके जाने के बाद एक छोटी सी लड़की आयी | जिसके बाल सोने की तरह थे, इसलिए उसका नाम सुनहरी था | जब वह भालू के घर में पहुंची उसने देखा कि तीनों भालू का नाश्ता अलग-अलग रखा हुआ था | उसने मालू का नाश्ता खाने की कोशिश की जो बहुत ही गर्म था |

उसने कहा “ओह ! ये उपमा तो बहुत ही गर्म है!”

फिर उसने शालू का उपमा खाने की कोशिश की | वह भी बहुत गर्म था |

अंत में उसने सोनू का उपमा खाने की कोशिश की |

वह बोली – “वाह! ये उपमा तो बहुत ही अच्छा है!!” ऐसा कहकर वह सारा उपमा खा गयी |

फिर सुनहरी ने कुर्सियां देखि और मालू की कुर्सी में बैठ गयी |

वह बोली – “ओ! ये कुर्सी बहुत बड़ी है !”

फिर उसने शालू की कुर्सी में बैठने की कोशिश की | वह कुर्सी भी बहुत बड़ी थी |

फिर उसने सोनू की कुर्सी में बैठने की कोशिश की. और उसने वह कुर्सी तोड़ दी |

अब सुनहरी बहुत थक गयी थी | वह मालू के बिस्तर में गयी और सोने की बहुत कोशिश की लेकिन वह बिस्तर नरम नहीं था |

फिर वह शालू के बिस्तर में गयी और सोने की कोशिश करने लगी.

सुनहरी ने कहा “वाह! यह बिस्तर तो बहुत ही नरम है !”

फिर वह सोनू के बिस्तर में गयी | वह बिस्तर सब से बढ़िया था और सुनहरी को जल्द ही नींद आ

गयी |

जब सुनहरी सो रही थी तभी भालू का परिवार वापस आया | उन्होंने मेज़ पर रखे अपने नाश्ते को देखा | मालू ने कहा – “किसी ने मेरा उपमा चखा है !”

और शालू ने कहा – “किसी ने मेरा भी नाश्ता चखा है |”

और सोनू ने कहा “पर किसी ने तो मेरा पूरा नाश्ता ही खा लिया है और मेरी कटोरी तो पूरी ही ख़ाली है !”

फिर मालू ने अपनी कुर्सी देखी और कहा – “कोई मेरी कुर्सी में बैठा था!”

शालू ने कहा – “कोई मेरी भी कुर्सी में बैठा था !”

और फिर सोनू ने कहा – “कोई मेरी भी कुर्सी में बैठा था और मेरी कुर्सी तोड़ दिया !”

फिर सबने अपने-अपने बिस्तर देखे और सबसे पहले मालू ने कहा – “किसी ने मेरे बिस्तर में सोने की कोशिश की है |”

फिर शालू ने कहा – “किसी ने मेरे भी बिस्तर में सोने की कोशिश की है |”

अंत में सोनू ने कहा – “कोई मेरे बिस्तर में अभी भी सो रहा है |”

तीनों बहुत डर गये और बिस्तर के नीचे छुप गये | तभी सुनहरी ने जब तीनों भालुओं का शोर सुना तब वह खुद डरकर भागी |

और फिर सुनहरी ने सोचा कि वह अब कभी किसी अजनबी के घर चोरी-चुपके नहीं जाएगी |


6 thoughts on “There’s a First Time For Everything

    1. For sure – I like how completely different it is. Especially at the beginning I felt as if I had nothing to hold on to. Learning French there were a few new sounds, a few different grammar rules but some of the words were the same and the word order was the same.

      Learning Hindi was so different. I have had to start literally at the level of basic sounds, adding several that don’t exist in English. Then new letters, then a whole vocabulary that, other than the English words taken as-is, has little in common with English. Then mix up the word order so my brain gets completely knocked off balance.

      This makes it simultaneously very challenging but also very satisfying. Even being able to say “I said a complete sentence!” felt like a huge achievement.

  1. thanks Todd .आपने अपने लेख में मेरा जिक्र किया |धन्यवाद |एक दिन अवश्य आप सही ,शुद्ध और धाराप्रवाह हिनदि बोलेंगे |मेरी शुभकामनाएँ |

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.