Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beyond Namaste

American writer Katherine Russell Rich talks about reading, writing and Dreaming in Hindi

Every American child should grow up knowing a second language, preferably English. Katherine Russell Rich would probably agree with fellow American writer Mignon McLaughlin who wrote this in The Neurotic’s Notebook in 1960. “Growing up in America, homeland of the diehard monolingual, speaking another language fascinated me. Only people like James Bond could,” says Rich who decided to learn Hindi for a year and enrolled in a course in Udaipur. That was in 2001 and this summer, her memoir Dreaming in Hindi is saying much more than Namaste.

Dreaming in Hindi (Tranquebar, Rs 395) begins when Rich found her world turned upside down. She’d lost a job at the magazine she worked for, had battled breast cancer twice. She was single, unemployed and had the freedom to do new things. Perhaps, learn a language. “I’d been studying Hindi in New York for about six months when one day, I heard all these sentences around me. I saw three Indian guys talking about the weather, not any secrets of the universe, but I was flabbergasted to be able to understand them. I felt I’d been shifted to another place. I was hooked,” says Rich who had been working on a piece about taking Hindi lessons and the effect learning a second language had on the brain. The story got killed. “But I took the material and turned it into a book proposal in which I said I’d go to India and spend a year there,” says Rich.

Full report here Indian Express

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