Hindi language was part of the mandatory school curriculum from class five onward. To me, English was the chosen 'first language' and optional 'second language' was Hindi preferred over our spoken tongue, Kannada. My paternal aunt who had passed some examinations many years before, admitted me. Her friend Miss Leela was a Hindi teacher in the same Convent School where she also had studied.
Hindi was Greek to me. We found English to be manageable. Slow-learners like me were sent for private 'tutions' after our school to learn better. Either the tutor came home or we went to the tutor's house. In my case it was the latter.
My Hindi tutor was an old soft-spoken widow, fondly called as 'Akka' by everyone. She had a fine reputation as a good teacher. A few school boys and girls in the nighbourhood went to her at their convenient times, 5 or 6 days a week, with each session lasting about half an hour.
Akka was living with her son's large family in a small rented out-house of a large house adjacent to ours. The few years they were here was the longest among their other tenancies in very close vicinity, where also I used to go. It was also a wonderful time for me, because two of her grandsons were in our playgroup and I used to go there as freely as our home. Such was the liberty in those days. Few people closed the doors during daytime.
Akka would squat cross legged on the floor in the small hall and face the student. She would read a sentence from the school text book and explain its meaning. Meanings of difficult words were specifically explained. After that, she would dictate and make us write. She would conduct little tests also every now and then for which I had to go prepared. This was to evaluate how fast I was grasping. It was a friendly atmosphere for teaching and she patiently tried to make me understand.
This Hindi 'tuition' overlapped the play-hour, much to my discomfort. I envied the other boys who were playing just outside, in the open yard, while I was taking this 'punishment' inside. Often, only my physical body was attending the class!
I cannot remember going for the tuition using the gate of their owner's house. I would hop over the compound wall and land there!
The fee given to Akka, if my memory recalls right, was two rupees per month. School fee was five rupees. My attending these short sessions, I admit, was as perfunctory as attending school. This feeling stuck till the end of academics.
At school Miss Leela was our teacher. She was aware of my 'speed of learning' and was kind to give some leeway. For passing my 7th, many had extended their support at a crucial time, because of a certain incident that I have blogged [here].
By taking Sanskrit for 8th, I thought I would escape from this 'Greekish subject', but worse still, Sanskrit became Latin and was to trouble me all the way through. I also saw myself taking a small exam for beginners at Hindi. You can see my performance in it at the end.
Miss Leela, Akka and also my aunt [who used to teach me at times] were responsible to push me to the extent that I barely managed to cross the line, I mean the minimum line! My lack of application only need to be blamed.
We boys used to call the subject ''hindi-handi'. The rhyming word meant 'pig' and the elders would frown at us for insulting the language. But it was purely for some childish rhyming fun.
I kept visiting Akka once in a while even after the family moved into their own house in the neighbouring locality, long later. I captured the picture [from a framed photo] of her when I visited her daughter-in-law [who also used to teach us as a stand-by when Akka was not home, free or well] last year. Akka left us some years ago. I remember this humble teacher often.
This is a fun poem I framed many years ago, after years of struggle [to speak Hindi with my team mates]:
Main Hindi may baath karoonga. [I will speak in Hindi] Baath=Speaking.
Baat kartay kartay, chawal baath khawoonga. [While speaking, I will eat rice baath - a dish]
Uskay baad, paani me 'Bath' karoonga. [After that I will have bath in water] [This is English 'bath'!]
Notice the common word 'Baath', all having different meaning?
My Hindi-speaking team mates of cricket would not understand the last line I had framed! They have enjoyed my Hindi! All said and done, our 'national language' Hindi is still Greek to me.
I close, showing some certificates.
These three are my aunt's as I mentioned at the top.
Finally, this is mine, from the 'Doosri' exam. These were off-school exams. They must have thought very hard to give me a 'third class' at most!