Language connects people to their country. Mamta Mandal, Founder of Global Hindi Foundation started Prerna awards two years back to connect Indians in Singapore to Hindi and has now expanded to include Tamil and Urdu. In just two years Prerna award has gone from 140 participants in 2015 to 250 expected to participate in 2017. In a tete-a-tete with Ashraf Jamal of Connected to India, Mamta Mandal shares her experience of building Prerna awards.
CtoI- You have played a prominent role in the promotion of Hindi language in Singapore. What has been your experience in this long journey ? How and why did you think of the idea?
Mamta Mandal - Well it's just the beginning and a lot has to be done. The biggest support for Hindi language has been Singapore government's policy on making mother tongue learning compulsory till O levels in schools.
I am just an individual who has been motivated to conserve our heritage and literature which is getting drowned under English literature. It is a fact that all our children growing outside India would definitely know about Shakespeare and Confucius but how many know even the names of Indian giants including Premchand, Chanakya ,Nirala, Renu and others. (For that matter how many growing up in Indian metros know about them in the same light as western writers)
In such scenario, the beginning was like swimming against the stream as no one was interested in Hindi language. So, the first challenge was to draw the attention to the third largest spoken language in the world and create a platform where Hindi enthusiasts could come and showcase their talent and Hindi skills. Being a marketing professional,I leveraged on my experience and social media to create Hindi foundation Singapore community on Facebook about 2 years ago and got everyone talking about Hindi, ironically in English only but significantly about Hindi .
After that, a platform and roadmap was created for the people who want to share their skills and at the same time motivate others to partake in this movement. It later on literally took the shape of Prerna Awards in Singapore. It has been made large enough at national level so that every one can participate in it and I sincerely hope that it becomes the platform for Hindi talent globally too ie. HEP group (Hindi Enriched Personality).
CtoI-What are the challenges that are being faced by Hindi and other vernacular languages as children of NRIs are attracted towards English language? What are the steps that needs to be taken for promotion of Hindi language and other vernacular languages?
Mamta Mandal - Most of the children who attend International schools and acquire western traditions and culture start feeling it is not HEP enough to speak in their own vernacular language or Hindi . While the outer environment is difficult to change there are not many opportunities to showcase their language skills either. There are competitions for other subjects but not for Hindi. However, if parents insist speaking only in mother tongue a least at home, then probably we can address this issue to some extent.
In addition to this, there is also lack of learning and teaching resources which are relevant and contemporary in approach.
CtoI - Your PRERNA ( Inspiration ) award is gaining popularity among the Indian diaspora. What is the purpose of these awards?
Mamta Mandal - Prerna is meant to motivate everyone to take pride in their own language & culture .It is also an alternative way to connect with the language beyond the academics and keep it relevant for the next generation along with giving them life skills like public speaking , expression, creativity through the medium of Hindi language.
We all know when we think it is normally in our own mother tongue and some expressions can never be replicated but in our own language. So, why not promote new idea generation in our own language and in turn ensure that next generation not only likes but also connects with their own language.
CtoI- India and Singapore have a very long and symbiotic relationship. Is cementing the ties between the two countries is also a part of your initiative?
Mamta Mandal - Relationship between India and Singapore has been strong since the 18th century and that umbilical cord is still intact! By promoting language, art & culture we realize how similar we still are.
CtoI- Singapore is your home now; how has your experience of living in Singapore been ? Have you lived in any other country?
Mamta Mandal - I have lived in Singapore for almost 18 years and it is indeed a land of dreams and pursuit along with being a home away from home. As mentioned earlier it is the bilingual policy started by late Lee Kuan Yew and the multiracial, multicultural fabric of Singapore which been the biggest support for making Prerna Awards national today. As we Indians are so used to unity in diversity that it was just a natural fit to happily settle down here.
I have lived briefly in Italy and UK where I have experienced and borrowed their love for their own art and culture. Incidentally, it has also become the goal of my own life.
CtoI- There are about 21 million NRIs spread across different parts of the world. How can we generate interest of the younger generation of this vast community towards Hindi language and promote Indian heritage, culture among them as they are the ambassadors of India residing abroad?
Mamta Mandal - We have not fully exposed the younger generation to rich culture and heritage and how modern our ancient discoveries are. It is our responsibility to kindle their interest in a way which will appeal to the modern society.
CtoI-What should be the roadmap for bringing younger generation towards Hindi?
Mamta Mandal - I strongly believe charity begins at home and we need to lead by example rather than expecting the next generation to follow without questioning. We need to be the change before expecting any change. Show love, respect and use Hindi as it is the world's third largest spoken language. Doing so, our spirit for promotion of Hindi would definitely be imbibed by younger generation.