Hindi for Kids

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A new community Gurukull services the language and culture needs of our youngest – and oldest – members

From little things, big things grow.

The idea for the Gurukull came out of a casual conversation amongst friends, but within months, the informal Hindi ‘school’ has Melbourne’s Indian community quite abuzz.

Narinder and Manisha Garg of Craigieburn were talking with friends about how their two kids, aged nine and five, were choosing more and more to use English as a means of communication over their native tongue Hindi.

“It was clear to us that we needed to teach them Hindi, but there was no Hindi school close by where we could take them,” Narinder Garg told Indian Link. “So we decided to start our own.”

The Gurukull (Sanskrit for ‘school’) was launched in April this year, as a means to connect Indian-origin kids born here with their language and culture. No less than fifteen kids turned up on the first day, all from the neighbourhood.

Three months on, there are 24 regular attendees. They learn simple prayers like the Gayatri Mantra and Ganesh Vandana, national songs, nursery rhymes, poems and kids’ songs from films.

They also learn the Hindi script, two to three letters at a time, recognising and reproducing them. And of course, there are stories galore!

The sessions are held at a local rental community hall, paid for by the Gargs. (Narinder is self-employed, running a taxi business and dabbling in property development).

There are plans, though, to approach the Victorian School of Languages for possible support.

The response from the parents has been overwhelming as word spreads about the Gurukull. Particularly impressed were grandparents, who suggested to the Gargs that they should launch something similar for senior citizens as well.

“Although there are many senior citizen clubs in Melbourne’s Indian community, there’s nothing in our region,” Garg noted. “There’s much loneliness amongst our elderly as their children go off to work each day, and something needs to be done for their needs as well. And so we initiated ‘Chaupaal’, a platform for the buzurgs to get together on a regular basis, and share their stories over a cup of tea.”

The Gurukull assembles every Saturday, and the Chaupaal, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

It was a natural progression towards Yoga sessions, not only in keeping with the traditional gurukul philosophy, but also as a means for the seniors to stay active. People of all ages are now joining in.

Support has also come in from Indian government officials. Recently, the Indian Consulate’s Head of Chancery, Nirmal Kumar, dropped by for an official opening and to see for himself the activities of the new centre.

He extended an invite to the kids at the Gurukull to participate at the Consulate’s upcoming Independence Day celebrations.

Where do the Gargs see the venture going, in five years’ time?

“The way it is developing, hamari ummeedein bahut oonchi hain (our hopes are very high),” Narinder revealed. “It’s been suggested to us that at some stage the Gurukull can even become a proper school.”