Preserving heritage through indigenous stories; Delhi University Student Learning Hacks – The New Indian Express


Express press service

O Phul, O Phul, Nuphulonu kio? Goruye je aag khai, me nu phulim kio? (O dear flower, oh dear flower, why don’t you bloom? The cow eats me every time I bloom, so why should I bloom?),” sings Rajashree Kalita, a third-year student at the University from Delhi, who remembers how her parents used to sing this rhyme to her when she was a child. Amisha Chopra, a resident of Pitampura, mentions that it was the Hindi rhyme Dhobi Aaya (Dhobi aaya, dhobi aaya, Kitne kapde laaya; Ek, Do, Teen) that helped her learn to count with ease. “My mom told me she would have me recite this rhyme to practice lessons,” Chopra mentions.

Rhymes, stories and poetry in native languages ​​are usually the first encounter with the world of learning. However, over time, many people have lost a sense of connection to their native language for various reasons. Recognizing this loss, Mohini Gupta (30) of Mandi House, launched Mother Tongue Twisters (MTT), a digital platform (@mothertonguetwisters on Instagram and Facebook, @mttandmore on Twitter) which seeks to document poetry in mother tongues for children while focusing on translation as a branch of literature.

(From left to right) A “Translation Thursdays” poster;

The power of translation
It was while working at a publishing house in 2015 that Gupta got the urge to translate Hindi poetry for children. Gupta – who is currently a PhD candidate in philosophy at Oxford University – has even translated Beastly Tales, a 1991 collection of fables into poetry by Vikram Seth, for the organization. Later, as a Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow in 2017, she started writing original children’s poetry in her native language (Hindi). It was then that she was first struck by the idea of ​​creating a platform like MTT. “At school, we always make fun of English poems. When we read Hindi poems in the curriculum, they are either patriotic or moralistic, and therefore we never really engage with the language in school as we do with English. I realized there was an opportunity to create poems in Hindi about contemporary experiences, about things children would identify with,” says Gupta who eventually launched MTT on World Poetry Day (21 March) in 2020.

Through MTT, Gupta creates a repository of three specific types of content: Original poetry written in first languages; poetry translated into her mother tongue; and self-documenting poetry, rhymes, and sayings that have dominated our oral history but have not been archived. Gupta also organizes “Translation Thursdays”, which are regular meetings to bring together people interested in language and translation. Over the past two years, MTT has invited a number of eminent scholars – Indian writers Mamta Sagar, Sampurna Chattarji, L Somi Roy, Jerry Pinto, Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, among others – to discuss the many aspects of translation.

Multilingual Reflections
In 1835, British politician Lord Macaulay remarked, “A single shelf of a good European library was worth all the native literature of India and Arabia.” This false belief has somehow spread over the years, says Gupta. “There’s a feeling of ‘your language isn’t cool enough’. There’s this desire to speak English and it’s not considered cool to read and learn your language,” Gupta shares. With MTT, Gupta aims to “encourage students to take advantage of their native language”.

Promoting the idea of ​​multilingualism, she concludes: “There is no doubt that English is the [linguistic] commonplace at the moment and if you want better opportunities, English is often the way to go. For many it is also a tool of empowerment… But, I think, we need to start looking at it [knowledge of English] as a skill you need to know and not as a sign of intelligence or social superiority, it’s just another language you need to know.


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