I am a Maharashtrian but I am not sure if the first words I spoke were in Hindi or Marathi. Thanks to mom and dad’s army background – and my grandfather’s Air Force background – it was more likely that my first few words were in Hindi.
As I grew up in the Cantonment, mom and dad spoke to me in Marathi and sometimes Hindi – but a major chunk of people: uncles, aunties, our household help, and friends, spoke to me in Hindi. Thus, it was obvious that I grew closer to and fonder of Hindi.
Hindi was ubiquitous. Its usage was found wherever dad was transferred. Be it the far east hills of Phek or the hinterlands of Punjab, Hindi was the common unifier. And even when I made friends – some from the South, some from the East , some from Lucknow, Meerut, etc. – Hindi united us all. It grew to become a part of me.
Hindi became more of my mother tongue than Marathi.
The reason? Hindi is not one language but an amalgamation of several rich languages – like Urdu, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and Maithili – and several dialects spoken in the northern parts of the country like Awadhi, Bagheli, Chhattisgarhi and Bhojpuri.
Thus, it was only obvious that I couldn’t easily switch to Marathi, when Dad was transferred to Pune. All the years, I had spent conversing and mastering Hindi, was now juxtaposed by Marathi.
As a result, I was happy that I went to a convent and I didn’t have to study Marathi. I had never done it before and learning a new language in the 7th grade meant I would have to put in extra efforts. Hence, I chose Hindi over Marathi. Munshi Premchand and the other renowned Hindi authors delighted me. Thus, it was no surprise that I ended up with a whopping 94% in Hindi.
But, living in Maharashtra – and Pune being the seat of Marathi literature – Marathi was ubiquitous. Most people, whether Maharashtrian or not, spoke Marathi and that was the common unifier.
If you haggled with a shopkeeper in Marathi, you had better chances of getting a discount than in Hindi.
It was the language of the masses here.
Over the years living in Pune, I have learnt Marathi. But even now, whenever I get a chance, I love to converse in Hindi because that is the language I grew up with. Marathi may be my mother tongue, but Hindi is definitely my first love!
(A freelance food and fashion blogger, Pranjali Bhonde Pethe aims at getting people and their favourite food and style closer through her blog moipalate. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on @moipalate.
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