Who Do You Think You Are – Hiroko Naka, Traveller
[Interview and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla was walking in the 14th century Hauz Khas monument complex when he approached a woman.
Who are you? What are you doing here?
I’m Hiroko Naka. I’m 47. I’m learning to read Hindi.
I like studying different languages. I want to understand their stories, how they evolved. Since I’m from Japan, I know Japanese. I’m also fairly articulate in English. But Hindi… I know only a little bit of it.
How do you know that little bit of Hindi?
I’m not comepletely foreign to Delhi. I’m a teacher and for four and a half years I was teaching Japanese at an institute in Kalu Sarai, near IIT Gate. It is impossible, you know, not to pick up a bit of Hindi while living in this city. Last year I went to Ensenada, Mexico, to teach Japanese there. But now I’m back and have decided to learn Hindi more intensively. I’ve taken a room in Hauz Khas Village and I have enrolled in Hindi Sansthan in Kalkaji. This Wednesday I’m leaving for Japan to get a student’s visa. I’ll be back the next week.
In Japan, everyone speaks Japanese. In Delhi, however, it is English, not Hindi, which is fashionable.
Yes, it is amazing. Delhiites converse in Hindi but all the documents, formal or informal, are in English. When I go to bookshops, it is difficult to find Hindi language books.
Shameful, isn’t it?
India is a very big country. When South Indians meet North Indians, they do not have a common native lingo to communicate. Maybe the English is a better choice because it is a worldwide language. Still, I feel very sad for the next generation of Indians. They may not be able to read Hindi at all.
What do you like about Hindi?
It is similar to Japanese. The structure of the grammar is same. You can easily translate from Japanese to Hindi or otherwise.
Do you sit in this monument often?
Since I live so near, I come here every morning for two or three hours.
What do you like so much about this place?
Look at the greenery here. I also like these birds and all these ruins. Here I’m by myself. I think of people I have known in the past. Sometimes I think about myself. And as you can see, I also study. Here I’m able to concentrate more than in the house.
What is your dream?
I have to see the world other than Japan. I want to be a traveller. That is why I became a language teacher. I live in other lands, teach Japanese to their people and sometimes learn their languages, as I’m doing now.
Look at the morning green
Time for the Hindi lesson
Making a point
A teacher, and a student too
Dream to see the world