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A quarter of the class was conversing in English and here I was trying to make sentences in English in my head!
The legal profession had always captivated me, be it how well dressed they are, or how noble and elite the profession is. For me, the legal system forms the fundamentals of life and liberty. After my graduation, I started preparing for the law entrance exam at Delhi University.
Coming from a Hindi medium background, and giving an entrance exam in English is a real task. I had studied basic English in 11th and 12th in a government school of Bihar. Similarly, my Graduation was in Mathematics honors, which doesn’t require any language.
A petition in 2018, however, gave students like me some hope to appear in Hindi, back then, but Delhi High Court dismissed the plea.
The petitioner had said he is “desirous of studying law, however, since he has got all his education in Hindi medium, it would be unfair for him to take the entrance exam in English when on the contrary DU Law Faculty allows term examination of LLB to be taken in Hindi”.
I felt his pain every day while preparing for the DU entrance exam.
The examination day arrived, and all I needed to do was to translate English questions into Hindi in my head and then tick the correct option. After a prolonged wait, I finally found my name on the DU counselling list, and to tell you the truth, it was the best day of my life.
Making my way to a law school is a journey I’ve always dreamt of having. As I moved into my class on the first day at the Faculty of Law at DU, I saw students sitting in the corners of the class; some were strolling and talking. I entered the classroom with a smile on my face, and just when I thought I’ll sit down, a student asked my in the nicest possible way, “ Hello, is this section B? ” I was bewildered, and in spite of knowing the answer was a yes, I replied with a “no”.
The student went away, and then came back a second time. This time, he fixes his gaze on me. I had never felt this foolish in my whole life! I waited for the class to get over so that I could apologize and once the class is over, I rush towards him, saying – “Hello, sorry, I get puzzled.” He responded, “It’s okay, By the way, “You got Puzzled, not get.” And off he went.
Walking towards the next class, I realised how different I was from the other students. A quarter of the class was conversing in English and here I was trying to make sentences in English in my head!
When the professor arrives, she asks us to tell her and the class about ourselves so that we can all be familiar with each other. The left row students begin first. I am in the middle row and I can’t tell you how terrified I feel, framing sentences in my mind and imagining how I will look in my mind’s eye. I am not even paying attention to what my fellow students are saying, which is the whole point of this session. Now, when my turn comes, and I start to introduce myself, I find every eye on me, and I fail to remember anything about myself. The Professor, to my relief, asks me to continue in my comfort language of Hindi.
I finish and sit down, thinking that I made a fool of myself and have become a laughingstock. Now, no one will be friends with me.
This is my day one. The day I’ve always waited for.
I would scarcely understand my professors and started recording the lectures so that I could listen to them on loop at home and understand them more clearly. I made a friend who would act as an interpreter. She started explaining the lectures to me in class, using a language that is familiar to me. My exams were approaching and unlike any other exams, you just cannot mug up theories and references for a law exam. I used to listen and make short notes on a daily basis but the lack of vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills was demotivating.
While giving my first exam, I couldn’t frame sentences; what I used to think in my head in Hindi didn’t translate well in English on paper. This was the plight of every succeeding exam I took. The results came, and as expected, I failed in all the papers.
This was the end of my journey.
But here are a few thoughts. First things first, only admitting procedures of taking exams in Hindi is not adequate. In this report of 2016, 74% of the students are not able to write Hindi because of the big shift from Hindi to English.
Universities must find suitable staff for educating Hindi Medium students and providing them with relevant materials. And if the university is unable to do so, they should at least provide special attention to students who are finding comprehensibility difficult due to their lack of knowledge in the language. There should be guidance in English reading and writing exclusively for such students so that they don’t surrender their dream because of a language barrier.
A good education is pertinent for shaping our lives; but a crucial problem has been the lack of universalization in the language used to educate. Each and every Hindi medium student has capabilities, which is why I found my name on the DU counselling list.
But unfortunately, we do not get proper guidance and the opportunity to develop and learn.
The only thing we need is motivation but instead a line is drawn between Hindi medium and English Medium. Our examination system encourages the students to learn lessons by heart and reproduce them in the examinations, just aiming at a pass mark or some grade in English.
And this is the reason Plutarch says, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled”.