Hindi Centres 2012 Concert

Excerpts of a speech delivered on 22 July 2012 to commemorate the Hindi Centres Day.

Mr Vijay Kumar Rai, President of the Hindi Society Singapore; Members of the Management Committee of the Hindi Society and Hindi Centres,

We are here today to celebrate 23 years of really heartfelt volunteerism. I see many of you in this room that I recognise, and was also introduced to Mrs Sharma, whom I understand has been a teacher in the Hindi Centre since it started in August 1990.


22 years of volunteerism driven by a love of the language, an appreciation of the culture and a burning desire to make sure that the younger generation does not lose touch with the identity, the approach to life, and the perspective on life. I am so glad that you have persevered despite the challenges, to get recognition from the government, from the people, and from the Ministry of Education.


And today, Hindi is taught in many primary and secondary schools within the campus itself. The seven Hindi Centres are also available for those who are not in schools with such arrangements. I believe you now have 2,580 students. I would like to ask all of you to show your appreciation to all these early pioneers, teachers and volunteers who have contributed so much over the years.


Now let me share with you some personal observations. We live in a difficult world. Just now, I was given the simultaneous translation of the school song and of the speech in Hindi by your principal. The words I heard were “love” and “harmony”. We live in a world in which peace, love and harmony is not all that common. We also live in a world which is rapidly changing; a world with jet travel and global broadband, in which so many of us travel and interact with people of different languages, cultures and identities.


My friends, the truth is that throughout the human history, we have never had to interact at this level, at this pace. And our ancestors have never seen their way of life, their environment, their countries change at the pace that we change. So it is normal in such a world for people to feel sometimes disoriented and fearful. To feel fearful of change and to feel fearful of people who look different, who speak different, or pray to a different God. But we have to find peace and harmony and respect.


Today I just want to leave you with one thought. If we are to create a world of peace, love and harmony, we have to start by discovering ourselves. We need to be confident of our own identity, know where we and our families came from and understand our own culture and identity deeply. Such a person will be more confident and secure. Such a person is more rooted to the ground and to reality. And such a person is also able to better appreciate people with a different language, a different culture and a different perspective.


So the point I am making is that all your efforts over the past 23 years to transmit the Hindi culture, language and civilisation is a very important investment not just for the Hindi-speaking community in Singapore, but indeed for world understanding, world peace and for us to appreciate each other better.

And if you think about Singapore and the state of the world that we are in today, this ability to be confident of your own culture, and to then respect other people’s culture; to make sure that the younger generation knows from where they have come from, and then to be able to face the future with confidence; this is a most important effort.

So from the bottom of my heart, I want to say a big thank you to all of the early leaders, pioneers, teachers, volunteers and to the students. The Hindi language and identity is growing worldwide. Frankly, it will grow regardless of what we do in Singapore. But it is your privilege to access and to unlock the treasure trove of your own identity and culture. So please pursue this not because you just want to score marks in your exams, but because your parents, grandparents and your ancestors have invested so much of their lives, their hopes and dreams for you through this language and through this effort.


So I wish all the students all the very best for your future. May you have a future that is filled with peace, love and harmony. Thank you all very much.