December 6, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Bookmarked Musings: Munshiji by Cherian Philipose

1 min read
teacup placed on stack of hardbound books

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

In this heartwarming essay, Cherian Philipose talks about his introduction to Hindi literature as a young student.

Sometime in 1986, when I was in the ninth standard, a new Hindi teacher walked into our class. We had had a succession of teachers with no real charisma, so we didn’t expect much from the new one. Yet, the new teacher, Mr. Singh, was different. He did not pick up a textbook. Instead, as soon as he entered, he started dissecting a short story with great skill. His speech was refined and well-modulated; and when he spoke, it was as if I was hearing the language for the first time.

We lived in Mumbai, on the West Coast; our city was the mercantile capital, and, with the film industry in our backyard, it was the epicenter of glamour. We were conscious of our importance; our school, Bombay Scottish, had a culture that set it apart from the rest of the country; the medium of instruction was English; the standard was high. We studied Hindi of course, but as a second language; we were not expected to master it. Hindi, was, for many of us, a language we used when we went to the shops or took a taxi; we conducted our private lives in English.

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