Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russell Rich
In my quest to read some travel books, I picked up this book a few days back. I expected it to be an interesting account of someone trying to learn a new language, living in the native country of the language, which in this case was Hindi and India. But after reading the book, I am totally lost on why did Rich write this book? Why the most emphasized part of the book publicity is the fact that she had cancer, which she had recovered from before she landed in India and the fact is that she lost her job in US and took it up as an outcome of that? Why did she choose Hindi and India?
The book is a memoir of author, who spent a year in Udaipur in Rajasthan, living with various Indian families there, interacting primarily with western students like her. How did she end up in Udaipur, what school she went to, how did she approach the whole thing, how did she choose the school and a lot of other basic things have been left unanswered in the book.
Now what the author talks about is her Hindi lessons in Udaipur under a teacher whom she refers as Swamiji, couple of families she stayed with, a school for deaf children that she got associated with, the people she interacted with and a lot of research on learning a second language. She obviously did not respect anyone she met in India and always starts by talking about what she does not like about them and by making fun of them. I am not sure how people mentioned in the book reacted to this. She talks about the royal family of Udaipur as if all they do is get white women to stay in the palace and then intend to marry them. People in the Jain family she lived with are constantly referred as Dad 1, Dad 2, initially I thought this may be to conceal the identity of the people, but then all the names were mentioned time and again in the book. Suddenly she is no more living with the family and she never mentions the reason of her move. Her friends come and go randomly.
Now if you are interested in the technicalities of learning a second language as an adult, there are quite a few references in the book that you can use. She has mentioned quite a few people, mostly in US, who are doing research in this space. There is brief about the research that they are doing though to get into the details, you will have to get in touch with those people only. There is research reference also for language used by deaf people around the world and how there are many languages they use as the people with speech.
The writing style is quite irritating as the author keeps jumping from one place to another, one time to another, talks about characters without introducing them, randomly starts talking about some conversation she had at some point in time with someone. Sometime I felt as if the book was written in some order and then all the sentences were put in a box and jumbled and out came the book. There is no purpose in the book, I could not make out what the author wants to convey to the readers. I am not sure how much Hindi she learnt in one year as she never mentions that, but am not sure if her real purpose was to learn Hindi only; at least it does not come out that way in the book. Everything is mentioned randomly and haphazardly. It is quite a confusing book to read.
I am amazed at the positive responses she has got at the back cover of the book from some leading authors. Is it one of those books who are sold only on the strengths of the PR machinery that they use…?
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