ALL one has to do is close the eyes and listen to this professor from a foreign land speak in Hindi. Open it and it comes as a surprise that the clear diction and choice of words is of a person from Bulgaria.
Meet Dr Galina Rousseva-Sokolova from Sofia, Bulgaria, whose fluent Hindi floored a select audience at an event recently in the national capital. Associate Professor in the Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology in Sofia University is a Hindi scholar who developed a deep liking for the language as she drifted from pursuing history to Indian studies.
“My interest in India grew and developed, fostered by the knowledge of the language and the culture I slowly acquired. Later, I became interested in 16th and 17th century Bhakti poetry, which had the double charm of being both an old and sophisticated tradition and a living one, performed and “lived through” in the temples of the Braj area and elsewhere,” Prof Sokolova told The Tribune.
The pull of oriental studies took her to SOAS University of London and subsequently India. Yet, a perceptive change about the country came in 2010 when while working on a project in Bulgaria on the Bhakti poets in India she won the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Fellowship. It allowed her to spend time with the Hindi Department of the Banaras Hindu University.
Today she feels the problem with Hindi is that more and more educated people revert to it only as a “gharelu bhasha”. “A language loses its autonomy when it stops being functional in certain spheres, when it is not able to ensure proper communication in all aspects of life. On the one hand, that’s a pity, since Hindi is such a beautiful and expressive language. On the other, those are natural, spontaneous processes and nothing much can be done, artificial interventions are useless.”
Having a mastery of Hindi gives her an advantage as it has allowed her to do quite a bit of travelling within India. “I am a big fan of the Indian Railway,” she gushes, adding most of the time she went alone and never faced any problems. “I believe if you stick to some simple common sense rules of safety, India is quite safe even for a foreign woman traveller.”
A fortnight ago, the ICCR bestowed the Distinguished Scholars Award on her and four others. For now, she is a visiting faculty at Jindal Global University, teaching India and Europe and the history of ideas, problematics and methodology of religion studies.