Pandit Hukum Narayan, my Hindi teacher

Aniruddha Haikerwal

Aniruddha Haikerwal completed his BA, LLB from Banaras Hindu University. From 1975 to 2009 he worked in the areas of textiles, coal and defence production for the Government of India. He retired as the General Manager of an ordnance factory. Today he leads a quiet life of repose at Nagpur along with wife, Kiran.

When I was a student at St. Xavier’s Jaipur in the 1960s, we were required to speak in English only on the school grounds. But, of course, they did teach Hindi, and also Sanskrit.

Pandit Hukum Narayan, our Hindi teacher, was unique in more ways than one. Here was a person who taught us a language, conversing in which was proscribed in the precincts of the school, sole exception being the class he taught. He was distinctive in his garb and deportment.

Pandit Hukum Narayan was a Hindi teacher at St. Xaviers School, Jaipur in the 1960s.

Amidst the habits worn by the Jesuit priests and western casual clothes by other teaches, he was a class by himself. He was swathed in dhoti, long coat, and ever present round Marwari cap, invariably black. A chandan ticca would have gone well with his sartorial impeccability, but he preferred a more secular forehead. It was a common belief then that a man must have moustaches, which he did sport, though meagre and not overly garish.

My interaction with Panditji was only to the extent of his being my Hindi Teacher. I wasn't involved in extracurricular activities, and am not sure whether he was active there.

Xavier students have to necessarily to appear for a certification in Hindi from Bombay Hindi Vidyapeeth. Panditji was the coordinator. After getting this certificate, I, for no good reason, opted to appear for the higher Bhasha Ratna certificate. I was the only student in my class to apply and appear for the exam. Since I did not prepare, the only thing possible did happen. I failed. Pandit Hukum Narayan informed me of the result without disclosing it to anyone else, to save me any embarrassment.

The grounds of St. Xaviers School, Jaipur as it appeared in the 1960s when Pandit Hukum Narayan was a Hindi teacher.

Once, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh, the former ruler of Jaipur, was travelling from Statue Circle going towards Paanch Batti in his Packard. As he was crossing Xavier’s, he was spotted by someone in the class being taken by Panditji. In a tick, the whole class was peering through the windows to catch a glimpse.

When the entourage passed by and the class settled down, Panditji asked:

"क्या हो गया था?" ("What happened?")

"सर, हिज़ हाइनस जा रहे थे". ("Sir, His Highness was passing by.")

"हिज़ हाइनस को हिन्दी में भी कुछ कहते होंगे"? ("There must be a Hindi term for ‘His Highness’?")

He looked around for someone to respond. He looked at me, who once thought he knew Hindi more than his peers. I shifted my glance towards the tree outside, at a considerable distance. But, then, I said:

"महामहिम. हिन्दी में महामहिम कहते हैं." ("‘Mahamahim’. In Hindi we say ‘Mahamahim’.")

There are people who so seamlessly integrate in our growing up that their presence is never noticed separately. They become a part of the process itself. Such was the case for Pandit Hukum Narayan and me.

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