A Conversation with Dr. Visham Bhimull on Trinidad Bhojpuri and Revitalizing Caribbean Hindustani

Oct 08, 2020, 02:00 PM

Season 1, Episode 2.

Can you revitalize and rebirth a language for new generations while the older native speakers are all but gone?

Vinay sits down with Dr. Visham Bhimull to apply this question to the case of Trinidad Bhojpuri and Caribbean Hindustani. They talk about the arrival of South Asian languages alongside indentured labourers in the mid-1800s, as well as the emergence of Bhojpuri as a lingua franca on the sugar estates in Trinidad and Guyana. Meanwhile in Suriname and Fiji, due to slightly different migration patterns, Awadhi would come to heavily influence Sarnami Hindustani and Fiji Hindi respectively. Bhimull describes the impact of Dutch and French on Caribbean Hindustani as well as the Indian words and phrases loaned to the various Creole dialects in each Caribbean nation. This conversation veers into the mid-1900s when language death was apparent in Trinidad and Guyana, now starting to arise in Suriname in the twenty-first century. He delves into his childhood and adolescence, reflecting on the roles Bhojpuri and Hindi played in his relationship with his grandparents as well as his university classmates. Today Dr. Bhimull's interests have coalesced into the formation of the Caribbean Hindustani page on Facebook and YouTube. On this social media platform he translates the history, culture, and language that were almost at the point of extinction. He has been integral to preserving the integrity of the language and helping it to take new, innovative forms. Bhimull highlights the issues with the approaches to teaching Hindi undertaken by current Indian organizations in the Caribbean as well as the uniquely South Asian obstacles to the survival of Hindi as a language of utility. This episode marks the beginning of a long-standing partnership between The Cutlass and Caribbean Hindustani to further promote the language in the form of audio lessons that are easily understandable and also applicable to the lifestyles of Indo-Caribbean people. 

Dr. Visham Bhimull is a primary care physician and cultural activist. He is also a language enthusiast and independent researcher of linguistics. A fluent speaker of Bhojpuri and Hindi, he is the creator and administrator of the Caribbean Hindustani Facebook page and YouTube channel. Bhimull makes numerous appearances on Trinidadian news programs and radio stations to promote the study and teaching of Caribbean Hindustani.

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