णमसकार. मी अॅरन अहे. मी अमेरिकन अहे.
Namaskar. Mi Aaron ahe. Mi American ahe.
Hi. I’m Aaron. I’m American.
I’ve learned new languages before, but this is the first time I’m tackling a new script AND a new language. I’m learning to read all over again. I sound like a 6 year old sounding out new words. For instance:
पुणे. P. Not Puh. No aspiration. Just a p sound that sort of stops in my throat. Oo. Not Ooooo. A short long ooo. N. Not a dental n. A retroflexive N. Eh. P-oo-N-eh. Oh. Pune. The city I’ve been living in for the last 12 days. Just like a little kid learning how to read, it takes me a couple minutes to make out a word with only 2 consonants, 2 vowels and 2 syllables.
It’s been interesting. The nice thing about Devanagari script is that it’s completely phonetic. So I don’t have to learn any rules about vowels and when they say their names or anything. I just have to memorize all of the different symbols and sounds. And now that I have memorized the basic consonants and vowels, I can pretty much read any word I see. Sometimes they are English words written in Devanagari script. After spending a few minutes identifying the characters and sounding it all out, I’ll say something like “Dawk-tu-rrr. Oh. Doctor.”
I love the quaint little building that is AIIS 2. This is where all my classes take place. The campus itself is beautiful…very green! My friend Rachel, a former AIIS student, put it well: “A double I S. Farm or college?” I have to try to not get too distracted when the wild mama pig and her herd of babies pass by the window in the middle of class.
Sujata and Shantanu are the jovial pair of teachers that make up AIIS, Pune. Sujata has said several times “We love our students.” And it is so evident! They are both wonderful teachers and compliment each other very well, making a very dynamic team.
We are three students in all so far: Greg, a PhD student who is fluent in Hindi and spent the summer bolstering his Marathi skills, and David and I, both total beginners and here in Pune, Maharashtra as Fulbright-Nehru student researchers. The academic year long program starts this week, so more students will join us. I’m happy about this. I have been starting the days at 9 a.m. and my schedule looks something like this: Grammar from 9-10:00, Listening from 10-11:00, Tea break from 11-11:15, Pronunciation and Dictation from 11:15-12:15, and Script practice from 12:15-1:15.
There’s just something about transitioning from no school and sporadic part time work to 4 almost straight hours of sitting in class. Fortunately there are two groups of students, beginners (David & me) and advanced (Greg). So we play musical classrooms and swap teachers. It helps break up the long morning. Now that the academic year long program is starting, I will be coming to school from 12:15-5:00 p.m. every day. It’ll be nice to have the mornings to sleep in (something I’ve only done once since I’ve been in India), have a nice breakfast, maybe eventually practice yoga (waiting for a potential teacher to get back to me on that one), and most likely get that last minute homework done, etc.
I have a feeling that this shift in my daily schedule will make the days pass more quickly. And in turn, the weeks. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in India for 3 weeks. Where has the time gone? It must creep away from me with every rickshaw ride, with every trip into a shop to look at kortas, with every spur of the moment jaunt through a new part of the city, with every delicious meal, with every glass of cold coffee.