For decades, high school students in America have been able to take classes in Latin, Spanish, French and even German.
But given a shifting global order and an increasingly diverse domestic population, high schools are finding it necessary to offer more 'exotic' options.
Enter Arun Prakash, a native of India, who moved to Houston, Texas in the US for education and business in the 1980's. When he first began teaching Hindi at Bellaire High School in 1989, only eight students signed up for the class, seven of whom were of Indian heritage. Initially, he did it for $15 dollar a day, and was quoted by the Houston Chronicle as saying, "It was more or less gas money."
At the time, Prakash had no proper training as a teacher and no materials with which to work. But, with ingenuity and hard work, he invented his own lessons.
Today, that hard work has paid off, as Prakash has authored the 480-page 'Namaste Jii', which is being called the first high school level Hindi text book used for instruction in the United States. It will be introduced at the beginning of this upcoming school year.
"Need made me do it," Prakash was quoted as saying.
A far cry from the eight students he began with, next year, Prakash expects more than 100 Bellaire students to enrol in his Hindi classes. Last year, he instructed around 80 students, and claims that less than half of them were of Indian origin. Reasons for taking the class range from interest in Bollywood to interest in the emerging global economy, of which India is expected to play a major role.
Bellaire is just one of two public schools in the mammoth state of Texas with Hindi classes, says the Chronicle. But with increased interest in India as a budding economic power house, and with a rapidly growing South Asian population in the Houston area, the Lone Star State seems ready to become a centre of Hindi/Urdu instruction in the US.
As evidence of Texas's commitment to Hindi, Prakash points to work he's done at Rice University and at the University of Houston, whose Chancellor is Renu Khator, a prominent Indian-American. At both universities, Prakash has helped to start Hindi language programmes.
Prakash will sell the text, which comes with a CD workbook, but not to make money. As he reportedly told the Chronicle, "I'm more interested in promoting Hindi."