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A fascinating memoir full of sprightly descriptions and memorable passages
"Dreaming in Hindi", Katherine Russel Rich's memoir of her adventure in India, about the year she spent in Udaipur living with a Hindi speaking Indian family, for the purpose learning Hindi, is an intriguing and fascinating book. Learning a new language in middle age, especially a language as alien for her as Hindi is not an easy task. But the author demonstrates that where there is will, there is a way.
When she writes about India and describes Indians, her writing is lively and entertaining: "Vanita's (saris) were starched to within an inch of their lives, even the dupatta scarves. Her scarves never lay down on the job, but remained frozen in a fluff, giving the impression that a hooded snake had reared up behind and was about to swallow her."
She is a keen observer, and her descriptions of what she has seen in Udaipur are memorable. I was impressed with the marvelous description of the marble driveway of her hosts' immense house: "The driveway, though hazardous to pedestrians when washed, possessed a peculiar grandeur: inlaid circles set against squares, rich browns fitted into mossy greens; a display fit for a museum, a board game leading out to a street of pigs."
The author has chosen to write about the science of learning a new language also, and interspersed though out the nineteen chapters of this book are the author's explanations and personal opinions and impressions about the process of learning a language, and how the human brain functions. These passages dealing with the technical aspects of learning a language are sometimes tedious, and in these sections the author's impressive prose loses its charm and elegance. Without these tedious passages, "Dreaming in Hindi" would undoubtedly have been an outstanding memoir. On the whole, this is an impressive book, written with humor and wit, and with an abundance of vivid, sprightly descriptions and memorable passages.
Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ
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