Pallavi Singh is a 25 year old girl who discovered very quickly that it is (almost) all about the money. Next step was to earn it – and earn it using her talents and not use “Foreign Educational Stamps” or “IITs/IIMs” for she could not afford it. She embarked on a journey to become the most sought out Hindi Teacher for expats coming to India.
TSJ’s guest Editor Siddhartha spoke with Pallavi on women empowerment & her future plans for Hindi Lessons For Foreigners.
Q: How was HLF (Hindi lessons for foreigners) envisioned and started?
A: It started as a hobby initially, to earn some cash on the side to sustain myself in this expensive city (Mumbai).
There was no vision or “Plan”. As they say; “Man plans, God laughs”. I always looked forward to teaching Hindi and with time I realized that I was getting more & more proficient and a few major incidents later – I almost was welcomed with open arms by this profession and it consumed me. Hence, “Pallavi” the Hindi Tutor was born.
Q: How has the journey of HLF been till now?
A: Ohh, it has been such an amazing journey – with its own highs and lows but it has been the only thing in my life that has given back to me like no other thing or person. In hindsight, it was maybe the trajectory meant for me, as every time to tried to go in some other direction – teaching Hindi called me back to it and made sure I did not leave it. Journey is of course ongoing and I am looking forward to what unfolds for me in the coming years.
Q: Being a woman and since you didn’t started your career as a conventional hindi teacher, what were the initial challenges that you faced?
A: Trust (from the clientele), Age (having entered the business at the age 20) and the stereotypes that come with it – immaturity, lack of knowledge, seriousness etc. and overcoming them and presenting an immaculate professionalism to the prospective students. Plus, being a woman presents its own challenges – being an Indian passport holder does handicap your access to things you can reach out to.
Q: Do you teach regular Hindi lessons to your clients or do you have your own course structure?
A: I have my own proprietary modules. I do not teach from any book. Not sure about “regular” or “Irregular” but definitely different. I have tried to be conscious to create a learning module which is fun and engaging and not bland for my students. It is important to state that my clients are out of College and not soliciting any degree or credits and hence learning Hindi is mainly voluntary and driven by interest – I’d like to think I help compound it.
Q: What is the basic course fee & maximum time-frame taken by an expat to learn Hindi from you?
A: Prices change every 1.5 years – The cost/class is between $23-$38 depending on the place, hours taught, number of people. The course structure is designed for 25 hours, after which we dive into reading and writing (the Devanagari script). Of Course, it depends on the consistency and frequency of the classes as well. Language does require a certain level of homework and self-work to substantiate what is taught in class.
Q: Do you think illiteracy is one of the main obstacles to women empowerment in India, and do you plan to come up with any other course modules for rural India?
A: I respectfully disagree, I don’t think illiteracy is a major obstacle. Societal boundaries and lack of overall moral, emotional, financial support women should get is the main cause. Education in India is not enabling, it is rather a mechanism which stamps people. After all, it is only if you go to “certain Schools” that you’re considered “smart” and then the rest is just riff-raff.
I do talk to people I meet on my travels and talks I’m invited at about doing something to perfection and building a niche, an impeccable niche. I may plan to create a “module” per-say; maybe a verbal one in a storytelling format to try and disseminate what I understand works.
Q: If an e-learning module for your Hindi lessons is launched, do you think your offshore clients will be benefited from this?
A: Absolutely. Working on it. You’ll see it soon.
Q: We came to know that you’ve taught Hindi to the winner of Miss Universe Sri Lanka 2006 & now a famous Bollywood star ‘Jacqueline Fernandez’ as well, how was the experience?
A: Oh, she is such a down to Earth person and an amazing person. She is actually a great student and she picked up the language so fast! Got to learn so much from her..
Q: Who are your major clients that you’ve worked with?
A: American, Canadian, Belgian, Australian, Spanish, Singapore Consulates. The list is too long, lets just say I’m constructively busy.
Q: What is your word of advice for the girls out there who want to start on their own?
A: Do not listen to people who pull you down. Just cut the negativity out. Be practical, you only have so many chances. Please be smart – there is opportunities and there are “looks like a good idea”. Expect no support whatsoever – if it comes your way – you’re lucky. And lastly, nobody owes anything to you. You decided to be the sheep who left the group – find your own way home.