Wellingtonian honoured for services to Hindi and other languages

An Award for Language Excellence: Dr Pusha Bhardwaj Wood receiving the International Language Award from Atul Kothari and Chamu Shashtri in New Delhi on January 13, 2023 (Photo Supplied)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, February 4, 2023

Wellingtonian Dr Pushpa Bhardwaj Wood has done the Indian community and the world of linguists proud by earning an International Indian Language Award at an annual global meeting held in Delhi recently.

She was among twelve others from various parts of the world to be bestowed the honour at the International Festival of Indian Languages held in New Delhi on January 13, 2023.

The Award recognised Dr Wood for her contributions to the promotion of Indian languages overseas, mainly Hindi, Punjabi and Sanskrit in New Zealand.

She was the first woman of Indian origin to be appointed as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) by the late Queen Elizabeth II on her 90th Birthday Honours List in 2016. The Honour recognised her services to promote financial literacy and interfaith relations.

She has been a singular advocate for the inclusion of Hindi in the New Zealand Curriculum for more than three decades, joined in later years by other enthusiasts of the language.

“Hindi is the fourth most spoken language in New Zealand and worldwide. As well as being one of the oldest languages, Hindi has been made increasingly popular by Hindi laureates, poets and the ubiquitous Hindi films.  Our actors are increasingly gaining popularity in many countries, which adds to the importance of the language,” she said.

An Honour among the elite: Dr Pushpa Bhardwaj Wood with Anil Joshi, Atul Kothari, Kumar Tohin, Virendra Gupta, Chamu Shashtri and Shyam Parande in New Delhi on January 13, 2023 (Photo Supplied)

About the Festival

The International Festival of Indian Languages was organised by the Bhartiya Sanskritic Sambandh Parishad (Indian Cultural Relations Council), in association with the Kendriya Hindi Sansthan (Central Hindi Institute), Bhartiya Bhasha Parivar (Indian Languages Family), Antarrashtriya Sahayog Parishad (Indian Council for International Cooperation) and the Ministry of External Affairs.

The event, held at the ICRC Building, comprised two sessions.

“The sessions aimed to improve the mutual harmony between Indian languages and to increase their presence and activities on the world platform,” Dr Wood said.

Minister of State for External Affairs Vellamvelly Muraleedharan was the keynote speaker at the second session held under the theme, ‘Achievements and challenges of Indian languages overseas.’ He said that Hindi is growing in status.

Promoting language and culture: The Award exalts pursuit of excellence (Image Supplied)

Hindi at the United Nations

“The Government of India is making all efforts to promote the use of Hindi in politics and diplomacy and raise the stature of the language globally. We are also working with the United Nations General Assembly and the Secretariat to adopt Hindi an official language of the United Nations. We applaud the efforts of our scholars and people of Indian origin for promoting Hindi in their countries of residence,” he said.

The United Nations recognises English, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and French as its official languages. The inclusion of Hindi will accord the language a higher international status.

Dr Wood said that she was privileged to meet stalwarts of the Hindi language, former diplomats who promoted the languages in the countries during their tours of duty and 12 others who received the International Indian Language Award.

Promoting Hindi in Aotearoa

Dr Wood arrived in New Zealand about 40 years ago and has since then been striving to promote Hindi, Punjabi and Sanskrit in formal and informal settings. A passionate writer in Hindi since her formative years, her articles, commentaries and other reports have appeared in Bharat Darshan and Garbhnal (India) and many other online magazines.

Dr Pushpa Bhardwaj Wood: Forty years in professional and community service (INL Photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Wood has assisted many ministries, government departments and agencies and private sector and community organisations to translate their documents from English to Hindi.

Her current projects include completing her Hindi eBook, improving the performance and training Hindi teachers and standard vocabulary for New Zealand Hindi students.

Her special interest is in improving the standard of teachers of Indian languages, resources and training. She is also known as an expert in Indian culture, customs and beliefs.

Dr Wood is a founding and life member of the Wellington Interfaith Council and has been involved in interfaith activities for over 35 years. She is passionate about encouraging and developing initiatives that promote social harmony in various forms including religious and spiritual harmony.

Her PhD thesis explored the Religious Dimensions of Medieval Hindi Literature with special reference to Kabir and Tulasi.

A Foundation for Research

Along with Sunita Narayan of the Wellington Hindi School, Dr Pushpa established the ‘Bharatiya Bhasha Evam Shodh Sansthan’ (Indian Languages & Research Foundation) on January 10, 2019, to commemorate Vishwa Hindi Diwas (World Hindi Day).

Dr Wood said that the main ethos of the Foundation is to encourage, support and promote collaboration in strengthening Indian languages and culture through quality resources, training and ongoing professional development.

“We wanted to have a snapshot of capability and capacity within New Zealand when it comes to Hindi teaching. We have been discussing the Survey and its findings with the Indian High Commissioner Sanjiv Kohli and we are grateful for his ongoing support and guidance. He has been very helpful in promoting this piece of work,” she said.

“We wanted to have a snapshot of the capability and capacity of teaching Hindi in New Zealand. We are grateful to Sanjiv Kohli for his assistance and support during his tour of duty in New Zealand as the High Commissioner of India,” she said.

Dr Wood and Ms Narayan were with the ‘Vishwa Hindi Samman Award’ by the Government of India in 2018.

Promoting Financial Literacy

Dr Wood is the prime promoter of the Massey Fin-Ed Centre as its Director based in Wellington.

Established in 2011 to help New Zealanders become more financially savvy by improving their knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards money, the Centre is globally unique for the breadth of its work around financial capability, covering education, research and consultancy. It also runs courses and professional development programmes for both groups and individuals in personal financial management.

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