Sonia studied Gujarati for 8 years before putting her skills to use this past summer at her Nanubhai internship. This bridge over the language barrier opened her up to deep connections with Nanubhai scholars and their families.
The school I studied in for years, Jamnabai Narsee School, had Gujarati roots. This enabled me to study
Gujarati for eight years. Every single day, I would cry about how useless the subject was and how I
could never memorize Gujarati poems in time for the tests we had about them. Gujarati exams meant
horror, trepidation and terror all mixed together. Gujarati classes meant getting yelled at for my
atrocious Gujarati vocabulary. And after eight years of learning Gujarati, I switched to our wonderful
national language of Hindi (which was another horror story!).
However, Gujarati actually turned out to be useful. I realized I could use the language to communicate
with people other than my grandmother. Gujarati helped me secure my first summer internship in
college. As a Nanubhai intern, I spent much of my time interviewing other scholars who are close to my
age. I later translate those interviews and put together scholar bios with the information they give us.
When I interview these girls, they often tell me their stories. A girl told me she works as a maid after her
day at college gets over, while another girl’s family is Christian but her favorite festival still happens to
be Diwali. These are stories our questions do not ask for. Their parents tell me about the hardships they
face and the grandparents reminiscence about people who helped them so far. There are moments
when I don’t know how to react to these stories. I am a cold person by nature and a strong supporter of
privacy. Yet, I learned how to come out of my comfort zone and respect people for the strength they
have to pull through another day. I admire them for the Gujarati they speak. The Gujarati I speak is a
mix of countless English words, some Hindi phrases and a little Gujarati. Most girls have a dazzling
dictionary of expressions they integrate when we converse. There were instances when even my
Gujarati skills were labeled inadequate. At a remote village in Sonagadh, no one spoke Gujarati. They
spoke the tribal language of Gamit. It sounded very similar to Gujarati but I failed to understand anything.
As a thirteen year old who made paper airplanes and boats out of her Gujarati test papers, I would have
never dreamt that I could put this beautiful language to such good use. Using Gujarati this summer
brought back some nostalgic memories, allowed me to communicate with potential and current
Nanubhai scholars and brush up with my reading and writing skills. Definitely a great way to spent my