Dr Sudhir Kaicker, former professor, computer science, in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, came to Toronto’s Sheridan College to continue teaching the same subject.
India Abroad‘s Ajit Jain finds out how the Sheridan College computer science professor became passionate about teaching Sanskrit.
Tell us about the Sanskrit course you will teach at Sheridan College.
It’s a dream come true. We are starting a basic course from September 14 that will introduce the Devanagari alphabet and script as well as the formation of simple sentences. Depending on audience interest, advanced courses will be introduced.
We have one campus in Oakville and one in Brampton. I teach in both, but the Sanskrit courses will be in Brampton, where the South Asian community is concentrated.
Will you be teaching this through your e-tutorials?
Yes, it is called SanskritaPradipika. The idea was to make Sanskrit easier for even people who don’t know an alphabet of the Devanagari script. One of my JNU students, Jayant Shekhar, who is now an associate professor, computer science, at Vivekananda University, Meerut, helped me write the tutorial. It took us almost four years, 12 hours a day without a break, to write the program. But it doesn’t have the pronunciation.
Isn’t that a big handicap?
Yes, but the difficulty was the program already had six million lines. Had we put in sound, it would have become very, very long and would have taken forever to download, frustrating the users.
How did the idea of creating an e-tutor came to you?
I thought we could use the principles of Sanskrit grammar to devise a new computer programming language, but that initiative didn’t proceed the way I had hoped it would. Since we had learnt so much of Sanskrit, we thought why not write a tutorial to teach it.
If you want to enjoy the Indian culture, if you want to enjoy the Bhagavad Gita then you must know Sanskrit. You should be able to read the original scripture, original texts and documents to enjoy them. Today I am in a happy position to read the Gita and Ramayana [ Images ]. It gives me so much pleasure; I thought this should be communicated.
What are the results of your efforts to teach Sanskrit through the Internet?
Over 12,000 people have downloaded Sanskrita-Pradipika. I get calls all the time from people across the world who would like to learn Sanskrit on the Internet.
I have a Chinese student, Maureen Chiang, who has been learning from me for over two years. She can now recite shlokas beautifully. Twice a week, we connect on Skype and spend three hours on it. I have students from Germany, England, South Africa, two students from India, all learning Sanskrit on the Internet.