“My friends are ‘cheaters’,” Kambli says angrily. “They pretend they do not read Hindi newspapers. But this week I’ve found four of them secretly reading Hindi papers. Surprisingly it’s all working: they’ve already crossed 4–5 levels of the game, while I am stuck at the first level… they make fun of me!” The distress is evident, and he can’t hide his ashamed face when we see his 6-year-old son telling him the difference between the Hindi letters “ba” (ब) and “wa” (व) to get him across the Level One finally. “Yesterday, for practice purposes, I asked my office peon to change my phone’s language settings to Hindi.”
Origin of the game: It all started when software engineer Khushboo Banga was trying to draw random shapes on her new Android touch phone. She drew a badly formed infinity symbol (∞) and with an additional stroke of the delicately held stylus of her gadget, she thought it looked like the Hindi letter “Ka” (क). Suddenly it struck her: a breakthrough idea to develop a new mobile game for her start-up “App-Matters” that develops mobile apps. Thereafter, one thing led to another and today “Nostalgic Symbols” has crossed 1 million downloads in 15 days and is said to be the biggest success after “Angry Birds”.
About the game: “Nostalgic Symbols” is the mobile game for Android users who want to revise their Hindi. The player “draws” English alphabets in Devanagari script on the screen. The intelligent software of the game compares the shape with the answer stored in database and gives points if it is matched to a good degree. In subsequent stages, the player is promoted to translating multi-syllable words and then sentences into Hindi. Various fancy titles are given to a player for clearing subsequent stages viz. “Medhavi”, “Nipun”, “Gyani”, “Pandit” etc. For an 8-year-old the game can be a child’s play, but for adults (including those who publish Hindi dailies) it is a next-to-impossible task.
Response: Kitabi Kabootar, a Hindi book store owner in Delhi has reported highest sale percentages since 1950s when people actually used to write this language. “I even see a lot of old faces after years. When they were kids, they used to buy Hindi dictionaries and course books from me to pass school,” he said. Ecstatic on being interviewed for owning a “dopey” store of Hindi (spelled “हीन्दी” outside his shop) books, he even gave a 10% percent discount to all his customers. People are returning to Hindi for dummies just to earn the title of “Pandit” in the game.
The game has become a rage, especially among North Indian IT engineers. People are challenging their Facebook friends to beat their scores. An industry expert told NTMN that apart from the emotional and nostalgic feeling that it gives to the player, Nostalgic Symbols provides the chance to flaunt the possession of high-end brand new handsets via score updates on Facebook. “For how long would people have zoomed out and zoomed in photos using multi-touch? It gets boring and unfruitful when all you can do with your 30K-worth handset is to use Facebook. Though one can still make it a point to show it off. You see, there are “dumb” guys who use “smart”phones to write silly text like pls dnt spam mah inbox and i luv u, muaaaahh and lollllllzzzzz. At least now with this game, people are trying to write a legitimate language!”
In an exclusive interview with NTMN, the young innovator behind “Nostalgic Symbols”, Khushbu Banga said, “We hired professional Hindi writers and not the likes who misspell news flashes in Hindi on India TV, to help us design the NS database. Finding them was literally harder than finding dinosaurs. But it was worth doing given our deep rooted connection, or what do you call it in Hindi, ummm, बंधन… with Hindi”. On a serious note, she quipped, “Many people say our rudimentary stages are a disgrace to Hindi writing. However, I feel that if it weren’t for Nostalgic Symbols, Hindi would become lost symbols after a short while.”
The growing popularity of Nostalgic Symbols has attracted some harsh criticism too, especially in Maharashtra and some southern states. A few jobless political vandals attacked certain mobile phone stores in Mumbai and snatched phones from “Hindi” youngsters who were playing the game at public places. They said that growing popularity of a Hindi based game in Mumbai is—for obvious reasons—a menace for Marathi language and the Marathi Manoos. They have demanded the ban on the game in Maharashtra in its present form and asked for a re-launch of the game in Marathi version. Similar outbursts were sporadic in various states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat. Indeed, when it comes to denounce Hindi, there is “unity in diversity” here.
NTMN appreciates “Nostalgic Symbols” team for reviving Hindi writing among youth. May the ‘’players’’ become so good with time that they start writing their common mother language instead of drawing it. And also, we wish all the success in the form of undying buzz for the future of Nostalgic Symbols and हिंदी.
(ed. Mihir Haryal, Tanay Sukumar)