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Spain honors 4 Indian Hispanists for pioneering work

New Delhi, Mar 2 (EFE).- Spain on Wednesday honored four Indian Hispanists for their pioneering work in introducing Spanish in India over the last 50 years.

The recipients, who were awarded during an event at Instituto Cervantes in New Delhi, included Vibha Maurya, who received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, and Shyama Prasad Ganguly, Aparajit Chattopadhyay and Anil Dhingra, who received the Cross of the Order of Civil Merit.

“It is (…) an act of celebration, of celebration for the good health of the Spanish language, that increasingly grows and spreads throughout India (…) and you have really been the pioneers of that establishment of Spanish in India,” Oscar Pujol, director of Instituto Cervantes in New Delhi, said at the start of the event.

Pujol, the first director of this institution founded by the Spanish government in 1991 with the aim of promoting the Spanish language and and culture and inaugurated in the Indian capital in 2009 (he is now in his second stint), described the awards as “an act of justice to Indian Hispanism, which has been active for more than 60 years.”

The order conferred on Maurya aims to “reward those outstanding performances of a civil nature.”

Maurya, who is also the only academic of the Royal Spanish Academy in India, is the author of the first translation of Don Quixote from Spanish to Hindi.

It is an “almost quixotic trajectory to develop Hispanic studies in India,” Maurya said in her acceptance speech.

She dedicated the distinction to the “hundreds of students” she has taught during the last 40 years.

“I’m in seventh heaven,” she told EFE shortly before the event, explaining that her passion for Spanish came from her parents and her interest in understanding international events such as the Spanish Civil War and the “changes” in Latin America.

The daughter of a journalist and politician, Maurya was in Moscow when she signed up, almost impulsively, to study the Spanish language.

There she had “the privilege of having Spanish teachers who were exiled at that time in the Soviet Union.”

Another major decision of her life was to translate Quixote into Hindi.

“Hispanic studies had been in India for nearly 30 years, (and) not having a direct translation from Spanish into Hindi was almost shameful to me, until one day I made the decision to do it,” she explained.

Another of the recipients, Ganguly, described the award as an “additional stimulus” to continue his dedication to Hispanism.

The 76-year-old said that despite having retired as a university professor, he continues to research and has plans for new books.

“Only with this award do I now feel part of this comprehensive Hispanism. I have received several recognitions from Latin America and now it comes from Spain, that places me in the Hispanism of both sides of the Atlantic,” Ganguly told EFE before the ceremony.

Like many others, this Hispanist’s relationship with Spanish also came about by chance.

Armed with a master’s degree in economics, Ganguly wanted to do a comparative study between India and four Latin American countries on the problem of underdevelopment.

But “I didn’t know Spanish, it was 1966, and one of my teachers, the great professor and Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen (…) suggested that I also read something in Spanish,” explained Ganguly, who was given four months to start understanding the language, with which he began a relationship that has lasted half a century.

The Hispanist said that the start of the Spanish language in India was not easy because during the British colonization it was not in Spain’s interest to exert influence in the country.

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