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Updated: Jun 29, 2018, 09:35 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Hindi's brand ambassador in Mumbai is a young woman whose informal training course has earned fans in foreign embassies and Bollywood

At some point, Pallavi Singh hopes to set up a cultural centre with a special focus on learning Hindi. Pic /Shadab Khan
At some point, Pallavi Singh hopes to set up a cultural centre with a special focus on learning Hindi. Pic /Shadab Khan

Pallavi Singh, 27
Hindi tutor

Pallavi Singh's first Hindi lesson was an awkward one. Julien Cinja, an exchange student from the Republic of Congo at Delhi University, asked her to teach him the language, and had a question for her — why does everyone called me kaalu?

Singh realised she had little choice but to start the lesson with colours. Since then, she has trained scores in conversational Hindi, including staff of the American and Spanish consulates, Sri Lankan actor Jaqueline Fernandez, Canadian actor of Indian origin Lisa Ray and Italian Canadian singer Natalie Di Luccio. Bollywood's Soprano, Luccio got lucky in 2010 when her videos of Bollywood classics went viral, catching AR Rahman's attention. She finally went on to sing for English Vinglish and Chennai Express. Bigg Boss contestant from Australia, Lucinda Nicholas approached Singh since she was going to shack up with Indians and wouldn't have access to Google translator.

It was while studying French that it hit Singh that you had Alliance Francaise if you wanted to learn French, and Max Mueller for German, there was no one-stop shop to learn Hindi.

Her students' homes and Bandra's cafes — especially the Hill Road Candies — turned into classrooms as Singh finetuned her informal approach to teaching the language in straight 30 hours, using dialogue and flash cards.

She may be one of Mumbai's most sought-after tutors, but her parents weren't elated with her career choice. She was studying to be an engineer, but later moved here to pursue psychology at Sophia College. It was to earn pocket money through college that she took to teaching Hindi, but later realised that it made for a lucrative profession. Although Mumbai is where she found her calling, it's not a place she calls home. The plan is to return to Delhi this year. "The rents are crazy. I am so done with renewing lease after lease, and adjusting to new flatmates."

Then suddenly, the mood turns lighter and she asks with a smile, "The photographer is here, should I wear some lipstick?"

Before I turn 40, I want to
Buy a home of my own in Delhi.

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