A few years back I had the opportunity to meet the renowned poet Javed Akhtar, who made a very interesting comment. He said that ‘Zabaan aur libaas, yeh region ke hotey hain, religion ke nahi’ which means that language and clothing belong to a region, and not to a religion. Hold on to this thought for a moment, and we’ll return to it multiple times in this article.
So what is Urdu? As soon as one says Urdu, the first thing that comes to an average Indian’s mind is ‘the language of the Muslims’. Let us understand how this language came into being, and why this tag had been attached to it. When the Mughals came to India (Hindustan as they called it), they brought their religion and culture along. The language that they originally brought with them was called Chagatai, which is a Turkic language. Chagtai is now an extinct language which was spoken by Chagatai Turks and Tatars (of Mongol lineage). Gradually, with more influence of Persia, Farsi replaced Chagatai. As cultures met, a new culture was being formed in the Indo-Persian belt (from present day south-east Afghanistan to central India). They never bought Urdu along with them.
Farsi remained the major language of the courts and the rulers. On the ground though, a new language called Urdu was born, as result of Farsi’s continuous intermingling with Hindi and other ‘Sanskritized’ languages. The major area where this new language was being spoken was the area between Delhi and Lucknow. Till around 1830, Punjab, Sindh and other frontier areas (most of which today is the state of Pakistan) were not exposed to Urdu. Only after the British gained control of Punjab and NWFP, did Urdu slowly move there and relegated Farsi as a classical languages, like Sanskrit. Apart from literary usage, the language spoken by the people of north and central India was a mixture of Hindi and Urdu called Hindustani. Very few people actually spoke (or speak) pure Hindi, or pure Urdu; and these forms are usually reserved for literary purposes and not communication as such. So, in this article, Urdu basically refers to Hindustani where 70% of the vocabulary is Urdu and 30% Hindi/Sanskrit.
Urdu has words from Farsi, Arabic, Turkish, and Sanskrit, which clearly indicates that it is not a pure language itself. Urdu grammar is based on Hindi or Sanskrit where as most words are borrowed from Farsi. Urdu is written in a slightly modified version of the Nastaliq script, which is the Perso-Arabic script. Hindi on the other hand is written using the Devnagiri script. The Urdu speakers traditionally were people who belonged to the very ‘Mughal’ regions of India, like Delhi, United Provinces, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab. Traditionally the Muslim peoples from these regions spoke a more ‘Urduized’ version of Hindustani, where as the Hindus spoke a more ‘Hindized’ version of it. In Punjab and Kashmir, it was the official language, and the second language of the people encompassing Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Because Urdu drew most of its vocabulary from Farsi, it was slowly identified as a Muslim language, which brings us back to Javed Akhtar’s remark.
After the partition of India, millions of Urdu speaking Muslims moved from central and north India into Pakistan, where as millions of Urdu speaking Punjabis moved to India. But because Urdu was ‘the language of Muslims’, it suddenly became Pakistan’s language. For many years, the people of Pakistan (indigenous Pathans, Balochis and even Punjabis!) did not even accept Urdu as their national language, because the cultures of Punjab and Sindh were so strong that the original people of those regions could not tolerate change being introduced by migrants from central India. In India, there was a systematic move towards Hindi. Hindustani (which till today is the main language of India) failed to be established as a recognized formal language. Even Mahatma Gandhi tried to make Hindustani a formal language, because in a way it signified the amalgamation of the Hindu and Muslim (Mughal) culture.
The nation was named Bharat instead of Hindustan and though some tokenism is still followed to promote Urdu, the nation as a whole had decided to move away from it and embrace Hindi, a language which no one really spoke (or speaks). It is important to note that throughout this whole turmoil, regions south of Madhya Pradesh and East of Bihar had nothing to do with this language, even though many had (and still have) huge Muslim populations (like Kerala or Bengal). A good example of this paradigm shift towards Hindi is our national anthem, “Jana Gana Mana” the famous Sanskritized-Hindi/Bengali song by Rabindranath Tagore. The national anthem of a nation is supposed to exhilarate the masses, the way our ‘real’ anthem ‘Saare Jahan se acha Hindustan humara’ does. In ‘Jana Gana Mana’ we have a great poem which is not understood by 90% of the population of the country. Ask yourself if you understand each line of our national anthem; even though I am interested in languages, I don’t. But because ‘Saare jahan se acha’ was written by Allama Iqbal and was in Urdu, it could not be accepted as our anthem. Interestingly, till date, it remains the official marching tune of the Indian Army.
Another glaring example that highlights my argument that Urdu has nothing to do with ‘Islam’ as such is the story of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. Even though the country was a Muslim country, it was (and is) a Bengali speaking nation. When it was East Pakistan, imagine the plight of the people, who had to listen to their Prime Minister’s address from Lahore in a language (Urdu) which they could not understand. West Pakistan sought to impose their culture and language upon these people, which was met with resistance. This, along with several other factors became one of the major reasons for their secession from Pakistan. Urdu was then systematically removed from Punjab, which perhaps had one of the richest Urdu and Farsi cultures in India. The folk, literature, and the poetry of Punjab had been in Urdu and Farsi for hundreds of years. The difference is so glaring today, that in Amritsar, nothing is written in Urdu but 60 km away in Lahore, everything is in Urdu; and the joke is that essentially both peoples speak the same Punjabi and Urdu dialects.
The Muslims who chose to stay back in India (referring again to only central and northern India) were looked at as remnants of the partitions; and as noted earlier, due to the shift towards Hindi in Bharat, the whole notion of Urdu being ‘their’ language gained even more momentum. This created a barrier which has resulted in many further complications between Hindus and Muslims. My father and his entire family spoke only Urdu, Punjabi and Farsi. In fact, my grandfather, after migrating to India from Multan, had to learn Hindi to continue serving with the Indian government! Urdu slowly became the identity of the Indian Muslim. This was a fatal mistake because it further alienated the Indian Muslim from mainstream India; even though the Hindu and the Muslim of Delhi spoke the same language, which was neither Hindi nor Urdu, but was Hindustani! From being the language of the courts and governments, Urdu became an optional subject in schools. If tomorrow I want my son or daughter to study Urdu as a subject, I will have to send him/her to a Urdu medium school, where only children of poor or conservative Muslims study.
Urdu has been the language of poetry and art. Out of the many languages I listen to and try to speak, I have never come across a language which is as beautiful as Urdu. But if I speak, read and write in Urdu, people ask me if I am a Muslim!? But if a Muslim from Maharashtra speaks Urdu, that is logical as it is ‘their’ language. See the irony? The Urdu speaking Hindus from Punjab and further west lost their identity. Their clothes, their language and much more was taken away from them. Suddenly they are supposed to be Hindi speakers, even though hardly anyone actually speaks Hindi in India. The language of the masses remains Hindustani. The language of Indian movies, or mainstream media is also Hindustani. For my Indian readers, consider this:
1. English: The food was very tasty; can I get some water?
2. Hindustani/spoken Urdu: Khana bohat lazeez tha; kya thoda paani milega?
3. Pure Hindi: Bhojan adhikh swadhisht tha; krupaya thoda jal denge?
Look at the pure Hindi sentence. I personally don’t know a single Indian who would say this sentence. So I hope the fact that the spoken language in India is NOT Hindi is established by now. I would also want to add here that pure Hindi (in effect Sanskritized) always was and still is the language of the Brahmins (especially of central-North India) where as Urdu/Hindustani was the language of the market; of commerce. Urdu has long been recognized as one of the sweetest languages on earth. It has a long history of poetry, and is also known for its typically ‘respect giving’ vocabulary. For hundreds of years, great poets like Mirza Ghalib, Mir Taqi Mir, Allama Iqbal, Kaifi Azmi, and non-Muslims like Gulzar, Neeraj, Mahendra Singh Bedi amongst others have produced great pieces of poetry. If I were to list more names, one would notice that the overwhelming majority of these people were from the Delhi-UP belt or from Punjab. This reiterates the point that Javed Akhtar had made to me.
Today, the newer generation of Punjabis (most notably Khatris) don’t even speak proper Punjabi, let alone Urdu. In my family, I am the only person in my generation who can read, write and speak Urdu. The Hindus of Kashmir moved out from the valley and lost touch with their languages, Kashmiri and Urdu. The Hindus of UP and Bihar speak a lot of Urdu but call it Hindi without realizing that it is actually Hindustani/Urdu. The Bollywood industry, which virtually migrated from Lahore (note the amount of Punjabis in it) still uses Urdu, Hindustani and occasionally Punjabi as its major languages. But it is known as the Hindi film industry. If it is the Hindi film industry, then why do people across Pakistan watch our movies so passionately. A good example of a Urdu and Punjabi film was the blockbuster, Veer Zaara.
Urdu has been a victim of marginalization. First it got tagged as the ‘Muslim’s’ language. Now it is tagged as Pakistan’s language! So much so that Manpreet Singh Badal (a Sikh politician and exponent of Urdu from Punjab), who speaks a very Urduized version of Punjabi was ridiculed for his vocabulary by some people and the poor guy is trying to explain to them that this is my language! Urdu or Hindi are anyway not the languages of choice for the elite, it is English. The Urdu-Muslim relation has become so strong (which has contributed to its demise) that in central Maharashtra (who have nothing to do with Urdu!), Muslim children go to Urdu schools! But people find this logical, but I as a first generation Punjabi am not supposed to be an Urdu speaker! I wear a Salwar Kameez and speak Urdu (remember Javed Akhtar’s point about language and clothing), my friends ask me if I have embraced Islam! But half the women of this country wear Salwar Kameez and that is logical! The Punjabis, Sindhis and Kashmiris have paid a very high price as a result of this political mariginalization. Sindhi language is also written in the Nastaliq script (like Urdu), but because the Sindhi kids today in Bombay never studied Urdu, they cannot even read Sindhi! The same is the case with Punjabi; thank the Sikhs for inventing the Gurmukhi script, because even Punjabi (as my family knows it) was written in the Shahmukhi (Nastaliq) script.
I understand why this has happened. Sanskrit has been an ancient Indian language, and reflects our rich literary heritage. But it is not the language which is spoken, and it never was in the last 600 years. It is the language of the Vedas and its dialects are the languages that have been used in other Hindu scriptures. And as a matter of fact, the government does not promote the real Sanskrit as a language anyway. In fact Persian (mother of Urdu) has heavily borrowed from Sanskrit as well.
All I know is that one of the most beautiful languages of India, which still is spoken by millions of Indians, is dying a slow death. If we do not promote Urdu as one of our major languages, and NOT a ‘minority’ language, it will die. In a couple of generations, there will be no one who can read and write it, and no one who will be interested in its nuances. A very well written poem by Manzar Bhopali beautifully elicits the pain suffered by Urdu in the last 50 years (the poem uses Roman script with an attempt to standarize Urdu pronunciations using Roman):
zabaan-e-hind hai urduu to maathe kii shikan kyuu.N hai
vatan me.n be-vatan kyuu.N hai
[shikan = frown]
merii mazaluum urduu terii saa.Nso.n me.n ghuTan kyuu.N hai
teraa lahajaa mahakataa hai to lafzo.n me.n thakan kyuu.N hai
agar tuu phuul hai to phuul me.n itanii chubhan kyuu.N hai
vatan me.n be-vatan kyuu.N hai
[mazaluum = oppressed; ghuTan = suffocation]
[lahajaa = style/manner; thakan = fatigue]
ye naanak kii ye Khusro kii dayaa shankar kii bolii hai
ye diivaalii ye baisaakhii ye iid-ul-fitr holii hai
magar ye dil kii dha.Dakan aaj kal dil kii jalan kyuu.N hai
vatan me.n be-vatan kyuu.N hai
ye naazo.n se palii thii miir ke Gaalib ke aa.Ngan me.n
jo suuraj ban ke chamakii thii kabhii mahalo.n ke daaman me.n
vo shah-zaadii zabaano.n kii yahaa.N be-anjuman kyuu.N hai
vatan me.n be-vatan kyuu.N hai
[be-anjuman = without a gathering/assembly (alone)]
muhabbat kaa sabhii elaan kar jaate hai.n mahafil me.n
ke is ke vaaste jazbaa hai ham-dardii kaa har dil me.n
magar haq maa.Ngane ke vaqt ye begaanaapan kyuu.N hai
vatan me.n be-vatan kyuu.N hai
[elaan = proclaimation; jazbaa = feeling; ham-dardii = sympathy]
[begaanaapan = indifference/aloofness]
ye doshiizaa jo baazaaro.n se iThalaatii guzaratii thii
labo.n kii naazukii jis kii gulaabo.n sii bikharatii thii
jo tahaziibo.n kii sar kii o.Dhanii thii ab kafan kyuu.N hai
vatan me.n be-vatan kyuu.N hai
[doshiizaa = young girl; naazukii = delicacy; tahaziib = culture/etiquette]
[o.Dhanii = veil; kafan = shroud]
muhabbat kaa agar daavaa hai to is ko bachaao tum
jo vaadaa kal kiyaa thaa aaj vo vaadaa nibhaao tum
agar tum raam ho to phir ye raavan kaa chalan kyuu.N hai
vatan me.n be-vatan kyuu.N hai
So the poem says that if Urdu is the language of India, then why is it the frown on India’s face…why is it suffocating in its own country. All I wish for is that youngsters from north and central India recognize this as their language irrespective of their religion. I can assure you that it is not difficult to learn because any one from these regions already speaks it more than Hindi, and that the beauty that it offers appeals even to the modern mind. Do post your comments on this subject especially if you are from the areas that I have identified as the Urdu speaking belt.
40 thoughts on “The Demise of Urdu in India”
a nice piece once again , Aviram. an eye opener to something perhaps we all know, yet never notice! or bother to notice.
I personally love the quaint farsi influeced version of urdu because of hindi films and urdu poetry. The sweetness and elegance has a character of its own. Urdu Ghazal has no parallel as a poetic form and no one else in any language can express as much as Ghalib does in a single phrase.
I want to highlight a few historical facts:
— Mughals and British chose Farsi as the official script and forced an alien ‘lipi’ on India populace
— Hindus never used Farsi. They chose to use Devnagri
— Urdu was the official language under british empire and they used it as the second language besides English to carry out their official business. To this extent Urdu was never as widely used. British used urdu, quiet successfully, in underlying the differences between hindus and muslims. It was they who funded religiously motivated institutions and patronized Urdu. And gradually, vested interests have continued to underline the Islamic association of Urdu.
I do not think that sentimentality alone can stop languages from evaporating of the face of earth. Second, I do not think urdu as dialiect will ever disappear. Though Urdu script will probably remained confined to a few urdu books and newspapers and madrsas. Sanskritises Hindi, which some may associated specifically with Hindu religion, faces the same dangers as Urdu.
In conclusion, I think people will use a medium/language which facilitates expression of shared cultural experience. Evolution of languages is also affected by aspirational motivations of a society and politics at large. Thus. languages remain dynamic, some go extinct and other metamorphose into new languages.
Thank you janaab for your response.
I like your point about sentimentally not being the determining factor while considering the death of languages….and of course about the fact that Hindustani will never die as such. However, the Hindus of Afghanistan, Punjab, Sindh, Kashmir, Balochistan very much used Farsi and Urdu as their own language. Punjabi culture, which is one of the richest in the world, would be nothing without Urdu, because Punjab as such does not even have its own organized language or script. Its a very recent story that Shahmukhi and Gurmukhi were used to write Punjabi; until which the people of that land could not even write Punjabi as a language.
British have nothing to do with the usage of Farsi in India; by the time they arrived, it was already the language of the courts and governance courtesy of the Mughals. As Urdu was being developed due to the confluence of Sanskritized languages and Farsi at the ground level as an alternate to the more complicated Farsi, the British gradually used it to replace Farsi. The ‘lipi’ was also very much there; but it is hard to say whether it was imposed. Farsi is as ancient a language as Sanskrit is, and is a pre-Islamic language, and you might be surprised to know that the ‘lipi’ of Farsi and Urdu is actually alien to them as well (it’s the Arabic script; ancient Farsi was not written this way). The Hindus from the the areas pointed above were closely associated with Farsi. After all, the hub of Farsi land (say Persia?) was much closer to my grandfather’s house than the heart of Sanskrit (say Bihar?) was. So, languages always evolve. If for a Bihari, Farsi is an alien language because Sher Shah Suri imposed it on them, so is Hindi alien to the peoples of the regions I’ve pointed above. If today English can be our language, Urdu must surely have been ours 🙂
Lastly, Urdu very much developed as our language. There is no doubt about its Persian/Arabic influence. But when we wear ‘Muslim’ clothes (Pay-jaama?, Salwaar Kameez, Turbans, head scarves etc.) and never find anything ‘not ours’ in them, why the treatment of an outcast language to Urdu; after all it has very much taken birth in the heart of India.
I hope people use language to facilitate expression, and not to earn money, because if that was the case, I don’t see why Urdu and Punjabi speaking youth of Bombay would only know how to speak English 😉
I used this for my project but once i started reading i felt much interesting. I really appreciate the way of your writing.
Nice one 🙂
you are really passionate about languages , isn’t it?
.. this is a really good effort from your side.
I appreciate your hard-work, and acknowledge your understanding-of-the-matter in true sense.
.. i also differ a bit with some of your views, but will not discuss it now. Because i dont want to spoil this fine effort of yours. We can discuss the ‘differences’ later any time 😉
.. nice work !
Thanks bro, feel free to email me with your differences 🙂
An excellent writeup on urdu and its justification in india which is pretty hard to find these days. I must say that it was a misfortune that this language lost its ground in indian punjab and U.P. I also am a great fan of urdu due to its soft and sweet words. However it is a matter of great concern for its lovers that it suffers today because of its affiliation with Muslims. People dont realize its completeness in every aspect such as drama, short stories(afsaney), novels and above all ghazals instead it is facing demise.
Let me say this that this language will not die in india if there are people like you to support it. God Bless you.
Wow! Quite profound. That is the fact that is being diluted in our silly minds throughout the subcontinent: Urdu is Indian, IT ABSOLUTELY IS, de facto, and I might as well say it, just as Pakistan is. Yes, I am a devout Muslim Pakistani but not originally Urdu speaking, but I have to admit that India brought up a baby sister named Pakistan, and my goodness, when sisters quarrell it can get ugly! I’m learning that sisters are unique in all of Creation in that they can simultaneously love and hate each other to death. India brought up Urdu and gave it to the world (I’ve heard it spoken to initial reactions of surprise by non native speakers everywhere from Britain to Arabia to the Philippines to America and Mexico). Turkey or Khorasan or Arabia or Assam/Bengal did not raise Urdu from when it was a baby, and they certainly did not give birth to Urdu; India did. (Maybe they came and cuddled and played with Urdu once in a while, but guess what? That’s what relatives do: they come on over whether or not you called ’em). When will Sindhu get some sense? I wonder how amazing the USA and humanity and nature would have been if the Europeans and Native Americans shared cultures and built one together instead of fought. I speak 8 languages from 4 trees and feel comfortable in saying that Urdu/Hindustani is the richest and most beautiful because it is a hybrid that got everyone’s love and attention. Boiled carrots are not so yummy; they are kinda gross, but add some celery, onion, parsley, garlic, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes and you have an incredibly delicious soup. My way or the highway is soooo BC. I wonder if I’ll see any evolution from stupidity in my lifetime.
Thank you for that lovely comment. I like the your metaphorical comparisons 🙂
amazing article….you know i suffer from a similar predicament. i belong to a famiy of post partition refugees, and my grandfather knew only urdu and punjabi…to this day, i m not attached to sanskritized hindi….the other day a young kid asked me if i was a muslim because i was reading an urdu paper…i casually replied that reading urdu makes me as much of a muslim as reading english makes you a christian!…btw i blog at http://thegoofysufi.blogspot.com .pay me a visit
Dont worry about these comments. Similar comments were made when I started learning Hindi back in 80s. You can understand what type of comments you might expect if you start learning Hindi in Pakistan (just the complement of what you heard back there). I could not convince any one that it was for sake of learning only….. I did not quit.
A few points on the article, Aviram:
1) Kashmiri pandits(Hindus) did not “move out” of the Kashmir valley, they were ejected on pain of death (their women were advised to stay) ! It was a genocidal banishment of the original Kashmiris ! Politics aside, they were the ones likely to be knowledgeable in chaste Urdu, thus another nail was hammered into the coffin of Urdu.
2) It is true Sindhis in India no longer use the Persi-Arabic script, however they learn the Sindhi language in the Devnagari script. They CAN read their mother tongue !
3) Some non-muslims too learn Urdu, the example of academic Gopi Chand Narang being a case in point. I am a Hindu Bengali but I simply love Urdu (mainly to understand ghazals better) and have learnt it, script and all !
4) Any language is a living concept which evolves and modifies itself in keeping with changing norms of society. Urdu lives on through the Devnagari script. So much so, Naduwatul Islam, a premier Muslim theological centre in U.P. allows its students to answer exam. questions in Urdu or in Hindi, or in both !
I appreciate your tremendous fervour for Urdu.
Very nice, heart-warming post. I have cited it in my article that appeared today in the ‘Daily Post’: http://epaper.dailypostindia.com/Details.aspx?id=39203&boxid=55481&uid=&dat=2012-06-25. Thank you!
Thank you so much. Glad you liked the article.
Aviram: interesting article buddy, but most of your observations are true for the northern part of India. There’s hardly any influence of Urdu on southern languages, which are quite sanskritised. Frankly, I find the sanskritised Hindi much easier to understand than Urdu.
Thanks, Ashok. What you said is correct. I haven’t said that Urdu has any influence over any southern language. However, if you trace the origin of Urdu to Farsi, its another story, because original Farsi (Avesta) was extremely close to Sanskrit! We have come a full circle in that sense 🙂
Aadaab Aviram Saheb…
Many people feel the same as you do. It is indisputably correct that we will be losing a beautiful and respect giving language if we don’t learn it. But the main problem is people are questioning the rationality of learning Urdu as a language when it does not provide any employment opportunities. We also see today the decline of patronage for art and culture and a large part of today’s generation is not interested in learning Urdu. So how should we answer this challenge of rationality ?
How should we draw people nearer to Urdu ?
Thank you for your comment Shahid ji. Your point is a very valid point…which pertains to employment opportunities. However, that logic applies to most other Indian languages too. The difference between Urdu and the rest is that Urdu is not taught in schools (unless you go to a madarasa numa school). I think a lot of people do patronize Urdu and Hindustani…albeit unknowingly, because they have never formally learnt it. A large part of today’s generation is not interested in learning anything Indian…so that issue encompasses more than just Urdu.
As far as Urdu is concerned, I think we should be doing two or three things immediately:
1. Reintroduce Urdu as an optional language in central board schools.
2. Standardize Urdu and Hindi scripts with Devnagiri and Roman letters to enable the new generation to read and write it seamlessly.
3. Clarify the misnomer that Urdu is a language of the Muslims. This will help in removing the stigma associated with it.
Neither Urdu lovers nor Hindi lovers would give up their respective scripts!
I don’t think that is true. I am a lover of both, and I have no problem writing it in Roman script…just as millions of Indians who write in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and other Indian languages on social media/computer input platforms using Roman script. The question here is not about language lovers…language lovers will learn the language even after it is dead…the common person isn’t a language lover…he is a convenience lover…and script standardization makes usage convenient. Just as I don’t have 4 keyboards installed on my phone or PC…but I still type 6-7 languages using Roman.
If we don’t adapt the script…the language will indeed die. An old and powerful language such as Turkish too adapted to the Roman script (courtesy Attaturk’s vision), which is one of the reasons for it’s survival and continual usage.
A really nice and well thought-out article. But you made no mention of the unique dialect of urdu spoken in the erstwhile Hyderabad state of ruled by the Nizams.
Yes, good point. Hyderabad and similar cases are responsible for Urdu’s death. Hyderabad and the region has nothing to do with Urdu as such. Due to the Persianized courts, Persian and later Urdu percolated amongst the people mostly associated with the Nizam. However, that should have ended with the rule of the Nizam ending. It is a shining example of how Urdu was hijacked by religion, which you can see today, where the Muslims of the old city only speak Urdu, even though most of them are Telugu people, where as the Muslims of other areas of Andhra or TN/Kerala mostly speak their native languages. The unique position of Urdu in Hyderabad has been amply exploited and furthered by the MIM (Owaisi and co.), who are responsible for suggesting to the Muslims of Hyderabad that their language is Urdu and not Telugu, which is a farce.
I spk bollywood version of hindi
There is Lot of Politics going on in India on Urdu Language . Many State Govts ar declaring Urdu as 2nd Official Lang in their states only to get Muslim Vote & not because the want the language to develop . E.g Mamta Banerjee declaring Urdu as 2nd official Lang in W Bengal .
You are right. This will only further damage the Muslim communities already flagging fortunes.
It is a shame and a sad state of affairs, especially with the development in Bengal. Bengalis have nothing to do with Urdu; in fact east Pakistan primarily broke away from the west because it refused to accept Urdu dominance.
Also the so called Urdu Speakers , they themselves are lacking knowledge of Urdu . I keep on asking the meaning of certain words but unfortunately i do not get any concrete answer e.g Urdu of University . Some said its UNIVERSITY only , some said DANISHGAH . Others did not know . So just claiming Urdu as your Mother Tongue because you are a Muslim is not enough . It should be in the blood . It can only happen when you actually have the Urge to learn & not just gripped by Minority Mentality .
Namaste Aviram Sahab,
what a wonderful article, I could sense the Love and sadness you feel at the slow death faced by Urdu in India. However, languages die and new are born with time, the English spoken by Shakespeare would be lot different that that spoken by Sheikh Peer in some indian primary school, but the way in which urdu is dying for being associated with particular religion, is sad. I am a Muslim, and Urdu is not my first language, but it has influence on my mother tongue, even that influence slowly dying, I am from Mumbai, ethnically Rajasthani and speak Shekhawati variant of Marwari. With Marwari, English, Hindi Marathi, I some where never got time to learn urdu, speak in hindi with words borrowed from these languages, Realised now, and now learning it, its beautiful language. Rekhta.org with its Andorid app has been very helpful.
“Shekhawati variant of Marwari”! Wow!!
……… now, Marwari itself is a dialect of Hindi! Never knew Hindi had so many variants and dialects!
Thank you for your message Jibran ji. It is nice to know that you are learning it along with your mother tongue, which is Marwari.
My grandfather left India after partition and came to what we know today as Malaysia. Urdu is dead among our family as most of us married locals. I however joined an Urdu society to be able to continue using the language. Nice article Aviram sahab.
Well done, Farouq! Indian languages, traditions and customs are your heritage, try your level best to keep them alive in Malaysia!
Your article is very well written. It gives me immense satisfaction to see people like yourself who are so balanced in their approach to different cultures here being the entire Indian diaspora.
There are some selfish people who for their own petty gains withhold true information and create divides.
Thanks for your comment.
As a urdu lover, I read your article with attention.
Much as you rightly diagnose the predicament of the language, I don’t agree with your prescription. Specifically, I don’t think that urdu can be saved by declaring it the common heritage of all indians, true that it may be. The time for that is past.
Various governments at the centre and the state have done all they can to relegate urdu to a minority language. The vast majority of hindus do not feel any attachment for urdu, except for some shayari. It can’t be now undone.
Now, muslims too did not make any extraordinary effort in the absence of official support. But, as you will agree, if urdu has remained at all in India, it’s because of the muslim attachment to it. And not only in north india, but also in Maharashtra, Karnataka, A.P, and parts of T.nadu.
I also take exception to the contention that a language can be separated from its script. Yes, in a functional way, it can be done, but a script is not just a script but an important cultural marker. Specifically, if we substitute roman or devnagari for nastalikh, urdu will quickly lose its identity as a language and fuse into hindi.
I wish you and all urdu lovers on this site all the best!
I never said Urdu is the common heritage of all Indians; it absolutely isn’t. Nothing comes close to Sanskrit in securing that title. However, there are large swathes of India where Urdu, or rather Hindustani is spoken as lingua franca. The large majority of Hindus don’t feel any attachment for Urdu because too large a majority of Muslims feel too much of an attachment. There is a stigma attached to it. Certainly, it has been promoted by several Muslims in literary circles, but IMO, that has had a negative impact on the post-partition destiny of Urdu. When Owaisi speaks Urdu in the parliament, he is ensuring its death. As far as scripts are concerned, you can very well use any script you choose. Devnagiri is a far superior and better equipped script to deal with Indo-Persian languages, including Farsi. When Hindustani can be effortlessly written (and is written) in Devnagiri, so can any other language. More over, Nastaliq carries it with the Arabic stigma for millions of Hindus who refuse to learn their own language because of the script that is used. It was always ‘fused with Hindi’, so there is nothing wrong with it. Only Muslim supremacists take offence to it fusing with a older and superior language. Languages evolve and mix all the time. Half of English is Latin though it is Germanic in its origin. Roman script is the future as far as educated youth in India are concerned, and a standardized approach will ensure that all Indian languages are used daily. Turkish is the perfect success story. Then there is Malay and Bahasa Indonesia as well. I have four keyboards on my mobile phone, but the lay man will not go through such trouble. Best wishes to you as well.
To the extent sanskrit forms the basis of most north indian languages, I agree that it is a common cultural heritage. But I do not want to debate whether sanskrit can be regarded the common heritage of all indians in a social-cultural-religious sense.
Your argument about hindu-muslim attachment turns the argument on its head. If muslims had not continued their attachment to urdu after partition, it would have been extinct as a distinct language in India. Hindus would not have been bothered about it. I also see you find devnagari superior and would not mind if urdu fused back with hindi. In that case, there is no need for us to bemoan the loss of urdu. Clearly, we don’t share the same feelings towards the urdu language and the culture it embodies.
And, though I’m no fan of owasi, he is not killing the language. There is more urdu in hyderabad today than is in indian punjab and haryana, where it was the official language before partition.
The lines: ‘vo shah-zaadii zabaanon kii yahaan be-anjuman kyuun hai,
vatan mein bevatan kyuun hai’
brought tears to my eyes.