Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Bourn Supremacy

Red alert, do we have an identity crisis?

Imagine a world full of people, demonstrating identical faces, synonymous dressing senses, communicating in the same language. Heck, there wouldn't be room for any imagination! Dullness. Boredom. Monotony.

The beauty of the world lies in its diversity.

Every region across the globe, boasts its own history, heritage, culture and language. In our part of the world, the moghul empire still resonates proudly in the mind of the average sub-continental dweller (for reasons ranging from aesthetics to grandeur to unity to pluralism); our poets and writers have been the brains and blood behind reformations and revolutions; our regional dresses and the arts and crafts behold traditionally conservative values but vary in form from province to province; our languages both national and regional, have a wealth of literary works to back their profoundity.

While a lot can be said and mourned in the wake of the globalisation of more than just economies, it is our languages for which I fear extinction the most. A sad trend seems to have engulfed our schools, colleges and households. While Punjabi (the regional language of the Punjab) has since long lost its battle against the throngs of Westernization, we are now keen on annihilating the urdu language too. It is not being argued that everything West is evil-incarnate; rather, it is the sheer ignorance of valuing a beautiful culture, that is worrisome. The urdu language is a powerful one, but it is saddening to witness our toddlers being warned in school against speaking either their mother tongues or their national language. They are expected to communicate in English alone; uttering a word in Urdu warrants a punishment. And in our middle and upper classes, Punjabi is regarded as a language of the poor. People who converse in Punjabi, are derogatorily labelled paindus (roughly, villagers). These are the languages hosting sufis like Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah, sung by legends like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Jagjit Singh, weaving magic through the words of GhalibIqbal and Faiz.

It is hard to understand then, why our people prefer to speak phrases in broken English with "lofty" accents than to speak good urdu or punjabi. An inferiority complex has killed the spark that a proud nation arouses; instead we seem to want to prove our modernity through the acquisition of the English language. Its significance is now much more than being a universal mode of communication. For us, it is to make a statement: we are modern, progressive and educated.

Sadly, we end up making only one statement: we are ignorant fools. Paindus!

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

13 comments:

Afaque said...

Well Saadia,
I agree on the point that our languages are in the phase of fading out or deterioration. But really I don't give Urdu much preference. I prefer Punjabi on Urdu and even English on Urdu. No doubt Urdu is our national lang but I don't see Urdu too much of an elaborative lang. May be because we let it to be like it was and did not contribute in its evolution and so by the time its getting kinda boring. in contrary to that Punjabi is full and rich in vocabulary... there seldom is any expression which cant be explained in Punjabi with ease...
and about Mughals I have my reservations too... wont make the comment longer much more... :) so do check a post I wrote a few days ago about Mughals....
http://muddleheadedsblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/mughal-nama.html

Writing for Crows said...

I think its all about perspective. If you say just because they cann you paindus, you arnt going to talk punjabi or urdu that sucks. I think we are easily intimidated by the world.

Saadia said...

Afaque, I'm not sure I agree with your verdict on the urdu language, but if you hold that opinion, it must be well-founded. However, we can agree to disagree. My point remains: one should embrace one's own language, and carry it forward.

About the Mughal-period, that is and will remain our history. If you don't admire their system of governance, you may appreciate their aesthetics (the Taj Mahal, the Shalimar Gardens et al). Infighting in royal families is stranger to no dynasty. Anyhow, I'm now heading over to your blog.

Saadia said...

Writing for Crows, I didn't understand the first part of your comment. As for your last statement, I can't, for the love of God, understand why speaking our own language is reason to be intimidated by the world. The Spanish speak their own language, the French their's, the Chinese their's, the English their's... I'm sure you agree.

Daanish said...

Urdu,Punjabi,English all languages needed for communications.The difference shows up when you are either in love or in anger!

We get best of either feelings in our native languages.

How do we know said...

Sooo true!!

When we were younger, we knew that we had to learn English, but a joint family also ensured that we heard English, Hindi and Punjabi in equal measure. Then there were nrighbors who taught us Gujarati, Sindhi, Marwadi and a little Telugu.

:-)

Akhbari Reporter said...

Bulleh Shah, Waris Shah, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz etc are our asset and we should be proud of them.
My criteria of Painduism is that "One who lives in Pakistan but does not understand local languages" :p

Saadia said...

Very well said, Daanish. The anger part, especially! Haha.

One cannot undermine the importance of the English language worldwide, but that should not be at the cost of native languages.

How-do-we-know, you were lucky. This no longer happens at home, much less by neighbours.

Akhbari Reporter, I bow to your criteria!

Saadia said...

Talking of Ghalib, Book review: On Ghalib and culture —by Khaled Ahmed.

Afaque said...

Saadia,
Yes of course we must agree to disagree...
there are many reasons why I don't believe Urdu to be that pertinent as Punjabi. But leaving aside much bookish knowledge, I would say that I found myself quite strangled many times while translating in to urdu. But let me reiterate again, I believe that its because of our own fault. We didnt let it to evolve...

Saadia said...

Interestingly, I find those loopholes in the English language rather than Urdu. But then, maybe those are just our shortcomings! :-)

Id it is said...

Knowing a language is a skill, and a life skill at that, so being multilingual is an advantage. What I don't understand is how a fixed value can be set to a language. Knowing Urdu in Pakistan is perhaps a life saving skill but would not be so in the USA. However, it still is a skill that is acquired after extended effort, and nothing can take that away! As for the elevated status of English as compared to other languages of the world, I believe we all understand why it is so. Communication is vital for progress, and a language that facilitates communication across nations and continents is bound to be more sought after than another, the use of which may be confined to one nation/region alone.
I speak five languages, and English is not my first language, yet I have a deep regard and love for the English language; partly because it's the language I use for the most part of my day.
Sorry for the lengthy comment!

Saadia said...

The lengthy comment is appreciated.

Learning English today is vital; and learning Mandarin tomorrow may be even more vital. Of couse! I do not think that it should be at the cost of or in compromise of peoples' own languages. Unfortunately, here in Pakistan, our own languages are not only taking the backseat, but are being shown the door, especially in the upper and middle classes. Why they still survive in the poorer stratas of society is perhaps attributable to their lack of choice.

And wow, five languages! I'm impressed. May we know which ones they are?