Why is Punjabi viewed as an inferior language?

Published: February 22, 2016

International Mother Language Day marked with talk on its importance. PHOTO: facebook.com/rsueld

The car paused at a busy signal and as I was fidgeting with my rings, a colourful banner caught my attention. It read ‘goongay Punjab apni zaban mangda’ (the deaf and mute Punjab seeks its language). This statement brought back so many memories.

February 21st is celebrated as the International Mother Language Day. This celebration holds very significant, at the same time, conflicting and tormenting memories in my mind. It started with pain, but eventually evolved into something beautiful.

Punjabi is my maa boli (mother tongue) and it was the only language I was taught when I was a child. My father loved his native language and contrary to his contemporaries, he insisted upon teaching us Punjabi as he believed that the rest of the necessary languages would come to us naturally, with the course of time. We resented his decision for a long time and we had our reasons for it as well. When I went for my school interview, I identified the colour white as ‘cheeta’, as I was confused between Urdu, English and Punjabi. Although I was accepted, I still remember the agony I faced when I became the laughing stock in my school. The Principal was amused and understood the dilemma, she granted admission but that day I learned that this has to change, if I am ever going to be taken seriously.

My siblings and I were a joke for the family as well.

“See how cute they look, so young and conversing in Punjabi”

Even now, when I see a child speaking in Punjabi, I want to assure him that it’s completely okay.

The school was no different as well. As kids have always been ruthlessly blunt and bullying was not recognised as a scarring practice back then, the art of restraint had to be learnt. Most of the questions, learning and sentiments were lost in translation.

The resentment remained with me, where other children were learning English, and doing well for themselves, I was struggling with Urdu. On many occasions, I used to hide my roots, as I felt that there is a certain stigma attached to being Punjabi. It’s associated with the lower-middle class; hence it’s not a very pleasant identity to flaunt.

My mind was unconsciously wired to think and write in English. Like my Macbook auto-corrector, the maa boli was automatically converted into an alien language. A part of me shunned and boxed it into some attic and learned to survive without it.

I continued to pretend that it is not my identity, until I could no longer loathe my origins and learnt to embrace it.

Now, whenever I’m with my mother, no matter how chic the location is, I always prefer to converse in Punjabi, regardless of the weird responses and glances it invokes. There are certain sentiments, which can only be expressed in our mother tongue. In my case, I fell in love with my native language when my father passed away. In his memory, I started accepting and embracing my roots.

Having said that, I regret the fact that I couldn’t transfer my Punjabi dialect to my children, in other words, I could not follow my father’s footsteps. In the fierce competition of moulding them to fit our society, I had to disconnect them from their roots.

A mother tongue is central in understanding the culture we belong to, the society we live in and the history we share. We must teach our children to love their identity, regardless of anything.

Fatima Majeed

Fatima Majeed

An avid reader, freelance writer and home maker.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • zoro

    Mother Language ?????Recommend

  • fatima

    I am glad you could relateRecommend

  • PunjabiKudi

    Born and growing up and Canada, I can totally relate to this matter! During my first day of kindergarten, I spoke Punjabi with all my classmates and teachers. No one actually cared though. They all thought it was cool. I learned english slowly, by being around other people who only spoke english. Being born and grown up inn Canada, Im proud and thankful that I know how to speak my native language as I love it, and it keeps me connected to my roots!Recommend

  • Danyal Behlim

    Rohan you are the real image of Rahul GandhiRecommend

  • wb

    Martial races? Do you really believe that crap?

    Use your brain. Anyone who is taught to fight from a young age can fight. Anyone who is not taught to fight, cannot fight.

    Today, if your Shahid Afridi picked up a fight with a well trained Hindu soldier, do you think he’d win just because he belongs to a “martial race”?

    Can’t believe people can be this stupid even in 2016.Recommend

  • Sajjad

    It is your comment that is racist.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Urdu means Turki army tent. It’s the language of slavery of natives. It need to be banned. English at present language of Science. Sanskrit can be language for storing structured knowledge and also a programming language.Recommend

  • Tergon18

    Why are Indians so obsessed with Pakistan? Recommend

  • Tergon18

    What native slaves are you talking about? Sanskrit isnt even spoken India.Recommend

  • Tergon18

    Punjab has the highest literacy rate in PakistanRecommend

  • Tergon18

    Punjabi is more older and has a more rich history than Urdu.Recommend

  • jay

    better than an image of Bilawal Bhutto.Recommend

  • Rohan

    We won you lost.PeriodRecommend

  • Abdullah Ahmad

    Im punjabi myself. Im not as narrow minded as you, fortunately.

    One question, only one. Give me a practical reason to learn urdu.Recommend

  • Abdullah Ahmad

    I only quoted jinnah to show that others thought that we needed unity.

    We dont adopt mandarin, becuase its not practical.

    Punjabi is useless, because it is impractical. Every 100 km has their own way of speaking.

    We dont call each other by numbers because it is impractical.

    One should only be made to learn the languages that are directly useful/relevant to his life , and should leave all these bullshit languages that have no objective use to old books and language studies classes in universities.

    BTW this is coming from a punjabi, i was born in the punjab with a purely punjabi heritage.And i can see the need for the old to die and the new to come in.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    Don’t parrot and ape others ‘comments’. See if you can be original.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Patwari ji this is narration of Bangladeshi and not of Hindu Indian. https://youtu.be/NKHd6eZ4TLQRecommend

  • Rohan

    India only mobilized 6,000 soldiers who made 93,000 soldiers who were Punjabi or pashtun surrender
    Pakistan got Kashmir before the war began hence UN resolutions ask you to ‘ENTIRELY’ vacate occupied KashmirRecommend

  • Rohan

    Gurumukhi came much before shahmukhi, the latter was mobilized through mughals and was given importance due to ideological reasons after 47Recommend

  • Rohan

    Gurumukhi is a derivative of Sanskrit like Urdu and some other Urdu.Shahmukhi is an artificial creation like PakistanRecommend

  • Rohan

    It’s called Indian sub continent and Indian civilization for some reason and that’s why Punjabi Muslims pretend to be Arabs to disassociate themselves from it.
    Plus 90 million Punjabis have more in common with Indian Punjabis,jatts and Sikhs who form a chunk of the northern population plus sindhi Muslims have a alot in common with sindhi Hindus though they are less in number here and muhajirs are basically Pakistanized Indians so Pakistan has more in common with India
    Creating an artificial country based on a hateful 2 nation theory which was proven to be false in 1971 doesn’t make you very different. You weren’t born in Arabia and it isn’t a British conspiracy to draw Pakistan near IndiaRecommend

  • Rohan

    When pakistan was created, the country’s diverse inhabitants had little in the way of a common identity that might bind them together. Indeed, even the very idea of Pakistan—which emerged in the 1930s, as some Indian Muslims began their quest for a separate homeland—had a relatively short history. Pakistan’s politicians have struggled with this lack of a common identity and principles ever since. As early as 1956 Hans Morgenthau presciently noted, “Pakistan is not a nation and hardly a state. It has no justification in history, ethnic origin, language, civilization, or the consciousness of those who make up its population … Thus it is hard to see how anything but a miracle, or else a revival of religious fanaticism, will assure Pakistan’s future.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Mohen jodarro was an indigenous civilization, trying to portray yourself as European is another result of an identity crises which Pakistanis have so that their silly 2 nation theory is justified
    Karachi had a slim Muslim majority and around 45% Hindus and it was Hindu majority till the mass murdering bin qasim arrived so stop portraying yourself as European because you’re another packi with an identity crises trying to escape the Indian pastRecommend

  • Tergon18

    Can you argue with facts and logic? Nowhere has he mentioned Moenjodaro. He has only listed historical empires and kingdoms that Pakistan (Indus Region) was part of. If you had ever read history you would know of these empires. And the genetic make-up of Pakistanis can be viewed on the Harappa DNA Project (it is available online), which shows them having different blood than Indians (other than 3% Punjabis and 8%Muhajirs). Nowhere has he claimed that Pakistanis are European either.Recommend