Stories about language

Dear adult, please just stop. Love, the child

Meet me, I am a child. I have been living on this Earth since the time human beings inhabited the planet. I have inhabited all parts of the world and have been part of all cultures, all races and all nations. Yet, I am considered a different specie altogether. Who am I? I am a psychic embryo, a psychic nymph, rich with dynamic powers of intellect. Believe me, I have the power to teach myself. Have you not noticed that I grow up speaking my parents’ language when no one teaches me? I learn to walk and climb, I learn to hold and transfer from hand ...

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Hindi Medium proves that English is still the language of the colonisers, except the elite are the colonisers now

When you think of language, you think in a language. For me, it’s English. It always has been. Sometimes, I wonder if my thoughts were in another language, would I be different? Would my life have turned out differently? Perhaps. You never know, that’s the thing. Hindi Medium made me realise that language has the power to change. I see it every day around me. I see it at work when I try to communicate in Urdu but my vocabulary falls short. I used to see it in school, when people mocked that one kid for speaking in Urdu because God forbid, ...

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Why does the state structure and narrative unfairly favour Punjab?

The selective way of presenting history in Pakistan conveniently ignores the fact that at the time of the country’s creation, there were two large movements which were sometimes contrasting and sometimes overlapping. The first was primarily centred on the Muslim identity and tried to actually bargain a better position for its bearers. This movement though ended up in carving a separate homeland for the Muslims but did not have a strong separatist thrust, at least in the beginning. However, the Islamic identity itself was not the only identity taken up by the Muslims as strong ethnic nationalist tendencies existed particularly in ...

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Time

Her breath was already heavy last night. Her heartbeat at 45 clicks a minute. But it beat. Quietly and clearly; it pumped on. The light on the monitor was green and it would beep every now and then. The sound meant she was alive. It’s been three weeks since I’ve been in here. At first I thought the walls would close in on me. It felt claustrophobic, but not anymore. I know the nurses by their first names now, and the chef at the cafeteria turned out to be an old college colleague. He always had a knack for cooking. ...

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Will rebranding Christians make their lives any easier in Pakistan?

“Pakistan’s Christians will now be respectably called ‘Masihi.’ National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has issued orders regarding use of Masihi for Christians instead of Esaayi, in the column for Religion.” Pakistani Christians had been seeking rebranding for quite some time. “The Urdu ‘Isai’ (derived from ‘Esa’, the Arabic word for ‘Jesus’ used in the Qur’an) now carries strong overtones (of) ‘unclean’ demeaning occupations. This use of language feeds the narrative which makes Christians feel like second-class citizens in today’s society.  On October 8, 2015 in Lahore, more than 500 Muslim students took an oath that they would not call Christians ‘Esaayi,’ but would ...

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Mr Nawaz Sharif, you should not be the foreign minister of Pakistan

Since a foreign minister represents his or her country at all international conferences, he or she has to be highly educated. Sometimes a very experienced diplomat is appointed as foreign minister, at other times a popular politician is selected. Pakistan, being a nuclear armed state with plenty of problems of its own, is in urgent need of a foreign minister. But at present, it is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (NS) who is doubling as the foreign minister of the country. We have had some very good foreign ministers, one of them being Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, the longest serving foreign minister of the country. Besides being a retired general, ...

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If Hindi is a threat to our national and regional languages, what about English?

Doraemon (a Japanese manga anime dubbed in Hindi) is blamed for the corruption of our children’s own language as we continue to speak a mish-mash of Urdu, English and our respective regional languages. Doraemon has risen as the latest target of criticism. This is the time to honour our culture and language and the well-being of our children. It is heart-warming to see that big-shots in the parliament are concerned about the impact of our TV screens on the youngest of their constituents. However, one of their reasons, along with the ensuing public debates, has revealed the entrenched hypocrisy in ...

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‘Gurus’ like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Ramdev are a bad influence on society

Spirituality is no guarantee of salvation; it does not make you immune to the ordinariness of life. The yellow garb or white robe does not lift you from your prejudices and pettiness. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Ramdev, the popular spiritual gurus of India with a large following have proved this point. Their conduct establishes how they have made spirituality a business, a resource that is exploited to get closer to political power. They use their support base as a constituency to strike a bargain with the ruling class and indulge in political brinkmanship. A spiritual guru is normally silent and maintains ...

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Stop saying ‘I feel like’

In American politics, few forces are more powerful than a voter’s vague intuition.  “I support Donald Trump because I feel like he is a doer,” a senior at the University of South Carolina told Cosmopolitan. “Personally, I feel like Bernie Sanders is too idealistic,” a Yale student explained to a reporter in Florida. At a Ted Cruz rally in Wisconsin in April, a Cruz fan declared, “I feel like I can trust that he will keep his promises.” These people don’t think, believe or reckon. They “feel like.” Listen for this phrase and you’ll hear it everywhere, inside and outside politics. This reflex to hedge every statement as a feeling or a hunch ...

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Why has it become so acceptable to know English but not know Urdu?

“Humne Urdu k saath sautanon wala sulook kara hai aur almiya ye k ye samjhanay k liye bhi aik dusri zubaan ka sahara lena parega.” (We have always treated Urdu as a step-child and the worst part is, in order to fully understand our native language, we seek help from a foreign one.) It hits hard, doesn’t it? Sadly, what we never realise is that language is an art that breathes with those who breathe it. It matters not which language you speak, neither does is matter what your prowess is in the language, but what does matter is the respect any and all languages command. ...

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