Stories about Urdu

Am I a ‘ganwaar’ if I speak in Punjabi?

Over the last few weeks, I have been meeting children from different parts of Punjab. They ranged in age between three and five years and included children of my friends and extended family. I was pleasantly surprised to hear these kids speaking in Punjabi. Some of the phrases that I recall hearing them use are, “Kithay chalay o?” (Where are you off to?) “Aa ki aey?” (What is this?) “Ki karde paye o?” (What are you doing?) Punjabi is the most widely spoken language across Pakistan. However, from what I have seen, most of the people in Punjab – especially those living in the urban centres – do ...

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Don’t label me ‘Mohajir’

Being a first generation Mohajir might have felt like stepping into an exciting new territory full of adventures in reassertion of identity, a deeper assimilation into the national fabric and finding a voice in a country teeming with provincialism. However, as a second generation Mohajir reflecting over the three decades that have transpired since, it seems that these were nothing short of a fool’s dreams that at least I could have survived without. Objectively, I feel that having chased these dreams has actually left me more devoid in numerous avenues than empowered. Retrospectively, I find it hard to understand why we ...

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‘Abay yaar’, who betrayed Urdu?

There is a large number of modern, educated people in Pakistan that are blind to an entire area of literature, beginning with the first Urdu novel written by Deputy Nazir Ahmed back in the 1800s to anything written in the Urdu newspapers today. Not only are they completely oblivious, but this educated class also looks down upon the mother language and anything associated with it. To me, it seems that it’s not their fault. For every one of them, somewhere along the line, Urdu lost its value and respect in their eyes. This is how I experienced it. I remember very vividly the day I first used the word ...

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I am Pakistani, whether I speak Urdu or Punjabi

We are not a sitar with a single string, and our music takes more than one chord to make. We are a convergence of languages and cultures, all of which are simply too lustrous to be overshadowed by any single one. Yet Urdu is not considered a language; it is an apparatus used to measure patriotism. It is a test that is used to verify one’s allegiance to our green and white flag. Isn’t this an awkward status to have bestowed upon Urdu, considering hardly eight percent of Pakistanis speak it as their mother tongue? On the other hand, Punjabi happens to be the first language ...

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Is Urdu just a servant’s language today?

Recently, a comment made on the language that is a part of our identity, Urdu, left me in utter shock. A friend of mine told me about an incident that took place with his sister, who’s an Urdu teacher for grade one and two in Lahore. A student, in one of her classes, was refusing to speak in Urdu during the period. When she asked him as to why he was being so difficult, his response was nothing less than shocking and disappointing. ‘My mom told me that Urdu is a servant’s language’ Please take a moment, sit back and let that ...

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Why should Sindhi be taught in all schools of Sindh?

The Government of Sindh recently announced that it would ensure that private educational institutions offer Sindhi language as a separate subject. The announcement went on to state that schools refusing to offer Sindhi would be fined or even have their permits revoked.  This announcement has led to predictable outrage. Some have argued that students who attend private schools have no use for learning a language that is ‘only’ spoken within Sindh. On the other hand, children attending public schools, given their financial background also have little practical utility for studying the region’s native language. This, in itself, is a false assumption ...

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Is this the death of the Urdu language?

After reading Raza Rumi’s ‘Delhi by Heart’, I came across a touching phrase by Khurshid Afsar Bisrani, “Ab urdu kya hai, ek kothay ki tawaif hai, mazaa har ek leta hai, mohabbat kam kartey hain.” (What is Urdu, but a prostitute of a brothel, everyone takes advantage, but only few truly love her.) This prompted me to pen down my feelings regarding the state of Urdu in daily life. The way our young generation has distanced itself from Urdu, especially Urdu literature, is something to lament. Thanks to my upbringing, with both my parents being fond of reading Urdu, I have lived in an environment ...

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Remembering Ashfaq Ahmed: Through his stories, he will live forever in our hearts

On September 7, 2004, while sitting in my office and doing my routine work, I received a call from a close friend. Without the usual ‘Salam dua’ he exclaimed, “Ashfaq sahib is no more; just got the news.” It was a short sentence, but it had many aspects attached to it. The feeling of a great loss, sweet memories of so many stories, dramas and plays, of colourful travelogues, funny incidents, thought-provoking quotes of Sufis and other baabay (mystics); nostalgic recollections of a life well spent, and fully lived. So much came to mind and passed like a breeze, leaving me numb and motionless ...

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What happened when a Pashtun child tried to read Urdu

Note: To fully understand this post, it is mandatory that you watch the video pasted above. If one knows Urdu as well as Pashto then watching this video invokes instant laughter. I had great fun carrying out this experiment on a lot of my friends, having them watch the video and crack up. However, the post-laughter response to this video has usually been a lament about the state of education in Pakistan. There were many who were genuinely saddened by the unfulfilled potential of this boy to learn. Many deficiencies in the education system of Pakistan can be attributed to the meager ...

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If Twitter can have their site in Urdu, why can’t Facebook?

Since its inception in 2004, Facebook has been a revolution, an addiction, a maddening genius which took over websites like MySpace, Orkut, hi5 and revolutionized the dynamics of social interaction. To cater to its ever increasing user base, 1.11 billion (active March 2013), Facebook has revamped itself many times to keep a competitive edge and keep their user base intact. In 2008, it offered users a new experience- now Facebook could be used in one’s mother tongue. This breakthrough received immense positive feedback. The language barrier was felt no more and networking became simpler, authentic and increasingly intimate. However, with Facebook allowing over 50 languages across ...

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