Has Hindi become our national language?

Published: September 19, 2012
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Mastering the art of any of the spoken language through text books is an almost impossible task. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mastering the art of any of the spoken language through text books is an almost impossible task. PHOTO: REUTERS Mastering the art of any of the spoken language through text books is an almost impossible task. PHOTO: REUTERS Mastering the art of any of the spoken language through text books is an almost impossible task. PHOTO: REUTERS

Recently, interviews were held for admission at the newly established Cadet College Sarwakai in South Waziristan. It was then that a tribal child, being interviewed by an army officer in Urdu, shocked the interviewer.

The child was asked why he was eager to join cadet college.

“Sir, I want to join the Army”, replied the child.

“Why do you want to join the Army?” asked the interviewer.

The innocent child replied,

“Sir, main apne desh ki raksha karoon ga.”

(Sir, I will protect my country.)

The innocent child had no clue that these were not Urdu words, rather he had replied in pure Hindi instead of his national language! Even an Indian would have felt a sense of pride brought on by the purity and correctness of the sentence.

Having grown up on the fringes of the tribal areas and also having served for a significant duration in North and South Waziristan as well as in Balochistan, the blame can be put squarely on the people at the helm of affairs.

I learnt Urdu from PTV, like many other kids like me, and not in my school because either Pashto or Saraikee (both local languages of the area) were the medium of conversation in the government run schools.

But what about those kids who do not have access to PTV, where are they expected to learn how to speak Urdu?

PTV has very little coverage in FATA and Balochistan. As one moves towards the west from Dera Ismail Khan, the signal for PTV starts losing its strength. The further away you move, the more difficult it is to catch the signal.

I still remember, as a kid, how we used to connect the antenna to two very large bamboos, to give it the maximum possible height in order to catch the transmission signals. Even though this channel was filled with noise, snow and flickering, it was still enough to help us grasp the Urdu language.

While serving in Shawal Valley (North Waziristan Agency), and being an ardent cricket fan like every other Pakistani, my biggest worry was ‘how to watch a live cricket match’. Direct to Home (DTH) services were not very common and hence not easily accessible, so one had to resort to a Free-to-air satellite receiver. However, these only allowed one to watch those cricket matches that were played on Indian Soil — courtesy of Door Darshan. For the rest of the matches, we had to contend ourselves on listening to live commentary on the radio. With the exception of very few posts, located on the highest peaks in the area, PTV signals were nowhere to be found. We used to envy those present at these posts, as they were the few lucky ones who got the opportunity of watching live cricket matches on terrestrial PTV network.

Mastering the art of any of the spoken language through text books is an almost impossible task. While serving in Balochistan, one of the vehicles of the convoy broke down, near Spera Ragha, a village on the Quetta-Loralai Road. While the vehicle was being repaired, I got the opportunity to interact with some local boys, who were observing us with prying eyes; none of them were able to speak in Urdu.

On inquiring, I found that most of the children were students of the Matric class. I was astonished and asked them if they don’t study Urdu as a subject in their schools?

They told me that they do, but they read it in Pashto! By this they meant that Urdu is being translated in Pashto to make them understand what is written. Their main reason for not properly understanding and being unable to speak Urdu was the lack of coverage of PTV’s transmission, which covered only the main cities of Loralai and Zhob in that area.

With the advent of different Direct to Home Indian services and with its easy access, it has targeted these areas and has revolutionised their access to information and different TV channels.

Entertainment channels for children, showing round-the-clock cartoons and animated movies, dubbed in Hindi, and the lack of any proper children’s channels in Urdu has gradually made our forgotten youth experts of Hindi instead of Urdu. They aren’t even aware of the fact that these cartoons are not dubbed in Urdu but are in Hindi and many cannot even differentiate between the two languages!

The use of ‘very difficult Hindi’ words has become a common phenomenon in our youth and this is now gradually being accepted as part and parcel of our culture. It is high time for our electronic media to counter the onslaught of the Hindi language and give special emphasis to those areas where Urdu is not spoken even in schools. 

Do you think our youth is more fluent in Hindi than they are in Urdu?

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Khalid Amir Khan Gandapur

Khalid Amir Khan Gandapur

A soldier who belongs to Kulachi, Dera Ismail Khan. He tweets @kakhangandapur

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