Stories about Punjabi

Mohammad Khalid Akhtar’s witty, pithy advice for the New Year

Mohammad Khalid Akhtar (1920-2002) was one of the greatest, albeit marginalised and neglected, Urdu satirists of the 20th century. Despite hailing from Bahawalpur, he broke the monopoly of the so-called ‘Urdu-wallahs’ over literature and wrote some memorable novels, short-stories and sketches to join the immortal writers of Urdu literature. Hence, the short and sharp extract on the New Year presented below, taken from his longer, satirical Scientific Primer: For Slightly Older Adults, which forms part of his 1968 Adamjee Prize-winning essay collection ‘Khoya Hua Ufaq’ (The Lost Horizon), is not only the perfect way to celebrate the arrival of yet another ...

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A Sindhi living in Sindh, yet ashamed of their own “tacky” language

I am one of those lucky few who got to spend her childhood with her grandparents. My grandfather would tell me stories of the days of Partition. He was quite young at the time, but seemed to remember every single detail about how everyone in his village would prepare for the people coming to live in Sindh from across the border. He told me how the women would prepare and bring food to the railway platforms, and how some people would even vacate their homes to welcome the refugees. I would often ask him why they had to do ...

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I think, pray and speak in English, so why should I speak to my children in Urdu?

My twins are almost three-years-old and they can’t speak Urdu, my ‘mother tongue’. They hear it being spoken around the house, and occasionally I may try to converse with them in Urdu but truth be told, it doesn’t come naturally. As first-time parents, we did get the infamous lecture that we should only speak to our children in Urdu or else they will never be able to speak the language. People would say, “Don’t worry, they will learn English at school but you must speak to them in Urdu.” The common fear is that our children will drift away from their cultural heritage. Most people believe that language is what will keep our ...

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Why have we forgotten the long lost glory of the Punjabi language?

The thorny issue of “Pakistan’s regional languages face looming extinction” has been projected to the forefront in an AFP report carried, among others, by The Express Tribune and Dawn. ‘“There is not a single newspaper or magazine published in Punjabi for the 60 million-plus Punjabi speakers,” wrote journalist Abbas Zaidi in an essay, despite it being the language of the nationally revered Sufi poet Bulleh Shah and the native-tongue of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.’ The historical relegation of the Punjabi language comes from the cloud overshadowing the Punjabi stance in the 1857 War of Independence, paving the way for Urdu’s ascendance. The Punjabis meekly ceded the high ground moving house ...

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If you think Trump is racist, come to Pakistan

Muslims in the US and across the globe are condemning, in the strongest possible words, the US President-Elect Trump, for his anti-Islam rhetoric during the election campaign. And now that the British and American people have made the seemingly impossible possible, in the form of Brexit and Trump’s victory respectively, Muslims have every reason to be worried about a substantial increase in Islamophobia in the West. But while the concern for our Muslim brethren living abroad is completely legitimate, let us introspect and have an objective, impartial discussion about Pakistan’s own covert affair with bigotry. One of the reasons Pakistan was founded was for ...

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Why is Sindhi considered an inferior language to English or Urdu?

It was Friday afternoon and I was holed up in my room, surfing through the internet when my nine-year-old sister entered. She had just gotten back home from school so she was still wearing her school uniform. She’s currently in the fourth grade at a well-known school. As I asked her about her day, she started telling me about her performance in a Sindhi class test. She said that the day before the Sindhi test, she was really exhausted and didn’t feel like studying for it. She had aced it anyway. But that wasn’t the point, I asked, “How can you not prepare for ...

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The invasion of the Lahori relatives

There are times when one must write. The alternative is to burst – which would be messy. Because they came today, the rellies (relatives), while I was playing Scrabble on Facebook in a pleasant state of mindlessness. Have you ever played Scrabble? It can be exciting but right then the game was slow. I had just played ‘qi’ which, short as it is, often gets well over 30 points but this time I only got 22. Then my opponent somewhere in Australia played ‘hick’ which got him 18. Obviously he wasn’t having a good day either. Then I played ‘koi’ ...

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I am Pakistani, just like you. Except we’re not the same

Edmonton like many other metropolitan cities is an interesting blend of people of various nationalities, race, religion and creed. Walk around in the neighbourhood or enjoy the lazy summer sunshine in a park and you will be struck with a variety of people and languages you hear. The same exotic sampling of populations is present in schools, which gives children a wonderful opportunity to not only mingle or learn about various cultures but also to accept their differences and forge friendships out of their own communities at a very young age. It was a special day for the children of a small elementary school in Edmonton. They had ...

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Pakistan, I am of you, from you, and no matter where I am, inseparable from you

Once when I was six years old I sneaked out of my grandmother’s house in Lahore’s old Mozang neighbourhood and headed for the nearby Mozang Bazaar, a large market of red-brick shops over a hundred years old. The shops there fascinated me to no end and I was determined to discover kites – my main attraction – of every shape and size. Getting there was no problem as my grandmother’s laane ended in the bazaar itself. Once there though, I lost track of time and my curiosity led me to explore the entire bazaar. At some point I realised I was lost. ...

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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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