Friday June 21, 2024

From riches to rags: Noted intellectuals discuss Urdu’s unfortunate ‘demise’

By Ebad Ahmed
February 08, 2016


Urdu hai jiska Naam, Hamee jante hain Dagh

Sare Jahan mei Dhoom hamari Zubaan ki hai

(Only we know the magnificence of Urdu Dagh

For it is the most celebrated across the world),

“Is what my teacher used to say every time one of us came up with a good write-up,” reminisced Urdu enthusiast Muhammad Khaliq as he settled down for his favourite session ‘Idhar Urdu, Udhar Urdu, Kidhar Urdu’, held on the third and last day of the Karachi Literature Festival, 2016.  

Meanwhile, renowned Urdu scholar and panellist for the session Arfa Sayeda Zehra, who once in an interview published in a magazine, had observed that Urdu was an unfortunate language since nobody owned it, stared probably in awe at the excited attendees.

Addressing the session, the novelist noted that Urdu was a language that easily absorbed foreign words but provided them with a distinct dialect.

“It not only soak-up words from Arabic and Persian but also from other regional languages.”

However, the academician believed that, “Urdu stopped growing mainly because it was not owned by those who derived their identity from it.”

Speaking of the language’s growth during the Mughal era, she acknowledged the emperors’ efforts in amalgamating Arabic, Persian, Chinese and other regional languages to form a medium of communication for the subcontinent.

Zehra also denied that Urdu was imposed during the colonial era. However, it was when she explained the relationship between a civilisation and a language that layers of hidden intellectual dimensions unravelled.  “A language carries within itself a civilisation. I feel proud to identify myself as a Muslim but I am more proud of the fact that I am a South Asian Muslim,” she said.

“We are the inheritors of communication, harmony and respect.”

 The imposed Arab-insation of our culture was unnatural and consequently brought about adverse impacts on Urdu, she further added.

In neo-liberal state structures, education was considered the key to employment instead of a means to understand life, she said, adding that this was precisely why Urdu was not given a priority because it was not, “the language of economy.”

Urdu academic from India, Saif Mehmood, remarked that Urdu unfortunately was perceived as the language of the Muslims in India.

“There have been campaigns to enforce the use of Devanagri script for writing Urdu, however, they have so far received resistance from the Urdu academia in India,” Mehmood added.