Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Urdu language and Kashmir Culture

Urdu is the language of our unconscious; our archetypal world is coloured by it. Our religion, our literature, our tradition, our songs, our conversations and our speeches are mostly in Urdu. Some of the greatest masterpieces of literature of past few centuries are in Urdu. Hindi cinema’s abiding appeal owes a lot to Urdu. English has served to alienate us from our culture and religion. Urdu can delineate us. English is the legacy of colonialism even though it is indispensable and needs to be learnt as well.
I wonder how many of our educated people can enjoy persianized Urdu of standard religious works such as Maulana’s Thanvi’s commentary on the Quran or standard translations of such classics as Fusus-ul-Hikm.
For an Urdu literate it is easy to become Kashmiri literate – it takes only one day’s hard effort to learn Kashmiri script for Urdu literates. For Urdu literate it is easy to learn Persian and Arabic. Serving Urdu is one of the best ways of serving Kashmiri. Educate in Urdu and you prepare the ground for educating in Kashmiri  and Persian. For most of us Arabic and Persian are not accessible but Urdu has preserved the essence of Arabic-Persian legacy and thus the spirit of these literatures is made accessible.
Few students choose to take Urdu or are proud of taking Urdu at UG and PG levels. English lecturers are in great demand for tuitions and other things but who asks Urdu people?
Our identity – religious-intellectual identity – is linked not only to Kashmiri but to Urdu as well. If we aren’t well versed in Urdu we are not culturally conscious and literate. If we can not enjoy Urdu literature we are cut off from the best in our culture and tradition.      
Colonial past dictates that our children are more familiar with English literature than with Urdu. How many of them have even heard of Bedi and Krishan Chander or of Akhtarul Iman? How many of us know the Shakespeare of Urdu language? We are crazy for English literature and it is in great demand. It sells and it thus pays to be a tutor. But this status should have been for Urdu. Our Urdu newspapers are not esteemed as much as their English counterparts. It is seen as a greater privilege to read English paper than the Urdu one.
Barring Hamidi Kashmiri no Kashmiri name is heard in Urdu criticism we have hardly any great names amongst novelists and short story writers though we do have some good poets in Urdu. It shows that we have not been very faithful to it.
Our young generation can’t understand much of Galib or Iqbal. Not to be able to enjoy Diwani Galib or Bali-Jibriel is great disqualification for a person who speaks Urdu. I was shocked when one of friends, a gazetted officer, requested me to provide English translation of Iqbal because he couldn’t understand or even comfortably read Urdu.There are some spokespersons of Kashmiri language but very few of Urdu. It is criminal negligence on the part of authorities to ignore Urdu.
Urdu is here supposed to be official language but only patwaris and some petition writers use it officially. Not many people can write it or read it. Our general education in Urdu is awfully low to make “translators” and commentators of Iqbal necessary. I don’t understand why our religious scholars are not very serious about the predicament of Urdu in Kashmir. To Urdu is linked our understanding of religion.
There is a need of drive for Urdu medium schools. Urdu should be in higher secondary medium of instruction.It is heartening to note efforts of Maulana Azad University. Its regional centers have attracted many students for pursuing degrees in Urdu. It is hoped that it, along with NCPUL, will continue to attract people to Urdu.There is no comparison to Galib in English literature. There is no philosopher-poet of the stature of Iqbal in the history of English literature. We Orientals are great crafters and none can rival us in perfection of form. The perfection of rhythm and rhyme that we find in Urdu or Kashmiri gazals is unmatched in English language. We have great names in literature but colonialists have managed to impose their canon as the canon and indirectly marginalizing traditional literatures.

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