Urdu Hay Jis Ka Naam
By Saeed Qureshi
Muslims in the sub-continent look at Urdu as their language and an identity symbol for them. From literary point of view, it is at par with the Persian language. Factually most of the diction and vocabulary of which Urdu is composed of come from Persian and Arabic. Urdu’s total life so far is about seven hundred years. It has been advancing from one phase of refinement to another during all these centuries.
That is why the many words and grammatical formation of early times are different from the latest script that is now prevalent. Urdu like its mother tongues namely Arabic, Persian and to some extent Punjabi is written from right to left. All Latin languages and Indian subcontinent languages are written from left to right.
But we have to mention another prominent language of the Sub-continent that is so sacred for Hindus. It is Hindi language. It is interesting to note that Urdu and Hindi are almost same as far as speaking and vocabulary are concerned. But when it comes to the style of writing Hindi, it is written from left to write and in Sanskrit script. In its outwardly form it is akin to all other languages that are written and spoken from Far East to the borders between India and Pakistan. Hindi’s fund of words and phrases are derived from the scared language Sanskrit.
Here is the difference between Urdu and Hindi. But happily, those who speak only Urdu and those who speak Hindi understand each other. We may say that a common language was in the making in that even Urdu lovers now speak some of the words that exclusively belong to either Hindi and Sanskrit’s the cleavage and gulf that exist because of the different vocabulary is being bridged gradually.
The early shape of Urdu as has been stated above is certainly different from what Urdu is now. Same can be said about the integration of Urdu and Hindi. A time might come when a blend of both these languages come up, eliminating the difference that we see now. The literature and its forms of expression seldom remain static. We know that wherever the two different cultures met, they started influencing each other and in due course of time a third culture emerged. This is also true in case of Hindus and Muslims.
By living a thousand years together we now see that the Muslim have adopted many Hindu customs which we can call as the Indian culture. The rituals and customs that Muslims observe in case of marriage and several other social customs are what the Hindus occasionally practice. So here is a common point that despite the different religions and beliefs brings the Muslims and Hindus together. Same can happen in case of Urdu and Hindi languages as far as speaking are concerned although the style of script would remain the same.
But when we look at the formative history of Urdu we find that while Muslim writers and poets and literary figures extensively wrote in Urdu, the Hindu writers gained prominence in this language too. The litany of such writers and poets is long. On the contrary very few Muslims wrote in Hindi in the past. But now we can see that in India even Muslim are now writing and speaking in Hindi and several books and literary works by Muslims have appeared in Hindi. Muslims in several parts of India have learnt Hindi language besides Urdu. Hindi being the official language in India has a dominant sway and therefore the citizens whether Muslims or Hindus have to learn. But the conservative Muslims still like to prefer using Urdu as the medium of expression.
But it is expected that the ice would start melting with the time passage and both the communities would take equal interest in both the languages. In politics there might be frictions and conflicts but on the social, cultural and literary fronts, such dividing barriers would give way to integration and an atmosphere of homogeneity. That would be a glorious day for the people of India and Pakistan whether Muslims or Hindus.
There is a need for someone to pick up the cudgel of collecting and composing literary achievements both in poetry and prose of both the languages. The Urdu literature can be written in Hindi script and vice versa Hindi can be written in Urdu script. It should be in fact called a literary exchange between the two leading languages of the sub-continent. That effort which would be first of its own kind would go a long way in generating enormous and abiding good will between the two nations at the same time. That might ultimately soften the attitude of those hard liners who always remain on the lookout of throwing spanners into attempts of normalizing relations between the two neighbors.
In this regard the Mushaira being held in Dallas on May 25, 2008 will be a move towards this welcome direction. The Mushaira is being attended by both Urdu and Hindi of eminence and good standing from India and Pakistan . That show of cordiality by literary community of both the countries would be unique and will be always remembered. It might work as the first giant step towards bringing India and Pakistan in other fields.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.