Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Curious Case of Urdu in UP


Woh kare baat toh har lafz se khushboo aaye, 
Aisi boli wohi bole jise Urdu aaye..
   Urdu literally means 'Khichdi' or hotch-potch as it was a mixture of Hindi vocabulary interspersed with words of Persian. You could make it complex by putting more Persian or make it simple by putting more of Hindi words in it. Ghalib's poetry of early years had more of Persian influence (something on which Momin, another poet had made fun of him saying- inki kahi ya yeh khud samjhe ya Khuda samjhe!), he had to simplify his language to become popular!
  Britishers in trying to replace Persian with English as the official language post- Mughals, also communalized Urdu as the language of the Muslims. To just relate it to Muslims could not have been more wrong. It was the language of harmony, of communication between Hindu and Muslims, natives of India and migrant Muslims. They kept its script Arabic (most probably the reason why, it came to be associated with Muslims).  
  Urdu language since independence in India, has had to go through a turbulent time. After Partition, Urdu became 'official' language of Pakistan, giving the tag of 'Muslim language' more mileage. Although, in India, there were more speakers of the language. It became a symbol of identity for Indian Muslims, leading to its politicization.  Bollywood still uses Urdu to express everything from romance to courtroom drama (with dialogues like- mee Lord!mere fazil dost janab..etc etc). It is alive and kicking in songs of films of previous and present era. 
 Urdu had a close association with UP, as it was often referred to as the Awadhi language - of Awadh/Lucknow court. The whole Babri Masjid movement communalized the state, the rule of BJP meant sidelining the 'Muslim' language, in favour of Hindi.
 My parents migrated from UP to Delhi due to my father's job here. He was fond of Urdu poetry, so he made sure that at least one of his children should know the language. My elder brother went to a Christian Missionary school, where he never learnt it and instead learnt Sanskrit (as it was more scoring! ). I went to a school which offered Urdu as an additional language apart from Hindi and English, so I learnt the language!
 My uncles and aunts (from my mother's side) still stay in UP. Their children went to schools, which were Hindi medium. These kids never learnt Urdu. Now, they have grown up, done their graduation, post-graduations, B.Ed and are searching for govt.jobs. The govt has changed in UP. Now to give reservation to Muslims in govt jobs, they have a Urdu quota where they are employing teachers to teach in Urdu medium schools. We do not know if  the policy will change once the govt changes, but the effect has been that the generation which never learnt Urdu, is now going back to learning it. My cousins are diligently reading 'Alif- bey- tey- sey' of Urdu now. The books in this medium are not even there, the generation of new young 'Muslim' teachers who only learnt Hindi to get jobs, are learning fast the basics of a 'forgotten' language.   
  The Madarsas which were teaching in Urdu medium till now, have had their own troubles too. There have been problems of teaching subjects like Maths, Science, Social Studies, Computers in Urdu. The conditions for kids who stay there, are horrible. An acquaintance who recently visited a Madarsa in a remote area had few flattering things to say about it. Food is neither nutritious nor good, and very less in quantity, apart from the children sleeping on floors with thin bedding. Suffice to say, conditions not conducive for learning.  They need funds which are not coming, and even if they get something, there are middlemen who ensure that it never reaches the children. In Delhi, the few govt run Urdu-medium schools which are there never get their books on time. Of course, we cannot generalize but it is the case with most Madarsas and Urdu medium schools (based on my interactions with students/ teachers there).
  The politicization of such a beautiful language is sad but irony is, the language which was almost dying in UP has at least got a new lease of life now. And new learners too!

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