Hindi-Urdu debate, often uninformed

The evolution of Hindi and Urdu has been subject of contentious debate, sometimes uninformed about the history or the finer points of the two languages.

Intizar Hussain, a renowned Pakistani Urdu writer spoke to Metrolife on the culture of Urdu in India. “After 1947, the language had subsided to its lowest, but now I see it improving. A language will always revive itself or die on its own, no political party or group can do anything about it.”

Almost all of Hussain’s books have been translated in Hindi. According to him the roots of Urdu are present in our spoken Hindustani, drawing attention to the presence of shayari, ghazal and Sufi traditions in many parts our country and their popularity among the aficionados.

Rakshanda Jalil, a literary historian known for her book Invisible City: The hidden Monuments of India, says, “One cannot say Urdu is dying or dead. Translating any language to another has its drawbacks. It’s like looking at a carpet from the wrong side. One would see the patterns and colours but the lustre and vividness cannot be
witnessed.”

“If you read Kabir’s dohe in English can you enjoy it?” Jalil adds. “A language has its own emotional expression, I don’t think everything can be translated.” He says that in India, Hindi and Urdu go hand in hand and this increases the awkwardness of syntax in both the languages.

When the time to the decide on the rashtra bhasha came, Mahatma Gandhi had asked Rabindranath Tagore if all the languages should be written in the Roman script for the sake of unanimity.

To this Tagore expounded the importance of the scripts of each language, saying that such a move would mar the cultural heritage of the nation.
Sayeed Alam, playwright and director of Pierrot’s Troupe has created many plays coming under the category of Hindustani Theatre.

“I hate the word Hindustani, it is very non-accommodating of anything other than Hindi and Urdu,” he exclaims. “India has theatre in so many languages and dialects, why not include all of them under this category?”

According to Alam, Hindustani is a misnomer and also a way to sanskritise Urdu. He believes that people should be aware how much Urdu is ingrained in their
language. “Some people are not even aware that when they say words like galat and sahi that is also Urdu,” adds Alam.

While the more fervent supporters of Hindu nationalism see Sankritised Hindi as the appropriate choice for the national language, the liberals approach the language in a more conciliatory manner, and agree with Gandhi’s view of Hindustani.

The eminent poet-novelist of Hindi literature, Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’ had insisted many a times that this connection is rhetorical and was irrelevant.

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