At the launch of his book, In Other Words in the Capital recently, Javed Akhtar not only left the audience in splits but also provided ample food for thought.
“Once upon a time, I was very worried as to the future of the language. Now, I don’t have that worry. Now, the worry is about any Indian language. Even the national language seems to be in trouble. This is because if you speak Hindi clearly, it seems like there is something amiss in your upbringing. Be it Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi or others, it is important for us that these languages continue to flourish.
Language is not only a vehicle for communication, language carries culture,
language carries tradition, a sense of continuity and ultimately a sense of identity. The moment you kill a language, you make a person rootless. That is what is happening with all our indigenous languages,” he said.
Akhtar who started writing Urdu poetry in 1980, and had his first collection of nazms and ghazals titled, Tarkash way back in 1995, said of the Urdu language, “Languages belong to regions. Where does Urdu belong to? Is Urdu a North West Frontier’s or Bangladesh’s language or language of the Pashtun? This language was imposed there. This language is in fact of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab. Punjabis have been bilingual traditionally.”
The writer, poet, lyricist blamed Partition for the demise of the language. “Urdu was sent to the place where it did not belong to and it was taken away from where it belonged to.
Despite the mistreatment, it is people’s language. Even without state patronage, it is still alive. Urdu has been mistreated, there is no doubt but the fact now is, every tongue is being badly treated. It is very ironical that a language which was secular, liberal, progressive, was killed at the altar of the two-nation theory.”
Launching the book, a collection of selected poems written over a period of 15-16 years, Akhtar said, “I meet a lot of Pakistanis in America and England. They compliment me that we ‘make good Urdu films in India.’ So, they think of Hindi films as Urdu.”
He went on to talk about Hindustani as a language. “There is no other language combination like Hindi and Urdu in the world. One language that we all have forgotten is Hindustani. For instance Punjabi is written in Gurmukhi, in Devanagari, in Persian but it remains Punjabi. Scripts don’t make languages. Vocabularies also don’t make up languages. Language is known because of its grammar. Vocabulary can be taken from anywhere. The grammar is of Hindustani which is used by both Hindi and Urdu. What we speak is Hindustani.”
He mentioned the need to know one’s language to stay connected to one’s
roots and that the interest to learn is still there.
In a conversation with Metrolife, he said, “Urdu is a tough language because it has the production of the common man so it is ironical that the number of people who can read Urdu is reducing because it is not available in schools and colleges, but the number of people who are interested in Urdu and Urdu literature is increasing. That is why Urdu poetry, Urdu literature is selling like proverbial hot cakes in Devanagari including Urdu pronunciation books to Urdu short stories to novels.”
Akhtar who also dons the hat of a lyricist and scriptwriter said, “Literature to a great extent is the history of common man. Writers deal with human beings. They look at certain people and incidences to look at what is below the surface.”
He added, “The first thing should not be to write. You cannot write without reading. Don’t be selective, read all kinds of material. Becoming too much academic is bad and one should not lose the child-like quality as well.”