Is Punjabi staging its exit?
CHITVAN SINGH DHILLON
Languages should be evergreen
“Kucchar kudi te pind dindhora!” Are you able to comprehend what this Punjabi idiom in roman text means? Reality check: If your first language at home is Punjabi and you couldn’t understand this, then this is a testimony to the fact that our language is almost on the verge of extinction.
It is startling but true, that despite being born to a set of Punjabi parents, and proud ones at that, I have an ugly confession to make. While I can converse fluently in my own mother tongue, I find it increasingly difficult to read and write Punjabi, in Gurumukhi script. Yes, despicable me! What prompts me to pen down this article is the rate at which this beautiful language is fast disappearing and the day is not far when it will be a language of the past.
It was sometime back when the celebrated poet and writer, Pashaura S Dhillon brought to light the appalling findings of the UNESCO report that stated Punjabi language will disappear in the next 50 years or so
It was sometime back when the celebrated poet and writer, Pashaura S Dhillon brought to light the appalling findings of the UNESCO report that stated Punjabi language will disappear in the next 50 years or so. This created frenzy among the Punjabi literati and intellectuals. Like always, the matter was discussed, deliberated and debated at length. The consequence, no prizes for guessing, was — nothing! While it may be argued that languages do not kick the bucket, or languish on ventilators just on the basis of a mere 100-paged-something report, they are strong indicators of what lies ahead.
It is unfortunate but true, that in north India and Pakistan, Punjabi is not taught in many schools as a regional language or medium of instruction. Bizarre as it may sound; it is considered ‘crude’ and ‘unrefined’ to communicate in Punjabi among those living in the urban cosmopolitan cities. What’s worse? You’re not considered classy and elite if you speak Punjabi. It is disheartening to learn that such shocking revelations come from Punjabis themselves. Punjabi, as a language, finds zero acceptability in the business world and multinational corporations as a means of communication. What is upsetting is that, just for marks, children in high schools end up choosing other languages, regional or foreign. It is a colossal misconception that Punjabi is a language of the Sikhs, which is a myth I wish to dispel, and religion has nothing to do with it. Dear readers, our very own language is slowly but surely vanishing before our very own eyes as time is meandering its way through the cosmic clock.
It’s time to wake up! We are all experts at playing the blame game. It is not the sole responsibility of the state, or its policies, or the political class, or for that matter the media to save the dying language
It’s time to wake up! We are all experts at playing the blame game. It is not the sole responsibility of the state, or its policies, or the political class, or for that matter the media to save the dying language. The duty lies on our shoulders, too. We, as Punjabis, irrespective of our nationalities should possess the enthusiasm and passion of our own mother tongue. The policies by our states, must be revamped and refurbished, with calibrated focus on reviving the language ought to be its centre-piece. Pressure groups can act as powerful agents of social change and should aid in creating a conducive atmosphere for the revival of the language. I would laud the efforts of my own paternal grandfather, who took on the challenge of translating physics textbooks from English to Punjabi to boost its popularity in schools and colleges. The Punjabi film industry, on both sides of the border, has incredible prospects to cover a host of issues, and can function as an effective tool in dispelling the myths about this language, which have been misinterpreted by other industries. It’s time publishing houses and literary agents pay more attention for the resurgence of Punjabi and start patronising it.
Let there be a revolution. We need more Bulle Shahs and Amrita Pritams, so that the world will know the beauty and grace of this language. Save Punjabi, before it’s too late!
Curtsey:Pakistan Today:Published on MAY 2, 2015
Chitvan Singh Dhillon
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Chandigarh, India. He has been writing for Hindustan Times, Sunday Guardian, Daily Post India, The Hindu and Economic and Political Weekly. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.