Reviving Urdu at the expense of English won’t bring home the bacon
Many among us are on board the English bashing bandwagon. Once again the powers that be rile up against something foreign, something animated and something they have lived with for centuries. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this time the object of their ire is a language we litigate in, a language whose words have become part and parcel of our everyday vernacular, a language we want our children to master no matter what the cost, a language we pay hefty fees to con, in order to pass IELTS and attain the required bands to score visas of lands far-far away.
Without further ado, I am alluding to English or angrezi – as it is called in Urdu.
Yesteryear, one of our Chief Lordships spearheaded a wrong-headed campaign to ace the cause of Urdu language by demonising English in the first place and then made proper ‘constitutional arrangements’ to gradually boot out English and enthrone Urdu in its place. English, once the language of a tiny, frigid European island is now the most prized possession in every nook and cranny of our motherland.
But there is a chimera that bedevils us. Under its spell, we invest faith in a mass delusion which screams of a salvation that is bound to dawn once Urdu becomes the new English. And once this is done, all that is dicey and deranged will magically sort itself out. We’ll experience the promised bliss that had been denied to us because the language we write our official applications in was never ‘ours’ in the first place.
Wittgenstein — the 20th century philosopher who altered the very way we saw language, encapsulated it in a single, aphoristic line. He wrote, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”.
In other words, our world is made, fashioned, exists and meets its perdition in words we write and sentences we speak.
English, let me clear at once, besides being a language in our society is also a skill that hones one’s personal magnetism, a tool that facilitates one’s career, a weapon to be used to ditch tickets issued by traffic wardens, and lastly a bridge to an ivory tower where world is less ugly and a lot more serene.
Look around and see for yourself, the leaders, the movers, the shakers, the bureaucrats, the elite businessmen, journalists, khaki-clad military men, members of higher judiciary, and anyone of profuse substance or exuberant style is either adept in English or has hired folks who are.
English is, ergo, the preferred language of those who run the roost called Pakistan. The language of power and those who wield it. A trivia worth your idle pondering: their children speak it better than an average Englishman.
That being said, now take a deep breath and ask this from the powers that be; why aspiring bureaucrats have to pass two papers of English and no paper of Urdu at all? And while at it, also enquire; why ‘English Medium’ is written in brackets on boards of schools in even remotest areas of Pakistan? Also, why FBR — the grand wallet of Islamic Republic of Pakistan — bestows upon finality to law text written in English rather than its translated version in Urdu?
Third question; what is article 251 of the Constitution of Pakistan? Let me answer this for the greater good of all.
Answer: Article 251 makes Urdu our national language and sketches out the route to make sure that Urdu be used for official and other purposes. And in the meantime, English may stay for 15 years. That year would be 1988, nothing changed, nothing moved an inch. Life continued at the pace it was accustomed to.
And then, all of a sudden, appeared Urdu’s knight in shining armour, swishing an American degree in law. His mission; redressal of Urdu language via article 251 in order to right all the wrongs definitely.
The decision was read out aloud in the court in Urdu. Everybody cheered and there was much revelry. It was officially announced that the damsel in distress (Urdu) was saved by its much-awaited chevalier.
It’s been more than five months since the V-Day and all that reminds us of the epoch altering decision is a half-hearted notification here and a column full of impotent rigour there.
Our honourable (former) lordship’s venture to bulldose the monument of English and to erect the mausoleum of Urdu in its place has bit the dust. And it is about time that its ashes be disposed off in the place it deserves — the dust heap of history.