I've been reading a lot in the past few days, and watching several things on youtube and/or TV, so much so that my memory fails to register the information as visual/textual, imaginary/factual, did-you-type-it-in-Youtube/did-you-flip-channels-randomly-to-come-across-this-info/did-you-read-it-in-print?
(Warning: a Lament on Language follows)
The book I've been reading is in Urdu, written by Quratulain Hyder, who is seriously Awesome. The story is thoroughly entertaining, and I'm beginning to improve my Urdu vocabulary as I ask my aunt for help whenever I get stuck. Which makes me sad about the fact that Urdu (real, true, beautiful Urdu) is slowly on the decline. There are so many words and terms, sweet as honey, deep as the ocean, that can never be found in another language and many among my generation do not know them. They can't even be translated, some of their glory, their sweetness is lost. Translating Urdu is like trying to sketch a perfect cube on a piece of paper in 2-D. It is nothing but a shadow on a lower plane of dimensions. Bleak shadow with a paper taste. Not the warm light, and honeyed beauty of the language - something I hold most dear.
I also watched an Urdu TV drama called "Ankahi" (entirely on youtube) and I found how much our spoken Urdu has deteriorated in just 30 years. There are words, that we know the meaning of, and how to use, but we choose to speak an easy English every day word in their stead. Over time, those alfaaz (words) recede in our memory gathering dust. Since they are never used, we begin to forget that they ever existed. The next generation is completely oblivious of the alfaaz. Readers may wonder, why am I lamenting the loss of those words? Maybe they were unnecessary or inconvenient?
No...in fact, choosing English terms in place of an Urdu term is again like choosing a 2-D cube sketch over an actual cube. Bleak shadow with a paper taste. What is gone with these words, is the warmth of knowledge, the light of our culture, and the sweetness of our polite and humble behaviour. That is lost.
More and more often I feel, that this zubaan (language) is doomed. But as long as there are people who realize its importance, and as long as people love Urdu, it won't be so bad. Someone forwarded me this clip of an American who came to love Urdu, and learnt it, and speaks it wonderfully. I am ashamed to say, even I can not use such pure alfaaz in my day-to-day guftugu (talk). Here it is:
I hope you enjoy, if you understand Urdu. If not, I can translate upon request. What I already have translated from this interview, is John's recital of Allama Iqbal's poem at the end of this video: Iqbal's Message