Iqbal Ahmad

Preserving culture and language

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No doubt we may belong to different faiths, beliefs, creeds and classes but we should never forget that we all represent one culture and one language and are known as Kashmiri in the entire globe. This is our basic identity and we should be proud of it.  Our culture is rich and needs to be celebrated rather than sidelined under the influences of other cultures and languages that travelled to this land from other areas.

This is what is happening, the century’s old culture and language of this land is being encroached upon and we have been welcoming the onslaught with a strange love for that which isn’t ours. No doubt that cultures and languages assimilate from each other and thus enrich their ambit but disowning one’s own culture at the cost of adaptation of any entirely new culture is not only stupid but suicidal as well. We should not forget that the external cultural invasions have already damaged the traditional identity of this land and its people for the reason that while we had to take the good influences and try to enrich our culture, we simply began a mad race of entirely replace our own culture. May it be the western or Hindi, Urdu or Punjabi cultures of the subcontinent- all have overpowered Kashmiri dialect and culture and occupied the major positions.

Such cultures have cast a shadow on the intellectual assets of this land as well. We have lost several cultural assists to modernization and the glimpses of traditional art of living are rarely seen in some far-flung villages which are free from the assault of external influences. The traditional knowledge systems, the beauty of the folklore and the rich heritage is all but at the verge of ruin here.

Ironically the people who have been following and preserving Kashmiri culture and language have got no basic education in their language and culture and have no written scripts of their language. Whatever they have learned, they have grasped it from the lap of their mothers. In fact they cultivate it not by its writing traditions but by the oral traditions. It is in the remote areas where our cultural traditions are still being preserved though it has suffered heavily in our towns and cities.

Unfortunately we are not in a position to safeguard our indigenous culture and language from the assault of bigger, more prominent foreign cultures which now draft the universal parameters of education and knowledge. However, it is very strange that when smaller cultures and languages have survived such onslaughts in the rest of the world, why than Kashmir seems helplessly succumbing to such trends. No doubt that we cannot stay cut-off or aloof from the world cultures but one of the prerogatives has to safeguard, celebrate and cherish what we already have.

We need to safeguard our traditions in our home and discourage those foreign trends which have replaced the originality. In schools and colleges we need to promote formal education especially the scientific knowledge and temperament and leave the promotion of the Kashmiri culture and language to the society. It is the responsibility of the society to take care of its language and culture and can be easily done if we are conscious of what is ours while not shying away from what is reaching us from outside.

Those nations are listed as civilized nations which care for their history and language. Arabs, Iranians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Japanese and few other advanced countries have always taken due care of their respective identities alongside their endeavors to understand and assimilate the richness of other cultures as well.

Grecian and Romans, who once controlled most of the ancient world, carried their home script and language to far-flung areas. The ancient culture materials revealed form Grecian controlled areas carried Grecian linguistic and scriptural evidences. Almost all coins and epigraphs of that period found in sub-continent areas are inscribed in Greek scripts. The language is said to have been the language of the ruling class, where the language of the subjects was prakit, which was written in Khroshti. This language was also placed side by side to the official language to regard the sentiments of their subjects.

The tradition continued during Persian and Arab occupations wherever they went to rule. They carried, with them, their language and cultural traditions. Their respective histories and languages are well documented even in our lands. But we are the people who have not only neglected our glorious history but our languages too. While neglecting our rich traditions we opted for foreign cultural traditions

In today’s Kashmir, parents encourage their children to speak either in Urdu or English, deserting their own language and with that deserting a whole cultural ethos that comes along the nuances of a language. The expressions picked by the children thus lack the authenticity of culture and are sometimes totally misplaced. One has to understand that every languages has its own rich reservoir of expressions and nuances and even if we teach our children foreign languages, we can’t brush aside the cultural gradations altogether. As a result, we are approaching a time when our children might not be in a position to express themselves fully.

It is high time that we, as a conscious society, must take measures to ensure that this rich culture and language is given due respect and is promoted not just individually by collectively as well. Our institutions must also ensure that the rich heritage we have isn’t overshadowed by the external influences.


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