Gh Nabi Ganie

Double-tongue may leave us tongue-less

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It is an anthropological truth that language is the hallmark of a culture and a culture can express itself in its own language.

Brooks are no more babbling nor do mother’s loving idioms make me dribble to soak my attire. There is no one around to put a bib on me nor does anyone care for my running nose. I am brought forth as a larva and brought up as a machine to follow the commands of the unseen ghost that my parents are possessed of. There is no difference between me and the egg of a tortoise. I am confused and do not understand my mother fully because she talks in two tongues. Sometimes she talks to me in a dehydrated foreign phrase and stumbles to fall back on her own mother tongue. She has to think a lot before uttering those sounds. When she retires to the deepest corners of her mind to hunt for the words of the foreign language, she has lately been exposed to, she does not look a mother but a horrible shadow of the private school situated in the next street.

I’m not allowed to suckle on her breast. Whenever I cry out of protest for any kind of discomfort anyone around plugs my mouth with the artificial rubber nipple. Anybody can play a mother. No one is humming a lullaby for me because it is no more a part of the mother-craft.  Father is out busy with buying assignments for the family and mother is busy with stiffening her tongue for speaking Urdu vowels. Consonants are clear. The sounds she is scared of uttering are the bilabials for they are injurious to the mouth paint. My movements are under the family control. The only thing I do naturally is breathing. People paint a  smile on their faces and pass on like shadows and anticipating the world of hypocracy I am growing to. Most of the time I am left with an assembly of lifeless dolls where I hear the echo of my breathing. Thanks to  the technology and father’s elaboration. There is no  humming of a lullaby and I have adopted to the lullabiless life.

Kashir mother is now sandpapering her tongue to speak to her innocent baby in a foreign language. The words like bub and moje are no more heard. Mummy and daddy are the opposite gender or abbu and ami are the same. But where is the other gender of papa. Either it is papi or someone else is in father’s shoes. Here I smell rat.

It is for last three decades that people in Kashmir are trying to speak Urdu and even some schools punish the students for talking in their mother tongue. Isn’t it bashless on the part of a community that has gurd up its lions to do away with its mother tongue and sacrifice its identity? I have observed the Kashmiri youth trying to speak Urdu but unable to express their heart fully. As a result their mother tongue pull is coming loose and they are heading towards the world where they mean nothing. It is going to be a stage of gags, spoofs and dumb show.

The valley of Kashmir is bugged with English medium schools and this phrase lures people to send their children to these schools where teachers think in Kashmiri and teach English in Urdu language. Of course a grotesque image of schooling. It is a fact that English is the international lingua franca – the language of science and technology, trade and commerce, a window to the wide world of literature, art and films etc. It is the medium of instruction in schools so there should be an inclination towards English as a library language. Our language Kashmiri, our mother tongue could not be the medium of instruction because it needs a lot of industry to translate the courses of study into Kashmiri to realise the distant dream.   Writing the volumes of prose and poetry and shelving it and then appealing the public on radio to learn Kashmiri, will not suffice .We are pulling our progeny by nose towards a language which is not going to serve the purpose of a library language either because new generation are not able to read or write in Urdu . It will be a breathtaking exercise for the ease loving folk due to its cumbersome cursive nature.

I have seen a number of Kashmiris talking in Urdu with such a misplaced accent  that is very injurious to the speech melody. They pronounce Urdu words as badly as a toothless mastiff may try on dental fricatives. Everyone talks but no one knows. It is because we are not familiar with the delicacies of Urdu culture. Indeed Urdu is not the national language of any community. It was during the tumultuous epoch of medieval history that central Asian invaders stormed into the northern plains on horseback. While the hoofs were clattering and swords were chiming, the languages like Turkish, Arabic and Persian were locking horns with local Indian vernaculars. A bargain of  morphemes, lexemes and syntax was taking place simultaneously. Amidst the mist of  the dust on the battle ground a new language called Urdu was evolving.

Kashmir being a mountain-locked country was not much influenced by the so called ganga jamni civilization. Our language and culture remained a virgin and unique throughout history. Though the fact cannot be denied that languages lend and borrow lexicon especially in the present age of globalization culture and language is transgressing the geopolitical borders yet cultural identity should be taken care of. It is the cultural and lingual diversity that lends the world a variety.

It is an anthropological truth that language is the hallmark of a culture. And a culture can express itself in its own language. For example we Kashmiris can express our sensory experience in our own language the best. Language is not taught but acquired like a habit. One cannot become the native speaker of a language by reading volumes. It needs the observation of the movement of the mother’s tongue while she uttered those sounds and the connotation of her speech melody. Because words don’t always mean literally but at times suggest much beyond the literal meaning. One can translate the words of a language into another but not the idiom that has grown in a cultural context. People have read a lot of English and Urdu but have not been able to master the languages. We are unable to create creative writers in those languages because we have not observed the cultural background of those languages. The great thinkers of the world have given their best in their vernacular. In fact one is free to think, dream or even breathe in one’s mother tongue. Mom’s lingua is the best lingua. I feel nostalgic about those days when she was sharing love, life and language with me.

  • The author is a Lecturer in English.

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