Learning Indian...from others.

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by draqon, Mar 18, 2010.

  1. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Umm Urdu has always been Arabised and Persianised. I know because one side of my family has had only Urdu education and I taught myself from the gazillion books lying around the house. I did not realise how much of Arabic and Farsi it contained until I traveleled to the ME and taught myself Arabic. In many cases, when I could not remember the exact Arabic word, an Urdu word would do in a pinch.

    Catch a Muslim writing a letter in other than Urdu? Try, most of us in India. We get educated in the same schools as non-Muslims! Its only a tiny percentage of us [mostly the poorer sections] who are educated in madrassas or orphanages run by Urdu speakers.

    I don't "blame" the saffron brigade for the decline of Urdu in India. Like you said and I have seen over the years, it is the non-Muslims who have kept Urdu tehzeeb alive and vibrant in India. It is in this population group that Urdu has become Islamicised and even more astoundingly, made foreign, primarily post partition. It has somehow become more "nationalistic" to speak "pure" Hindi rather than Urdu. Even today, it is the efforts of singers like Jagjit Singh and writers like Gulzar with their heavy contributions to the vast literature and poetry of Urdu [Jagjit through his choices in singing the works of so many little known poets and Gulzar through his own works] who keep Urdu poetry alive. Farsi is a different animal altogether. After Assadullah Khan "Ghalib", I don't know anyone who has written extensively in Farsi as an Indian.

    But I still recall that when I very young and we attended mushairas there would be a healthy contribution from Urdu poets in the mix. The gathering would contain good Hindi poets and it was always a pleasure to listen to Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala' on the one hand and Kaifi Azmi on the other. I used to go gaga over poetry sessions because I am fluent in both Hindi and Urdu and because of a very excellent teacher in Hindi, who also loved Urdu [thank you, Mr Singh] I have an abiding love for both languages.

    Today if you asked me, I would have to grope through memory very hard to come up with Urdu poets in the present generation who are not Muslims and less than 60 years old. Thats how bad it has become.

    We used to get Shama, Kehkashan, Jasoosi Duniya - all kinds of Urdu magazines - poring over poetry [shairi], jokes [lateefa] and embroidery designs in the former and tales of Captain Farid in the latter. My grandmother read Inquilab from cover to cover daily without fail [we are a family of fanatic newspaper readers]. Now, we cannot get these magazines in the local stands and the books are long consigned to the dust of history. The local newsstands who kept these books no longer do so. Hindi magazines have replaced them everywhere and Hindi is the new Urdu.

    Even the radio. Listening to Ameen Sayani during the Binaca Geetmala, with his fluent rendition of Urdu, listening to Santojan ki Mehfil with their Urdu lateefas, Hawa Mahalall history. Now Vividh Bharati [All India Radios national channel] is the domain of Hindi speakers, Urdu no longer the lingua franca of the air waves.

    So yes, when I say Urdu is in a decline in my immediate vicinity, I speak from personal experience
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2010
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  3. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    If my father, fluent in Urdu and a grad of Persian, finds it hard to follow "Urdu" news, imagine what it would seem to me!! Might as well be Greek!! Yet news is a way of learning.

    Why Ghalib could not or cannot be people's poet? Heavily Persianised Urdu sound like bad Persian, as my father commented.

    If Urdu magazines are absent, then RSS is not responsible. Urdu is in CBSE syllabus, but there are few takers.

    You know why serial Mahabharata was so popular, even among non Hindus? Good, easy Hindi. Had it been heavily Sanskritised, nobody would view it. Dr. Rahi Masoom Raza, a muslim, produced unmatched dialogs, which were a STRONG plus.
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  5. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    It is like Prakrit becoming Sanskritised, when languages become formalised, away from the people who speak them and into the hands of academics the structure becomes more and more streamlined and rigid, from the vernacular to the formal. Is it not the same with Hindi? Hasn't Hindi become more formal, more rigid in structure now? Previously one could interchange words between Hindi and Urdu and it would be acceptable - now when I listen to Hindi news sometimes I wonder wtf they are saying.

    Once when I was a teenager, I heard Dilip Kumar speaking at some felicitation ceremony. His Urdu is so formal that even I, someone who has grown up among Urdu speakers, readers and writers, could not follow it!

    Is there anyone who is more of a household poet in all India than Assadullah Khan Ghalib??? Does anyone outside India [apart from Pakistan] know the value of his contributions?

    Ghalib wrote 60o years ago. He was born in a family descended from Turks who immigrated to India from Samarkand. He wrote mostly in formal Urdu, very complex, only a very small portion of his work is in Farsi, which was the "official language" of the courts. And yet, most educated Indians know a Ghalib couplet or two even if they don't always know its origin.

    I agree, Urdu magazines have disappeared mainly because there is no one to read them!
    Agreed, a good combination of Hindi and Urdu which made it accessible to all the vernacular speakers. Did you see Chanakya? Or that fantastic political drama with Rohini Hattangadi "Mahayagya"? Those were in pure Hindi and I admit, I enjoyed both thoroughly.

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    A still from Chanakya
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  7. rcscwc Registered Senior Member

    Prakrits are directly descended from Sanskrit. Pali too is a Prakrit. So they necessarily have most of their vocabulary adopted from Sanskrit, but in simpler form.

    Urdu actually means Urdu and developed during moghul rule. Akbar had Hindu soldiers and generals and they did not know Persian. So Urdu became a sybcretic language, with vocabulary taken more from Hindi than Persian, but Persian script was used.

    Ghalib was in 19th century. He wrote in what he called Urdu but which was actually bad Persian. He is NOT a household poet.

    DD Hindi news was earlier too PURE, no longer so. There are other channels giving news in daily Hindi language.

    Dilip Kumar!! His language cannot be followed by anyone.
  8. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Pali is older than formal Sanskrit. Prakrit precedes Panini. Most people think Prakrit is a dialect of Sanskrit, but that is not entirely true, Prakrit words more closely resemble older Indic languages, not surprising when you consider the geographical location of Magadh where Magadhi Prakrit was spoken - Pali and ArdhMagadhi probably both descend from Magadhi Prakrit. I think Prakrit disappeared when it was slowly replaced by Sanskrit as Sanskrit speaking Indo-Aryans moved east. I think Prakrit [Gandhari] preceded Sanskrit in the North West [or was spoken at the same time by the people while Sanskrit was restricted to the academics] but both were preceded by older Indic languages during the time of Moenjo Daro and Harappa [the Indus Valley civilizations].

    Most Indian vernacular is descended from older Samitan languages of the Indic branch and I think it is more likely that they descend from Prakrit than Sanskrit. Prakrit and Sanskrit were probably contemporary, but Prakrit was the language of the soldiers and the people and hence much more fluid than Sanskrit which was the language of the Brahmins. Eventually, through codification by Panini, Sanskrit slowly became the official language.

    see also:

    Uh sorry, re: Ghalib I meant to say 300 years ago, not 600. He wrote in formal Urdu, if you read Urdu literature, you can recognise the style. Of course he was very pretentious and liked to think he was something special so he deliberately played around with words making his work more esoteric. I think, like Shakespeare he also probably invented words if he did not find one to his liking which is why so many words in his poems sound very obscure.

    Hai aur bhi duniya mein sukhanwar bahut acche
    Kehte hain ke Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur!!!

    [There are many good poets in the world
    But they say that Ghalib is in a class by himself]

    Its a tribute to the charm of his work that he is still one of the most quoted poets in South Asia today

    Woh aaye ghar mein hamaare Khuda ki qudrat hai
    Kabhi hum unko, kabhi apne ghar ko dekhte hain

    [He/She came to my house, God be thanked
    My eyes veer from him/her to my home [in disbelief that he/she is really there, I suppose]]

    However he did not write bad Persian masquerading as Urdu. I know Urdu and Arabic but very little Persian. I can understand Ghalib in Urdu his Persian I cannot read. He did incorporate a lot of Persian in his writing, the way Bollywood songs incorporate English in theirs, because well, its the cool thing to use the language of status.

    Perhaps we move in different circles. I don't know any educated Indian who does not recognise his name.

    Lol, very true - and thats probably a good thing. I always thought his brand of Urdu was not only heavy on the head but also on the throat!
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2010

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