KARACHI, Sept 23: Veteran broadcaster Raza Ali Abidi on Friday sounded a note of caution on the gradual decline of the Urdu language. He made observations to this effect at a function organized by the Arts Council to pay tribute to his works in the fields of letters, research and broadcasting.

In a conversation enlivened by a light-hearted exchange of repartees, noted documentary-maker Obaidullah Baig said that Mr Abidi’s personality was nearly without flaws.

“The only flaw I have spotted in his personality over the past 50 years is that he has mentioned all his friends in his books except yours truly,” he said, causing the audience to break into peals of uncontrollable laughter.

Journalist Ghazi Salahuddin said it was one of life’s little ironies that though he and Mr Abidi had embarked on their journalistic careers almost simultaneously, he earned his bread and butter by working in English-language newspapers in Pakistan while Mr Abidi opted for Urdu journalism in England.

He said Mr Abidi was invited by an association of teachers to dilate on the pedagogical issues that confronted the Urdu language these days.

Speaking about his interaction with Urdu-language teachers, Mr Abidi said that he was told that only the most dim-witted children of a family took up Urdu-language teaching as a profession.

“Similarly, I learnt that Urdu-language teachers are regarded as inferior to their colleagues who teach English. For instance, an Urdu teacher is nearly never made a class teacher. It is small wonder, then, that children no longer want to study the Urdu language,” he said.

He said that only good books and good teachers could get children interested in the Urdu language. Quoting from memory a lesson he had first read in a pre-school book, he said that previously textbooks were written in a lucid style and avoided undue emphasis on religion, especially its controversial aspects, and nationalism.

Mr Abidi, whose latest book is titled “Urdu ka hal”, said there were some positive signs about the Urdu language.

“Many Urdu-language TV channels have been established recently. Even Hindi channels employ more Urdu words and expressions than they did in the past,” he said.

“In spite of the ascendancy of the English language, the total circulation of all English-language newspapers is not greater than the circulation of newspapers in Delhi,” he said, adding that he was not disappointed about the future of the Urdu language.

Answering a question, he said he wanted to set up a broadcasting house, which would attach proper importance to Urdu.

He conceded that even broadcasters of the BBC Urdu Service no longer made efforts to get their language and accent right.

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