Generally, a limited number of books on grammatical structure of a language are found because of the very nature of the subject which is technical and tediously complex.

Understanding grammar of a language is much more difficult than understanding and speaking it. The case of Punjabi language is no different despite the fact it’s an ancient language and mother tongue of approximately 150 million people. But still we can find at least 15 books on the grammar of Punjabi written during the colonial period alone by linguists such as R. Leech, Samuel C. Starkey, Bihari Lal, E O’ Brien, T. Bimford, Tisdall, E P. Newton, F.Burton, J.Wilson, Dr. T Grahame, Baily, Joseph and Cummings. Manuals written by European missionaries are also available. Books on grammar and structure of language has continued to appear in the post-colonial times, mostly in the East Punjab. The latest on the subject is Dr. Arshad Mahmood Nashad’s Mudhli Punjabi Grammar [Basic Punjabi Grammar] published by Pakistan Punjabi Adbi Board, Lahore.

Dr. Nashad is a research scholar, poet and linguist from district Attock. He has a number of books on diverse subjects to his credit and currently teaches at the Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad. The book touches and analyses the different aspects of the Punjabi language such as phonetics, morphology, syntax, punctuation and prosody. In his introduction Dr. Nashad gives us a brief history of Punjabi and mentions four major theories regarding its roots and origins: 1, Punjabi is an offshoot of Sanskrit which was codified by Panini at Taxila, 2, It sprang from Vedic language in which sacred Rig Veda was revealed / composed in the Punjab, 3, It has Dravidian roots, 4, Its origins lie buried deep in the Austro-Negroid group of languages. The author agrees with last view and in his support quotes prominent linguists Ain ulHaq Farid Koti and Muhammad Asif Khan. It’s a thorough book which explains things simply and lucidly and is thus accessible to lay readers. The terminology used is derived from Arabic and Persian which tends to be cumbersome. The author claims that the terminology he employed can be understood by the readers on this side of border as they are exposed to Arabic and Persian due to historical and religious bonds. Lot of hard work seems to have been done by the author to prepare this book and it must be on the shelf of each and every library. All those interested in the language cannot afford to miss it.

A new edition of Maula Baksh Kushta’s Punjab deHiray/Tazkira Punjabi Shairan [The Punjab’s gems/ A chronicle of Punjabi poets] has been brought out by Suchet Kitab Ghar, Lahore. Kushta was born in the last quarter of 19th century in Amritsar. He was a popular poet, a reputable scholar and respected researcher. He got his Diwan published in1902. Kushta wrote his Punjab de Hiray in 1932. Dhanni Ram Chatrik transliterated it into Gurmukhi script and published it. Kushta was part of the cultural movement in the early 20th century that strove to protect and promote Punjabi language and literature. He made a notable contribution to movement of cultural revival as a writer and activist with his creative output and cultural initiative. The book is divided into three chapters; Punjabi language, Punjabi poetry and Punjabi poets.

In the first chapter he delineates the origins and development of Punjabi language spread over thousands of years. The details are informative and interesting. In the second chapter we find his detailed exposition and analyses of diverse poetic genres which are quite large in number. He enumerates more that forty with plentiful of examples. The last chapter deals with poetry and poets sub divided into two sections; Punjabi Adab di Tareekh [History of Punjabi literature] and poets.

Punjabi poetry in Kushta’s opinion can be divided in the following categories: Sufi, romantic, religious, humorous, historical and the kind that was produced by the institution of master and disciple. He enlists fifty-five classical Hindu, Muslim and Sikh poets coming from diverse communities of the Punjab with their specific background. He briefly gives the biographic account of each poet, his/her genre and specimen of poetry. He begins with Baba Farid and concludes with poet Behbal. Tazkira is a very valuable book in terms of its contents and analyses. Author’s approach is realistic with its free flowing prose that makes it enjoyable for literary mavens and lay readers alike. A must for private and public libraries.

Kahani ikk Maa di [The story of a mother] is Zahid Hassan’s latest novel published by Pakistan Punjabi Adbi Board, Lahore. Zahid Hasan is a fiction writer and poet who has published a number of books on diverse subjects but his forte is fiction. This is his fifth novel in addition to two books of short stories. In the novel the main protagonist is a woman who is a widow with kids. She apparently has everything a woman in our society can aspire to; agricultural lands, wealth and good looks. All these things instead of adding to her comfort and security become her ordeal because of our specific socio-cultural structure in which men invariably tend to treat a widow or a woman unprotected by male as their quarry. Mother’s good looks are temptation to powerful males pointing to the traditional assertion that a good woman is a woman possessed by man. Beauty of a woman, as vividly pointed out by Great Guru Nanak in his Babar Bani [a poem which describes and depicts the mass rape committed by Babur’s soldiers at Eminabad], becomes her bane. Her lands attract land grabbers especially from her own clan who sense an easy kill. But she isn’t an easy prey for philanderers, charlatans and covetous men. She resists onslaughts against her person and her brood. This happens partly because of her instinct as a mother and partly as a human being determined to protect her legitimate rights. So she perseveres and defends what is hers in a fight to the finish. So the mother emerges as a metaphor of struggle and defiance in a male dominated society. Additionally, the novel offers good insights into social and cultural landscape of the Punjab. Grab your copy and enjoy. —

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2021



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