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‘Language can unite’

June 23, 2011

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THIS is apropos of Zubeida Mustafa’s article, ‘Language can unite’ (June 15). A metallurgist by profession, I am no linguist. But I see how fashionable it is within British elites to embellish English by throwing some French expressions (like tete-a-tete, chauffeur, fait accompli, etc).

Similarly, we Indians do embellish our Hindi by throwing in some Urdu words, sometimes wrongly.

Thanks to great singers like Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singh and Pankaj Udhas, I fell in love with Urdu ghazal and started listening to the genre.

The biggest problem was that it always seemed as if I understood the verses when I actually didn’t. Then I started listening to the verses with a dictionary in Devnagri script in my hands, and I suddenly realised the reason behind my confusion.

I think many verbs in Urdu owe their origins to Sanskrit (e.g. khaana, peena, karna, bharna, aana, jaana, etc.) So the expression ‘pyaar karna (Sanskrit — to love) is a mixture of Urdu (‘pyaar’ in Hindi is ‘prem’) and Hindi karna (Sanskrit).

When I heard the line ‘Fareb-e-tabassum mein phir aa gaye hum’, it sounded familiar but fareb and tabassum were unknown till I looked it up in the dictionary.

Even today in India where Urdu is only one of our official languages, we seem to unconsciously use a lot of Urdu words, particularly on TV where equivalent Sanskrit words are available.

As a person from Maharashtra, I never knew what ‘haseen’ meant. Even words like ‘husn’, ‘qurbaani’, etc., were unfamiliar to me, but not anymore.

Thanks to a dictionary by a professor (the late Zarina Sani) and a dentist (Dr Vinay Waikar) from Nagpur, we now have ‘Aaina-e-Ghazal’, a dictionary of Urdu-Marathi-Hindi-English in Devnagri script.

K.B. KALE United States