Thursday, January 3, 2013

#54.Of Urdu, Sanskrit and Indian Classical Music

Urdu they say is a dying language, at least in India. Very few people write in it, and the spoken Urdu is so similar to Hindi or Hindustani that it is difficult to maintain its separate  identity. Recent;y Justice Markandeya Katju (Retired) known for his caustic comments came out with a statement in a TV programme that every student should learn Hindi, Urdu, and Sanskrit upto Class VII. In principle it looks fine, but you cannot escape adding English to the list, and you burden the young mind with four languages, all belonging to Indo-European group of languages (Hope it is correct for Urdu as well). That is worrying as the students are already overloaded. They study science, bio-sciences, mathematics and geography, history, and social studies  are a must- so how do we go about it? One solution could be to include Urdu in Devnagri and not Arabic script, with difficult Urdu words which are taken from Arabic and Persian explained in simple Hindi. This is not uncommon. Most of the Urdu Shairi printed in Devnagri script follow this. And many Urdu novels too. Sometime back I read Qurraatul-ain-Hyder's Kagazi Pairhan in Devnagri script where meaning of difficult Urdu words were given in simple Hindi as footnotes, and throughly enjoyed it. Then I purchased Aag ka Darya hoping to repeat the experience, but was sorely disappointed. The translator had changed the language to Hindi, and that was murder of the book. I heard a cynical view that the only reason why Firaq is not accepted as the greatest Urdu poet after Ghalib was his religion. I frankly don't know how to react to that. I have not read Urdu literature so deeply. But all said and done, the only way Urdu can survive in this country is by bringing some fundamental changes in the teaching of Urdu. And that brings me to the need for retaining the softness of Urdu. Softening the letters as in zang and Khoon instead of jang (which would change the meaning of the word) and khoon (with no softening of kh) is the real flavour  of the language which is absent in Sanskrit. We have adopted the pronunciation of toilet and pen in its originality in Hindi so why not the soft letters of Urdu? Of course it would make it a little more difficult for the  students, but if an Englishman can adopt the softness of French with a lot of nasal accents so why can't we do it for Urdu?

Something about the teaching of Sanskrit which I have felt so strongly. Have you  ever learnt by heart the conjugation of some word, like go-went-gone, and do-did-done? So why force the student to learn the roops of some word? Natural reading would instil the correct  usage of roop  and not mechanical mugging which has made Sanskrit the most hated subject in the school syllabus. The second drawback  is the weakness   of Sanskrit teachers for joint words (sanyuktakshar).
I feel that where possible, joint words should be broken down instead to make it simpler for everybody. I remember about a postman coming to famous Bengali novelist Sharat Chandra and asking him whether he knew somebody by the name of Machchhar Chadra. Sharaat Chandra asked to show him the envelope, and after seeing it said thoroughly embarrassed that it belonged to him. The sender had used the sanyuktashar for the three words: Shrimat Sharad Chandra! 

Speaking of classical vocal and  instrumental music of India may be a little out of place here. But if our masters  concentrate more on gayaki instead of the grammar, probably more people would be attracted to it. You learn the grammar of music to  make your gayaki better, so why in concerts we should hear for a long time the grammar followed by a short spell of the real gayaki? I know that I am venturing into a heresy but that is how I always felt.

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