Nkdatta8839 2010-04-07 03:18:14
The News, Karachi, Pakistan
Monday September 08, 2003– Rajab 10, 1424 A.H.
by Habib R Sulemani
…… Urdu, the national language of Pakistan is getting a new shape,
especially in the cyber world, where people are communicating with
each other in Urdu or Hindi but the script is neither Arabic nor
Devanagari, instead it is Roman. Therefore, some people call it “Roman
Roman Urdu is strongly opposed by the traditional Arabic script
lovers. Despite this opposition it is gaining popularity especially
among the youth, who are using the Internet or are “cyber-citizens.”
Although, this script is under development and thus the net users are
using the Roman script in their own ways. Popular websites like Jang
Group has made a special portion for Roman Urdu. This is of great
advantage for those who are not able to read the Arabic script. MSN,
Yahoo and some desi-chat-rooms are working as laboratories for the
evolving new script and language (Roman Urdu). I do not question the
scholarly abilities, sincerity and love for the cultural ethos of the
Arabic script of those who oppose the Roman script. I agree with them
on the merits of the original Arabic script, which is the essence of
Urdu and it should be continued, but looking at the present situation,
I think, despite Arabic and Devanagari (Hindi) scripts, Urdu language
needs a Roman script as well. To make this point crystal clear, I
would like to analyse the present situation and raise some points
mainly from a practical angle in an objective manner.
Although, Urdu is the mother tongue of just 7.57 percent of Pakistanis
but rest of the population uses it as a second language. With its
Hindi dialect, Urdu is thought to be the third major language of the
world after Chinese and English. Besides Pakistan and India, Urdu is
also spoken in many other countries of the world and is reaching new
green pastures. Thus it is a widely spoken international language,
which has a global appeal. Primarily Urdu has a formal vocabulary
borrowed from Arabic and Persian. Sanskrit, Turkish, English and many
local languages of South Asia have also enriched it and this process
is going on. Grammatically its script is Arabic in nastaliq style with
several extra characters used. Urdu came into existence during the
Moghul rule in India. “Urdu” is a Turkish word, which means foreign or
horde. It was formulated by the interaction of foreign army, merchants
and immigrants to India. Urdu is thus also called as the “language of
the troops.” Once Deccan, Delhi and Lucknow used to be the literary
centres of Urdu language, but, unfortunately, during the partition of
India in 1947, this poor language started becoming a victim of
politics – the Hindus tailed it to Sanskrit and adopted the
Devanagari script while the Muslims flooded it with Arabic and Persian
words and carried it with the traditional Arabic script.
The Hindus renamed it as “Hindi,” which carried the cultural ethos of
the Hindu majority of India while the Muslims tried to give it a
purely “Muslim look.” …..
…… Today, Urdu language and literature are in a strange situation
– literary magazines are dying by the day, government owned
organisations are wandering in the dark without any vision! High
quality books in Urdu have almost ceased being published for many
reasons while serious Urdu writers remain silent. Some are changing
their medium of expression and are adopting English, language of the
Internet and the global village. Thus the new generation is in a great
dilemma, groping through complete darkness and trying to find a new
way for itself! …..
…… Like many other languages, Urdu is under the shadow of English.
English is the language in which parents in Pakistan overwhelmingly
wish their children to be educated. Even the people of China, Japan
and Korea, who are well equipped with technology, are also using the
Roman script besides their own national script. Muslim countries like
Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia have already adopted the Roman script.
I have seen Iranians chatting in “Roman Persian” in many chat rooms.
Pakistani net users are not using Roman script only for the national
language Urdu, which has a centuries-old recognised script, but for
the script-less regional languages as well – I have seen people
chatting in Balti and Wakhi, the remote languages of Gilgit-Baltistan.
…… the younger generation of Urdu speaking people around the world
are using [Roman script] on the Internet and it has become essential
for them, because they use the Internet and English is its language. A
person from Islamabad chats with another in Delhi on the Internet only
in Roman Urdu. They both speak (almost) the same language but with
different scripts, The Urdu message is alien for an Indian and
similarly the Devanagari message is alien for a Pakistani. Moreover,
the younger generation of those who are from the English medium
schools or settled in the west, can speak Urdu but can’t write
it in the traditional Arabic script and thus Roman Urdu is a blessing
for such a population. It is the need of the time to recognise and
properly shape the Roman Urdu officially. We can’t deny the
ground realities of 21st century.