Celebrating the Mother Language!

By Mushtaq Soofi
Dawn, Feb. 28, 2014

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Khushal Khan Khattak, the great poet of Pashto, as a result of his resistance to Mughal rule was imprisoned by Emperor Aurangzeb. After some years while he was still in prison, it was officially conveyed to him that he could be released on certain conditions. The poet rejected the offer. “Had it come earlier I would have considered it. I longed to be with my family to hear the first few words of Pashto from the lips of my son who was a toddler when I was thrown into prison. The emperor denied me that moment of joy. I am no longer in a hurry to get out of prison. Now I am not interested in any conditional offer of being set free,” replied Khan.

The grandparents of contemporary Punjabi young men and women were all like Khushal Khan who used to be thrilled with joyful excitement to see their kids struggling with their mother language. That unfortunately is no longer the case with a large chunk of Punjabi parents. They teach their kids the language/languages they themselves are not comfortable with. But slowly and gradually things are changing owing to the constant efforts of various literary and cultural bodies committed to promoting mother language and raising cultural awareness.

The Lahore Literary Festival held from Feb. 21 to 23 was a roaring success as expected. Razi Ahmed, the founder and chief executive of the festival, added to its repertoire by including sessions on the Punjabi literature and won accolades. Two sessions discussed “The Punjabi Poetry of Resistance” and “The Image of Woman in Classical Punjabi Literature.” The discussion and dialogue evoked a visceral response and stirred the imagination. It emerged that Heer and Sahiban were the most defiant and emancipated women in the literary and cultural history of the subcontinent.

Izzat Majeed’s Sachal Orchestra also had a concert on the occasion. Sachal’s one-hour performance, a fine blend of tradition and innovation, mesmerized the audiences especially the young people, proving yet again that Lahore was still the cultural hub of the country.

Pakistan is a region which has traditionally been tolerant of linguistic diversity. And this precisely was the source of our literary, intellectual and cultural richness. Use of any language as a tool of dominance will not only cause a political dissension but also impoverish us all materially as well as spiritually. So “let the hundred flowers flourish.” A single flower cannot make a garden. And let our country be a garden.

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