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Whatever happened to Urdu?

Circulation figures of regional language newspapers and books, including the national language Hindi, show a healthy upward swing with the sole exception of Urdu papers. It is very disappointing because Urdu is not a regional language but one spoken over most of northern India as Hindustani. It is the Urdu alphabet that is the cause of its sharp decline. Urduwallas are reluctant to put Devnagri script on paper. As a result, while other Indian language journals are economically viable, Urdu journals have to struggle to survive.

A painful reminder of the poor state of health of Urdu came with the publication of Raees Rampuri’s new collection of poems Aankh Bhar Aayee (Tears Filled My Eyes). This is the 72-year old Raees-Ur-Rahman Khan’s seventh book. He has won dozens of literary awards and is in the top category of poets broadcast by All India Radio and Doordarshan. He is a traditional poet who begins with paying homage to his creator and the prophet before touching on other themes. He is also a poet better heard in mushairas than read in cold print. A strain of melancholy runs through most of his compositions. The tone is set with the opening lines:
Aaj muddat day baad usnay Raees
Haal poochha key aankh bhar aayee.
(After a very long time she enquired about my health. And my eyes brimmed with tears.)
These line pretty well sum up the state of the Urdu language. (HT)

¯ Khushwant singh

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