Few days before, I was with Abbu , to get his ECG report. The doctor asked me something in Kannada, which I half-understood, and replied back in English, to which she said, “Parwa nai, Urdu maalum merku”. (No worries, I know Urdu).
Since I was with Abbu, who sports a beard and a skull cap, she made the assumption that we would know Urdu. Of course, what she meant by Urdu was Dakkhani, the Hindustani dialect spoken mostly in the southern part of the country, centered around the kingdom of Nizams’ at one point in time.
Everyone assumes a Muslim HAS to know Urdu! And that too, irrespective of which part of the country they come from.
Even the Muslims themselves think the same. Many from the North side who visits a mosque in the southern part of the country is like, “Why are they not speaking in Urdu?!”
Over centuries, Urdu has somehow acquired the status of the “Muslim language” and for the sake of differentiation, it has been accepted by even the Muslim community.
The fact that the widely spoken Khadi Boli or Hindustani, which we all speak in our day-to-day life, is the culmination of Hindi and Urdu, which were at an earlier time in history were practically the same language!
From what I know, just as Sanskrit was the language of the elite and educated, back in the day, post the Mughal rule, a version of Persian (which varied greatly from how it was spoken in Iran, and Iranians even made fun of the language), started slowly amalgamating, giving rise to a common tongue, the Hindi-Urdu.
The Hindi-Urdu (not called as such, waise), still didn’t have any religious connotations to it. But then, the British, which thought it be a necessity to differentiate between the two, and the subsequent Sanskrit-movements, helped shape the languages. Over time, they were Urdu (which had origins from Persian and Arabic) and Hindi (which had origins from Sanskrit and Pali).
But then again, these two again culminated in becoming the Khadi Boli.
I’ve just simplified the whole thing and if you dive deep into details about it, you’ll find that there are multiple facets to it!
Coming back to my point, on why Urdu isn’t the language of Muslims! The biggest problem with this is, limiting or association with a particular religion tends to limit Urdu to select few. When ideally it shouldn’t be.
Not only this, it can become dangerous too. Check this picture from a college in DU! It reads, “DU me Urdu Banner lekar naara lagane walon se azaadi” (Freedom from those shouting slogans with banners written in Urdu). Now, who will tell them that the words they’ve used are in Urdu!!
It goes like this: Urdu: Muslims. Muslim: Pakistan! Yes, I’m generalizing and a lot of educated folks might not think this way, but a lot of the do.
A colleague in Office sported a beard for a while. He has been mistaken for a Muslim (when he isn’t) and jokes like, “You look like a Terrorist” can be heard with a cry of laughter!
Same has happened with Urdu.
The beautiful language has become one of the many identity symbols of Muslims in India and even Pakistan, where a vast majority speak one or the other form of Punjabi! Just like Indians are assumed to speak Hindi where around 60% speak some other language! And yet, India is associated with Hindi! Thank you, Bollywood.
The beauty of any language doesn’t stay if confided in a few (communities) it has to be democratized. No one community should claim it’s right over Urdu! It is an Indian language, which is as Indian as Hindi.
And the next time you ask a Muslim for the meaning of an Urdu word, do check if he’s googling the answer or not!