When Indian ‘parampara’ becomes Pakistani wordspeak

March 6th, 2008 - 1:45 pm ICT by admin  

By Devirupa Mitra
Islamabad, March 6 (IANS) Indian television serials, populated by bejewelled women and large joint families, are part of everyday life in Pakistan and slowly changing everyday vocabulary with words like ‘parivar’, ‘prarthana’ and ‘parivartan’ creeping in. Saba Khalid, a student at Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University, has no compunction in describing herself as a fan of Indian serials.

“I have even learned Hindi from watching them,” Khalid told a visiting IANS correspondent. Her favourite Hindi word, she noted with a giggle, was ‘purna sanskar’, or completely traditional.

She is not the only one.

A quick survey of Pakistanis, particularly the young and women in cities, showed that they were familiar with some of the more difficult Hindi words.

“Sometimes, I find myself saying, ‘yeh Pakistani parampara nahin hai’ (this is not Pakistani tradition), which causes my husband to look at me strangely,” said Nadia Bano, a 32-year-old Islamabad housewife.

Language is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, especially as it had witnessed its power to dismember a nation following the 1971 India-Pakistan war and the creation of Bangladesh.

While Urdu is the official language of Pakistan, it is classified as the mother tongue of only about 10 percent of the population. But it was central to the ideology of the two-nation theory and its supporters, mostly Indian Muslims from then United Provinces and Bihar who came to be known as ‘mohajirs’. From the beginning, Urdu was therefore the language of administration and power.

As several generations of Indians grew up with the highly Sanskritised language of Hindi news on the state-run channel Doordarshan, a mirror image was taking place on the other side of the border to make the language more ‘Persianised’.

Despite the divergence after partition, Hindi speakers from India and Urdu speakers from Pakistan are, however, mutually intelligible, both speaking what is commonly known as Hindustani.

On a Pakistani web forum debating the “Indian invasion” through TV soaps and films, a netizen wrote, “To learn the other dialect all a Paki need do is to watch STAR Plus and he’ll pick up Sanskrit vocabulary”.

He listed several words that he had picked up by watching Indian entertainment channels - parivar (family), parampara (tradition), prarthana (prayer), puja (worship), shanti (peace), dharam (religion), aatmahatya (suicide) and pradhan mantri (prime minister).

Incidentally, Indian movies available throughout Pakistan in pirated compact discs and DVDs have also led to increased usage of a recently evolved dialect of Hindi - ‘Bambaiya’, a mixture of Hindi and Marathi.

“Bhiru and mamu have become popular amongst the youngsters after the Munnabhai films,” said Sayid Ahmed, a 21-year-old computer science student.

According to eminent Pakistani linguist Tariq Rahman, the “use of some words from Indian soaps is confined to the cities and has still not spread to the entire population”.

“Some purists are bothered about this but languages change and this is a normal phenomenon,” said Rahman, who is national professor of socio-linguistic history at Quaid-I-Azam University’s National Institute of Pakistan Studies.

He felt that the inclusion of new Hindi words in spoken Urdu was in effect a return to its original status.

“After all, during the 1760s, beautiful words like ‘prem’ and ’sagar’ and ‘naina’ were expunged to create Persianized Urdu to function as an identity symbol of the Muslim elite. So if they come back it would be in the nature of going back some part of the circle,” he added.

(Devirupa Mitra can be contacted at devirupa.m@ians.in)

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