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Urdu Language Medium – a term of derision


English language is a BIG DEAL in Pakistan. Speaking English fluently and preferably with an accent [can be any accent, Paki-American, Paki-Brit, Paki-UAE, Paki-Aussie, and of course Paki-desi] is a passport to heaven, well, almost!. The British ruled the Sub-continent for over 200 years and left us in awe of the language, the culture, the grace, the subtlety of something the Brown Man in India could never be, no matter how hard he tried. 67 years into freedom from the British yoke and self-governance, well almost, we as Pakistani's are very self-concious people, and are always uncomfortable in ourselves. Simple reason being – lack of self esteem and deep ingrained inferiority complex. We are just never good enough for our own selves. We have to be westernized, speak in English, believe in western values, speak weatern lingo to be able to look at ourselves straight in the mirror, and then too, having tried so much to be like the others, we nurse some concern, some apprehension, some fear of falling short, of not making the mark, of somehow failing to be what is real 'classy'. How sad are we? How pathetic our situation, how scared and false our position.

Why is it that we as a people with our own culture, languages, customs and traditions, rich heritage and deep relationship bonds, so unsure of our own identity? What is that 'lack' that we so desperatley want to fill in, close up and shut forever. Is it the link to our own past? our history, our family trees which do not portray pictures of glory and triumph that we want to somehow severe any association with it? I don't know about you, but all my life I have heard this statement with fear and derision 'uff that girl? so Urdu medium" or for that matter that man, family, place, shop, school, office, group, clothes etc. Urdu medium is a pariah state to be in! You don't want to be caught dead in that land of no lands, in the abyss, in that quagmire if you want to survive in Pakistan. 

Being Urdu medium is not only speaking in Urdu mostly, or not being fluent in English (that is the first prerequiste) it borders on your whole persona, your state of being, your approach to life, your life-style, your get-up, your family background, your level of acceptable education, your eating habits, your slang, your style and some more. It is in your blood. I can't put it any other way. If you are Urdu medium, no amount of money, clothes or fame can get you out of that trap, once you belong there you remain there forever, stuck and pinned. 

Why in the 21st century do we have such strong societal divide in Pakistan on the basis of language and its connotations. We all want to be on the right side of the divide and which I assume is being English Medium? I am assuming looking at the snobbery that is attched to being English (whatever the term mean). We want to be the OTHER who we believe is better than us, but in the time after independence from the Britsh in 1947 the boundaries of what is Englsih and what isn't have become blurred and greyed. They aren't sharp as they were then – brown people and dogs were put by the British in the same category as is evident from a sign lovingly displayed at the SINDH CLUB in Karachi. But, why should such intracacies and minor details be allowed to enjoy the freshly manicured lawns of the elite club.

My point is we are deeply ashamed of who we are. We are embarrassed by our coloring, we have an obsession with everything foriegn and ideally western, we deride our habits and customs [think them conservative and primative], we want to cut off ties with our land, our language and our people and the more we run away from ourselves, the more we find ourselves standing still in the same place. We need to change the way we view our own heritage, our language, our customs and our past – whether they are good or bad, modern or conservative, accepatble or not is altogether another issue and can be debated upon. We can critize and accept some things while reject others, but a complete denial of where we are coming from and more importantly where we are going is a v ery hard place to find oneself in which we are discovering for the first time.

It is ok to speak poor English, it is unaccepatble to speak poor Urdu, for it is our mother tongue. It is ok to be dark and want to be white and even use fairness cremes, but it is certainly not acceptable to reject a girl's hand in marriage because she isn't Fair, Tall and SLIM!!! for that design is diametrically opposite to our sub-continental body-type. It is ok to not live in the 'posh societies' of a city, but totally unacceptable to lable others for who and what they are on the basis of a grid reading, which simply says – English Medium!

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