Punjabi: an ignored mother tongue

Why is speaking Punjabi at educational campuses deemed uncivilized? Being a native language of a large population in Punjab, it must be given its due status.

Once during a chit-chat with my daughter, a student of grade two, I interjected a Punjabi word in a moment of glee, she abruptly and victoriously objected to it. Upon my inquisitive prodding, she surprised me that her school teachers and friends always ridicule the one who speaks even a single word or phrase of Punjabi. I involved her and other siblings in polemics that if we can use English words while speaking Urdu, why we can’t use Punjabi ones in Urdu.

I reminded my daughter that last year she danced with her friends to a Punjabi song at some school function ‘’Ballay ballay ni tore Punjaban di’’, is it allowed then? Schools hold cultural programmes to highlight the cultural variety and the importance of various local cultures. Once, my daughter made us purchase a Punjabi outfit provided by the school itself. All this is just a facade and a manoeuvre to mint money!

Being myself a teacher of English, once at an English medium school, the only complaint against me was I used Punjabi words, though quite sparingly. The same arguments that I gave to my daughter, had been put forward assertively then, but the school management was shockingly paranoid against the use of Punjabi words, and sustained its objection. Once a student asked me whether my English are also weak. It is ingrained in our students that speaking English is a sign of intelligence and brilliance.

I cannot understand why we feel insecure and inferior while speaking our mother tongue. I abide by it fanatically to use Urdu or English at formal platforms but a few Punjabi words I use to add colour to otherwise dull and drab activities of English to Urdu translation of a text. Why is my social status, my background or even my upbringing judged on what particular language I speak? Why is speaking Urdu or English to our children considered a sign that we are educated, and speaking Punjabi is a stigma, a telltale sign of being uncouth, illiterate, uncultured, unrefined ----my anguish forces me to blurt out more derogatory epithets to vent my catharsis. What a yardstick! Is ever a language literate or illiterate?

Recently, one of my friends who is invited as a judge at Na’at competitions at school and college levels, surprised me that Na’ats in Punjabi are strictly prohibited at such formal competitions, despite the major chunk of Sufiana poetry being in Punjabi. Waris Shah, dubbed as the Shakespeare of Punjabi, Bullah Shah and Mian Muhammad Bakhsh are the icons of divine poetry in Punjabi.

When Shakespeare and Francis Bacon can use Latin and French in their literary pieces, why can’t we use Punjabi words in Urdu or English? Why is speaking Punjabi at campuses wherein a dominant majority is Punjabi speaking, deemed a violation of discipline and so-called civilization? To me, it’s just snobbery!



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