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'Sayonara' linguistic barriers: Japanese's romance with Urdu

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

"Phailti jayegi Urdu ku-ba-ku, beej iska dil mein bhi bona chahiye (Urdu will spread everywhere, one must sow its seed in the heart as well)."

This is how Japanese professor of Urdu at Osaka University So Yamane sums up his passion for the language that may be alien to his culture but with which his love affair has continued for over 35 years.


Yamane, 53, who mesmerised the audience with his romantic couplets in Urdu at the Jashn-e-Bahar Mushaira here, said that when he took up the language in 1982 for graduation, it was just his love for the romantic language that motivated him and not career considerations.

He said his first brush with the language was in high school when one of his teachers, who was enamoured by Indian culture, taught about Indian history.

Yamane said he got attracted to the Mughal period and later to Urdu.

Yamane, who teaches Urdu at the Osaka University where it is a subject for the last 98 years, said he tells those taking up Urdu, to do so for the love of the language and not for any other consideration.

"I ask my Japanese students, you must have heard the name of Urdu for the first time and your family and friends would be asking what will you get by learning Urdu. I tell them and I firmly believe that it is not a matter of gain or profit and loss but it is a matter of interest," he told PTI.

"By learning Urdu you can speak to 50 crore people for the rest of your life. What could be bigger than that," he asked.

Yamane said 20 Japanese students take up the language every year at the Osaka University purely for their passion for it as the only other university to offer Urdu in Japan is Tokyo university.

Asked if Urdu was on the decline and facing an existential crisis, Yamane said the number of those learning the language may be going down but the number of those understanding the language will never reduce.

"It (Urdu) will never die as it is not just a language but it is a nature. The romantic nature of people will never go away. It will also remain a part of films," said Yamane, who did his Masters in the language from Pakistan's Punjab university in Lahore.

Asked if he had trouble learning the language as he comes from a culture alien to Urdu, Yamane said whenever Japanese take up a path, they follow it with a single-minded determination and keep trying till they succeed.

Talking about different cultures, he said, "People say this culture is better or that one. I consider this as wrong as there is no good culture or bad, there is just a variety of cultures. There should not be such differences over culture. Uniqueness of all cultures must be recognised."

Yamane, whose pen name is 'Yasir', said his favourite poets include Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib and among the recent poets, he likes Firaq Gorakhpuri.

The Japanese professor said his own poetry is mostly romantic.

"Mere Ashqon mein teri tasveer ho, aur mujhe khoob rona chahiye (There should be a picture of you in my tears, and I should cry a lot)," Yamane signed off.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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