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'Partition impacted on several languages'

IANS  |  New Delhi 

Languages are fluid, ever changing with cultural exchanges, getting crushed during political turmoil, yet connecting with people from different sides of the border, said literary experts Saturday while discussing the impact of partition on languages like Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi and Sindhi.

Not indulging in any debate, but expressing their personal views on the topic "Partitioned Voices, Divided Tongues: A look at contemporary Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi and Bengali" at Oxford Book store here, experts concluded that looking at the transformation of languages through the prism of Partition - India and Pakistan(1947), and Bangladesh from east Pakistan in 1971 - is a sensitively conceived idea, but the events did have effects on the languages.

"Partition has led to some differentiation in languages and it is good because every country should have a language of its own standing," said Arunava Sinha, who translates seminal works of Bengali literature.

Talking about West Bengal, he pointed out how some words from Bangladesh have made it to the every day vocabulary of the eastern Indian state.

"Partition can't alter basic features of a language. The merging of the two languages has introduced a new language altogether," he said.

"But where the Bengali language is faltering in India is that this language is not developing as it should have been because of our obsession with English," he added.

For author Rakhshanda Jalil, who is an independent researcher and has extensively written on Urdu literature, the Urdu she hears in Pakistan is "hybrid-cosmetic".

"Partition in itself was traumatic. But to create a Muslim state and force Urdu language on Punjabi-speaking people wasn't a good idea. So while the country(Pakistan) had wonderful poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, they could write well, but they couldn't recite well because of their heavy Punjabi accent," said Jalil.

"So when I go to Lahore, and when they speak in Urdu, I have to see a dictionary because they use just heavy words. The language you hear there is very hybrid-cosmetic, not like what to hear in India," she added.

Poet and Punjabi translator Nirupama Dutt pointed out how not having access to Gurmukhi script post Partition led to the loss of Punjabi on the other side of the border.

"Urdu should have been a link language in Pakistan. Punjabi is not taught there where majority of population comprises of Punjabis. So the loss is evident here, despite the fact that Punjabi language is always influenced by Urdu and not Hindi," she said.

Publisher Urvashi Butalia gave an apt example of this by narrating a personal account.

"My uncle who chose to stay back and convert to Islam was in a way illiterate all his life. He knew only Punjabi and there was no Gurmukhi there. He couldn't learn Urdu, and hence we see how a person lost his language because of an event," she noted.

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First Published: Sat, April 26 2014. 19:50 IST