Wednesday, December 07, 2005


The End of a Culture!

"Bakhshi, what do the lyrics of this song mean?", asked Namita, a colleague. The song in question was the extremely popular Punjabi pop no.- 'Kala Chashma'. She asked me because I, being a Punju, am supposed to know my language. I asked her to play the 1st two lines again, was able to understand the broad meaning of it and give her some schpiel about what it meant. But the exact meaning of specific words- naaah!!! This set me thinking on a something which has been troubling me for quite some time- Is this the end of our culture?

For a long time now, I have taken great pride in calling myself a 'global villager'(if the world has become a village, that makes us villagers, right?)! Cosmopolitan outlook, living in a multicultural environment, and just assimilating into it, leaving your own ethnic identity behind. Never really thought if I had an option but to become an integral part of the crowd. But still, the thought keeps nagging me- what of my culture, my roots?

Let's take an example. My grandfather, born and brought up in the Pakistani part of Punjab, knew five languages- Punjabi, Urdu, Persian, Hindi, and English. My father knows four(all of the above except Persian). And yours truly??? Hindi and English, that's all. I can understand and speak some tooti-phooti Punjabi, but...! And it's not just me, I look around at people around me, and the situation is the same everywhere. It's not a problem with me, it's a problem with a whole generation, it's just that some of us just haven't realized the seriousness of it. I sometimes wonder- If I ever get married, my parents, aunts, uncles etc. will be there to sing traditional folk songs, will know all the rituals which have been a part of our heritage for centuries, the whole atmosphere will be distinctly Punju. Cut to the marriage of my children(hypothetical scenario- If I ever get married, and subsequently, If I ever have children)- who is going to know anything at all about any song or ritual, we hardly know enough of the language to ask for water!
Another generation later, the whole rustic, earthy Punju culture would have died out, in my family, and in many other families who have become a part of this cosmo-culture.

Scary??? I really don't know what can be done about it, but maybe there's still time. Maybe we will no longer be ashamed or afraid of using our mother tongue in a city like Bombay. Maybe we are too old to learn, but we can ensure that our children listen to a lot of our language at home, they learn to read it, write it, speak it and understand it, just like they would learn English or Hindi. Maybe people will appreciate that instead of(or in addition to) teaching French/German to their kids as a status symbol, they should teach them their mother tongue. After all, the destiny of a centuries-old culture depends on it! Cheers!

I agree 100%. But yaar, India mein baith ker, you are contemplating language issues regarding our future generations and the like. Imagine west mein kaisa haal hoga. Uff, I can't wait to come back home. I don't care what people say... humara Bharat mahaan!
"I can understand and speak some tooti-phooti Punjabi" - I am surprised! What language did you use at home during your growing up years? Must be Punjabi. That should have ensured that you learnt the language well inspite of having been brought up in Bombay.
I'm sorry! Why are you scolding me??? :-) My parents conversed in Punjabi, I and my brother spoke in Hindi. Plus, hardly any scope for practice.
i can't relate to you...*puffs himself up proudly*i speak five languages, and I speak my mother tongue pretty well considering I spent 17 yrs in kerala....gloating done, i know a lot of ppl who are ashamed to speak their mother-tongue...'tis a pity indeed...
Aaaaaaa...sorry if that sounded like scolding :)
actually I am always surprised to hear that people do not speak their mother tongue.
No offence :D
You have a very valid point. I don't know how to write Bengali and my brother is worse, he doesn't know any Indian language at all! You can imagine what the next generation is going to be!
Hi Obi Wan,
I blogged hop from AFJ's blog.
CHarity starts at home.Your observation that most folks are unable to speak in thier mother tongue fluently is quite correct. How do you expect it to happen when folks at home converse in English?
Education first starts at home Wan.It is certainly going to get worse with the next generation unless of course we seriously implement certain home rules.
The Monk: I envy you!

Rita: No offence taken ma'am, just kidding:-)

AFJ: The case in my family is similar. I still have pangs of guilt occassionally and try my hand at speaking Punjabi, but my brother has totally disowned the language!

Aquamarine: Welcome! I sincerely hope that at least some of us can keep the faith!!!
Hi Obi Wan
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