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OPINION

Murdering Urdu

If we do not take matters into our own hands then it will only be us whose hands will be bloodied by the murder of Urdu.

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The other day I was talking to my German colleague, trying to explain to her why I could speak such good English when it suddenly dawned on me how the explanation sounded so uncanny to my own ears so how could I expect her to understand?

As I thought back to how from kindergarten to college; English had always been an essential part of my life, I started to wonder to why. Why was it that this foreign language was given so much importance? Why was it that it was almost given more importance than my own mother tongue?

While I went on about how we had such a rich culture and hence many regional languages, I realized how apart from Urdu I could only speak Punjabi and that too not very well. Why was it that learning English was always on top of our curriculum but our own languages were given little to no importance. It has been a year for me living in Germany and the first question anyone asks me is how I am so fluent in English. They are always in awe but also confused. For them, it is not normal to overlook their own language and study in a foreign language, or to have a better understanding of a second language than your own mother tongue.

I’m not saying that the Germans are perfect in their approach but if we can learn anything from them, it is to never feel ashamed of our own language and culture. Today when I tune into Pakistani channels all I see are insecure people trying to replicate some western culture thinking and hoping they would fit in with the cool kids, but my question is, who even decides who the cool kids are? How does speaking a foreign language suddenly up someone’s status? Why does a person speaking English impress us so much? Take a look through our TV shows, why are most of them hosted in English? Aren’t these shows meant for the public of Pakistan? Should we not be hosting them in Urdu or even Punjabi or Sindhi or any of our regional languages? Why do we opt for English, a foreign and unrelated language to the people of Pakistan?

While I was travelling back to Pakistan this year there was one thing I noticed, the more I thought about it the more it pinched me. While I was flying from Germany to Turkey my plane was almost full of Germans and all I could hear was them talking in German, their mother tongue. Not one of them was speaking in English, and why would they?

Whenever I meet someone who speaks Urdu I am overjoyed because honestly no matter how fluent I consider myself to be in English I do not think I can express myself like I can in my own language. There is just something different about it which cannot be explained. While on the other hand, during my flight from Turkey to Pakistan, despite my plane being full of Pakistanis I could hardly hear any Urdu but only fake Americanized versions of English.

What made me feel truly sad for us as a nation was that right before landing the woman next to me started explaining to her daughters that when they meet their grandparents they will have to say Salam instead of hello and they will also have to speak Urdu to which the girls seemed pretty annoyed.

No doubt that learning an international language is a great asset but not at the cost of one’s own language. Throughout my schooling I remember everyone hating the Urdu class or always saying how it is okay to get low grades in Urdu, since it is too difficult of a subject. In reality, should it not be the easiest, marks gaining subject for us? After all, we have been hearing, speaking and reading it ever since we were children. It is truly such a shame how we are murdering our own language and have no one else to blame apart from our unexplainable insecurities that we have all harbored collectively as a nation.

We should all ask ourselves why we look down upon someone who does not speak proper English. I have met so many educated professionals here and a lot of them spoke broken English but not once did they seem to be insecure or self-conscious just because they could not speak a language that is not even their own. For us Pakistanis, if someone back home does not speak proper English he or she is automatically labelled as a ‘paindoo’ and un-educated. It has been decades since the British left but even today we are plagued with the inferiority complex they left behind. Nevertheless, the truth is that if we do not take action now it will truly be too late for us to save our own language, our own identity.

Like all things in life this can easily be solved with practicing moderation. We can excel in Urdu while taking English along with us side by side. I know I might be criticized for writing this whole article in English while bashing it at the same time, ironic I know. However, that is exactly what I mean by moderation. Something all of us can collectively do is start talking to each other in Urdu, refuse to purposefully belittle people who have not mastered the English language, start promoting Urdu literature and shows. Even small steps such as encouraging people around us to not only read English novels but also explore the world of Urdu literature can turn things around. We have to understand that it is now or never.

If we do not take matters into our own hands then it will only be us whose hands will be bloodied by the murder of Urdu.

 

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OPINION

Some progress in Pakistan this week

From many perspectives, this was an eventful week for Pakistan

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As the monsoon rains lashed across the country, amid pounding inflation and protesting traders, Pakistan witnessed important developments this week. Though most incidents will have long term impacts which are expected to unfold with time, their significance at present can also be not denied.

ICJ orders consular access to Yadav, rejects Indian plea: (more…)

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CULTURE & ARTS

The Mystery Colour Pink Beholds

Colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values

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Pink has long been associated with girls, so where does this association come from?

Everything for a girl is pink, or will have at least a hint of pink. Starting from her nursery, toys, dresses to lunch box, school bag, pink is bombarded on girls.

There are a number of ways through which colours are imposed upon children. It begins when the baby is not even born. The phenomenal advancement in technology and prenatal testing, now makes it possible for parents to find out the sex of their still-not-born babies. This allows parents to decorate the nurseries in colours that they think are best suited with their newborn’s gender. It is the first step towards colour imposition.

It won’t be wrong to say that a baby girl is born in a pink world. It is this colour that she would find all around her after she opens her eyes for the first time. The room shading, dresses that she wears, toys she plays with and even birthday cakes she gets, are all pink. It’s not the parents only, this colour specification has become so real that new born gifts also comply with it. Visit a store for newborn accessories and the first question that is asked is about the gender of the baby. Even story books and children’s cartoons do their best to teach individuals gender specific behaviour . Barbie, Hello Kitty, My Little Pony n Friend are all girls’ favourite cartoons, painted in pink. Even the adventurous Dora wears a pink tee. Watching them, young girls associate themselves with the colour.

Marketing strategies that brands use further establish the colour identification for gender. It’s a psychological factor that brands exploit to leap their sales. They strictly follow with ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ rule and make sure their customers comply.

Studies show that after the age of two, children begin to understand gender specific roles and girls choose pink over other colours to identify theirs. Professor of Gender and Culture at the UK’s Leeds University, Ruth Holliday, states that “Even very young girls understand that pink things are for them. In experiments where guns were painted pink and My Little Ponies were painted black and made to look spiky, three-year-old children assumed the gun was a girls’ toy and the pony a boys’ one. The colour rather than the function determined gender appeal.”

Colour preference isn’t biological, it’s more of a human made marvel. Girls and boys are both born with the similar arrangement of biological composition, the only difference being X & Y chromosomes. It’s not that girls have a pink chromosome or a pink strand of DNA that compels them to like pink more. And if we look at historical perspective, the findings are interesting.

History suggests that before the 1900s, babies were usually dressed in white regardless of gender. There were no differentiation amongst them on the basis of their colour preferences. If there was any, it was quite opposite from what it is today. An article in the 1918 issue of Ladies Home Journal reads that “the generally accepted rule is pink for boys and blue for girls; the reason is that pink being a decided and stronger colour is more suitable for boys, while blue which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girls”. Then what brought the switch over?

Anya Helbert, a researcher at University of Newcastle, proposed that women prefer hues of red more because traditionally they have been more exposed to the colour by gathering fruits. Other studies regarding this topic cite some events that gave rise to the present colour enforcement. One such event is World War II, where due to the blue coloured uniform worn by soldiers, blue colour became associated with masculinity.

Similarly, in the 1940s, Think Movement tried to convince girls to embrace their feminism. This movement urged women to embrace their womanhood, with the name tag with pink, the colour naturally corresponding to women.

This colour coding creates a stereotype that stays entrenched in the minds of children even after they grow. They identify themselves with specific colour that not only limits their freedom but also bounds them to act in the ways society tells them to. This kills their imagination and creativity and limits their choices. One of the disastrous implications of this colour stereotyping is that it affects self-esteem. The very basic attributes of pink colour are that it’s pretty, polite, catchy and sensitive. When a girl is told throughout her lifetime that she has to be the manifestation of this colour to look more ‘girl like’, she tries to incorporate these attributes into her personality. The same is for boys, the tormenting and bullying that accompanies wearing pink is staggering to the point that boys, mostly avoid the colour even if they like it.

Angela Weyers, Style and Colour consultant comments that, pink is assumed as a sign of “weakness and a lack of intellectual rigour” and advises women to actually not wear it to work in the corporate world, as they are less likely to be taken seriously. This, along with other stigmas surrounding the color, make it a cliché.

Now when we have understood that colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values, we have to understand this as a societal issue. There is no such thing as real-man or real-woman. And pink has literally nothing to do with a woman. Both men and women are humans with no supernatural specifications and they should be treated that way. Parents, educational institutes and media can play their role in this regard. Rather than fabricating pink and blue norms they need to be responsible in raising individuals. Let pink and blue be treated as colours only.

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OPINION

Dismays and Delights: How Pakistan fared this week?

Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome.

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This week in Pakistan was disappointing, to say the least. From the fiasco in the World cup match to the murder of a blogger in Islamabad, the list of dismays is long. India’s positive response to hold talks with Pakistan seemed the only silver lining in the dark clouds of dooms, yet it was quickly rebuffed by India as “fake news”.

It pains as well as amuses me that fans of cricket in Pakistan still remain die hard to their team. Its a different thing to be a cricket buff and another to be supportive of your team, for its been a while that Pakistan’s cricket team pulled a feat worth praise.

Pakistani Cricket Team captain Sarfaraz Ahmed (L), Indian Cricket Team captain Virat Kohli

One did not even need to switch on the TV or check updates on phone on the mess which Pakistan was in its World Cup match against India. The memes did the job pretty well, an area in which Pakistanis’ talent and sense of humour is worth appreciating.

Starting from the mind boggling decision of choosing to field after winning the toss, to poor bowling and miserable fielding (as usual), I can only say that the fans of Pakistani cricket team were very courageous to stick with their support through out the match. In comparison, was the highly professional and progressive Indian team, which showed true characteristics of first class cricket. It was no surprise that Pakistani cricket icon Wasim Akram showed his confidence in India as a player even before the match started.

A Pak-India interaction on a different level received an uplift, when the re-elected Prime Minister Modi of India, finally responded in positive to a series of letters written by his Pakistani counterpart, Imran Khan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L), Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

Since early this year, both countries have experienced most severe ties, even reaching the brink of war. The Pulwama attack in Indian held Kashmir triggered a spate of exchanges of words as well as arms. After an informal meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Pakistan’s allowance for India to use its airspace for Prime Minister Modi for the SCO meeting of heads of states, Modi’s preference to still fly using another, alternate route while refusing to rub shoulders with Khan at the conference, the ice seemed to thaw.

However, Pakistani media’s interpretation of Modi’s written response to Khan that India had agreed to resume dialogue, was refuted by Indian foreign ministry.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar

“The letters only reiterated India’s old position that it wants normal and cooperative relations with all countries in South Asia (including Pakistan) and that it was important to create an environment free of terror and violence for it. There was no mention of any sort of dialogue with Pakistan,” responded the ministry’s spokesperson to The Times of India.

A similar exchange of letters between Pakistan’s foreign minister Qureshi and his newly appointed Indian counterpart, Jaishankar, was also explained as a mere reply. The hope of resuming of dialogues between the two countries was quashed.

So was the life of Muhammad Bilal Khan, a famous 22-year-old Pakistani blogger, who was stabbed to death in Islamabad, sparking outrage among Pakistanis.

Blogger Muhammad Bilal Khan was murdered in Islamabad

Khan was known for his critical comments on religious issues. He also spoke about the disappearance of activists and journalists. Khan’s shocking death is pertinent in the context that he had a following of thousands on Twitter, YouTube as well as Facebook. Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has assured of investigation by the government.

Perhaps, a not so highlighted and the lone positive news one could find was the approval of the initial draft of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2019 by a Parliamentary body. The bill has recommendations for rigorous imprisonment until death for the sexual assault and murder of children.

Photo Credit: AFP

The recommendations are now to be discussed by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights. Once passed by parliament, the bill will pave way for the setting up of Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), where missing child cases will be reported to generate an automatic alert. It will also introduce a response and recovery mechanism for missing children.

A draft of the ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill has also been approved with recommendations concerning the registration of people with disabilities, reforms to address their grievances and procedures to address their complaints.

While unexplained deaths and disappearances of activists remains a worrying issue, some decision making for missing and abused children as well as disabled persons is a progress in the human rights of country.

Other sectors are eagerly looked upon for some positive news. The nation’s favourite sports of cricket comes back at the turn of the week with anticipation.

The week, which started miserably with Pakistan’s loss against India in the World Cup match, has ended with hopes and fears for the next contest between Pakistan and South Africa. Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome. A comeback by Pakistan in the World Cup could raise hopes for optimism in the week that is to begin.

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