More years passed and we had given our final exams, my last one was English- a second language made compulsory to study till high school. I still find it strange that no one would bat an eye when I would mix English and Urdu in casual conversations, in fact it was quite normal to do so, because I still remember my younger self hearing how mashing two languages together is not how to properly learn them. And then I found myself in University, the great melting pot of all cultures. To no one’s surprise, I met many Indians there. I could sometimes overhear them talking in Hindi to each other, the words of another language so recognizable and familiar in my ear, even when it was not technically my own.
One day, before the professor walked into class, the same group were chatting away- switching from English to Hindi to even Spanish spoken by some of them. I sat and pretended not to hear but my acting skills must have not have been up to par because one of the people turned to look at me and said with a chuckle ‘Oh, bet you could understand that!’ in Hindi. When I nodded and smiled back politely, they all grouped me into their discussion about some event or the other and we talked back and forth in a mix of English, Hindi and Urdu. Little did I know that slowly but surely I was beginning to see the reality of what stereotypes had obscured from me.
Because what I was coming to understand was a greater truth than the restrictions I had faced when I was younger. Yes, Urdu is my national language and I speak it with pride. But do we know where it comes from? The myriad of meshing dialects, phrases and words? The script might be written in Arabic, but you can still read and hear the cadence of Persian, of Punjabi, of Arabic, of Bengali, of Hindi itself. And so much more, our language has laid bare the traces of its unity. It’s born out of so many others, spoken across nations. And it gives us an opportunity to relate, to connect, to talk freely with our neighbours, our friends, our family.
I hope people remember this, I hope they never forget. There will always be a million ways to communicate, but we will be blessed to not have a dilemma for our languages if we celebrate each of them that grace our home.
Illustrated by: Ruchita