Friday, July 19, 2013

An Urdu poem for Children: Or is it Hindi, Hindustani, let's find out?

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

On the left you can see a children's poem which some of you might have read or heard long back.

Most of you will recognise that it is in Urdu script. Innumerable children in India, have read this verse, 'Chal re matke tammak tuu.n'

These words have an affect on children. They laugh and keep repeating it.

It was in syllabus and was read by Urdu students as well as Hindi medium students in India.

If you read it aloud, can you make out which language it is written in? It has the commonly used word 'Budhiya', not 'Vriddha' [Sanskrit] or [Zaeefa].

Neither Urdu nor Hindi can have exclusive claim over 'bohat' [bahut in Hindi], laaThi, chamak, maTka and similar other words. All of them are in Urdu dictionary as well as Hindi.

If someone says it is Hindi, then words like 'Tadbeer', 'Taqdeer' are strictly Urdu [Persian]. But then, Hindi and Urdu both are living languages that absorb words from everywhere and borrow from each other.

So is it Hindustani--considered the 'lingua franca' of yore that died long back and no one uses the term?

Whatever is the language this verse is written in, it is a fact that school children in Lahore would consider it as their own language and similarly it is the language of kids in Lucknow. Either its a student in Karachi or Kanpur, the words aren't alien to either. So what's the difference?

Languages can't belong to religions. They can't be Hindu or Muslim. So shall we attribute this to Fort William College and Gilchrist? The era when British decided to divide a language in two and use it for their own advantage. Nowhere in the world, such a project could succeed as much, as it did in the sub-continent.

Can an Urdu-wala say that he can't understand this 'Hindi Kavita'. Or a Hindi-wala say that he doesn't understand this 'Urdu Nazm'. Not just words, the grammar is same. There is nothing different. Just a few high  [tough] words here and there, make them two different languages.

And when scripts are changed, they are no longer sister languages but often pitted against each other. Read it in Roman and Devnagri scripts:

Hue bohat din, budhiyaa ek
Chalti thi laaThii ko Tek

Uske paas bohat thaa maal
Jaanaa tha usko sasuraal

Magar raah mein cheete sher
Lete the raahi ko gher

Budhiya ne sochii tadbeer
Jisse chamak uThe taqdeer

Matka ek mangaaya mol
Lamba lamba gol maTol

Us mein baithi buDhiyaa aap
Voh sasuraal chali chup chaap

Budhiyaa gaati jaati yuuN
"Chal re maTke, tammak too.n"

चल रे मटके टम्मक टूं 

I wish I knew the name of the poet who wrote these beautiful and humorous lines which bring smile on our face. Perhaps, that would have settled the debate. If the author is a Hindu, it becomes Hindi and if its a Muslim then its Urdu. So simple! No, even that doesn't work. Anyway, my suggestion is that you just recite the poem.

Scores of books have been written on the language politics in India. Indians, Pakistanis understand all this. There is a language of movies, the lyrics and then there is the language of the official radio and TV in both countries. We all know what's the truth behind the cultural, religious and social divide. Don't we.

Still, we debate. Endless discussions that never end. In my humble view, we all need to do a little more 'Tammak too.N'. The word  makes even the toddlers dance. Now, I hope that after reading this post, you won't pit the languages against each other and take it to Hindu-Muslim differences or give your scholarly views. Just do a little Tammak Too.n.  टम्मक टूं 

[I would be obliged if someone informs me about the name of the poet who penned these lines]