Koshur Rachhav – Decolonising Our Mother Tongue

A couple of months ago, I started to translate the popular Kashmiri folk songs. During the translation of the songs, one of the problems that I faced was that many of the popular songs were nice to hear but I was clueless about the words that were being sung. I couldn’t find the meaning of the words in the modern lexicon, that we use nowadays, as this modern lexicon stems from the Urduisation and Anglicization of our language. We barely know our language and our culture that we inherited. Maybe because a child speaking in Kashmiri is met with disdain or maybe because our accents will give away our origins that we try to hide. Somehow we are ashamed of our culture, our identity.

Go to a social gathering and see for yourself, a child speaking in broken Urdu or English is quickly deemed to be refined and intelligent; and henceforth becomes the recipient of affability, love, and generosity of the guests. While as the kid who speaks Koshur is seen with disdain. In the end, he gets a cold-shoulder from the guests who feel that the parents haven’t taught him the eloquence of a foreign language. The parents did not teach him to shun his mother-tongue and ape a foreign language. Such brutes.

This leads to the Urduwaala people who try hard to speak Urdu but end up speaking it terribly too. I am not making this up; I have had the pleasure to be with such guys at school and college and trust me they only ended up making my Urdu worse. They know that they are speaking an alien language and in a bid to fit in they end up with linguistic disasters.

Tu shikaslad hai, zara kar kaam, zara ja dafa, tu balayei/kalle hai, hum lipper pe thay, usko waaze naatihyen thi aaj syun main saath are some of the examples of trying to fit in which became sort of urban-lingo at school leading to degradation of not just one language but two!

The second reason that I mentioned above is that of being afraid/ashamed of our origins, our identity that is ostensibly present in our accent. Urdu helps to mask the accent so nobody will know what part of Kashmir we are from. Some people are ashamed to belong to a particular place and it is not just one place.

I like all the sane Kashmiris like snow and it gives me immense joy to see a heavy snowfall, somewhat like we had this winter. I once asked few guys from other districts to tell me about the level of snowfall that they receive and surprisingly even at places that receive snowfall in several feet. Their replies made me certain that we either receive as much as them or even more. Because, again, somehow the level of snowfall would have made me believe that they live on mountains, maybe.

We want our children to parrot English and Urdu because these are the official languages of Kashmir with former being the global language. Fair enough, English and Urdu will help them understand the world around them. But before they reach that stage, they first need to get acquainted with their own society, their culture, and their roots; they first need to know about the past they inherited then only can they appreciate the future they will build. In a world, that demands polyglots, why are we robbing new generations of a language, that too their mother-tongue? In the process of doing so, we are doing a great disservice to our land, our culture, and our forefathers. We come from a place that has a millennia old literature. Our poets came into existence when English was learning to read.

There is a silver-lining though but that is generally when we are no longer part of the Kaeshur society, I’m talking about the Kashmiri expats. These people being away from the motherland find that spirit of belonging and try to be more connected to their roots. In that process, they teach their mother-tongue to their children and use their resources to safeguard the language and culture for future generations. If you Google about Kashmiri language most of the content comes from the expat. From lessons on learning the Kashmiri language to Kashmiri texts, commentaries on Kashmiri culture, cuisines, documented cultural shows etc. They sponsor the cultural shows there and most important of all- get that documented.

We are slowly getting rid of Pheran and Kangir but thankfully some ingenious people, the Pheran is in vogue. So for the time-being Pheran is another fashion accessory but Kangir, still for some, is for photos only. Our so-called regional channel that is there for the promotion of the Kaeshir language broadcasts the majority of programs in Urdu, and surprisingly, in English as well, that too at prime time.

Documentation is really important for the future generations because we come from that part of the world where it is shameful to speak in your mother-tongue. Or to learn your culture at school- we know about Harappa but nothing about Burzhama to practice and follow it! So, when in future, a kid wants to know what cacophony his grandparents murmur in, he might Google the sound and find that it’s the language he was supposed to speak in.

So, document your culture as much as you can, write about anything and everything that is Kashmiri because if you don’t write your own history as you witness it someone else will as they want it to be.

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