For noted scriptwriter, lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar, language has no religion and says those who cry foul over “purity of language” should know that it is non-existent.
Speaking at ‘Jashn-e-Rekhta’, a festival celebrating Urdu language organised by Rekhta organisation here, Akhtar hit out at those who aim to “divide people on linguistic lines”.
“Those who raise questions about dying languages, should know that there is a big question mark on all the languages today. Economic benefits have become the sole criteria of keeping a language alive,” he said.
The 70-year-old artist refuted notions of mixing language and religion.
“Urdu was the first language that was secular, anti-fundamentalist and anti-conventions since the beginning. … we label Urdu as a language of Muslims or a particular region or country,” he said.
On a recent instance of replacing Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Maanto’s writings by a university in Punjab with Japanese stories in its MA syllabus, Akhtar said, “Learning a foreign tongue is applaudable. But is learning it at the cost of one’s mother tongue right?”
Looking at the fate of indigenous languages in a globalised world, he noted, “People have created skewed notions about learning Indian languages. Today, if you are well versed in Hindi or Urdu, people question your upbringing, he said.
Leaving the audience in splits with his witty replies, Akhtar, who has penned many successful Bollywood songs also took a dig at his industry’s “badzabaan” (scurrilous).
“There is no language left in films today. Everything is a hybrid version of everything else, whether it is songs, dialogues or scripts,” he said. On a serious note, the artist who had received two Padma awards, said that languages are not just a “communication tool”, they are one’s “identity as well”.
“Love your language, not the religion,” he quipped.
Akhtar also pointed out the short-comings of the Indian education system that does not allow children to “explore their mother tongue”.
“Though learning a universal language is important, but a child has the right to use his mother tongue on a public platform. What is the point to learn something that can not be used? There should be provisions for him to write his examinations in his language,” he opined.
The artist also shared his current pursuit with the audience.
“I am currently working on the writings of my grandfather. We will shortly come up with a five volume compilation of my grandfather’s writings,” he said.
Sanjeev Saraf, founder, Rekhta talked about the “beauty, diversity and inclusiveness of Urdu” as the guiding force behind the two-day festival.
“The festival is a celebration of a beautiful language. It is aimed at bringing together a set of language lovers, especially the youth who have taken an active interest in our website, Rekhta-the largest online collection of Urdu poetry,” he said.
“There is a common perception that Urdu is a dying language or it appeals to a certain section of the society. But the language appeals to all. It is very much alive, rocking and kicking,” Saraf added.