The New Urdu

ghalib devanagri

Written by Randeep Singh

Why should we worry whether Urdu is written in the Nastalliq, Devanagri or Roman script?

I recently came across an article entitled “Young Professionals Take the Lead In Reviving Delhi’s Romance with Urdu,” written by Manoj Sharma. The article cites the example of Delhites like Ranjeet Chauhan, an engineer who co-founded the Jashn-e-Adab, which organizes the International Urdu Poetry Festival.

Another organizer of Urdu poetry festivals, a Gurgaon-based software professional, Vishal Bagh, suggests that the attitudes that led to the decline of Urdu after 1947 may now be changing.

The relationship between language and script is arbitrary. Mongolian has been written in Mongol, Latin and Cyrillic scripts. Punjabi can be written in the Perso-Arabic, Devanagri and Gurmukhi scripts. Vietnamese is written in a script from a completely different language family. Urdu print magazines in Delhi like Mahkta Anchal are written in Devanagri. Urdu Islamic texts in Delhi like Fazail-i-Amal and Muntakhabat-e-Ahadis  use Devanagri. The “Rekhta” website (www.rekhta.org) features Urdu poetry in Devanagri, Roman and Nastalliq. 

In short, the Perso-Arabic script is no longer treated as the constitutive element of the Urdu language in today’s Delhi.[1] More broadly, the politics of the 19
th century which divided Hindustani/Hindi/Hindvi/Urdu/Rekhta, and the language politics of 1947, are no longer tenable in contemporary India.

So, if Indians read and absorb Urdu literature through Devanagri (or the Roman script), that benefits both those readers and Urdu literature. Why mourn a new script if it brings a new gathering?

Further Reading:

“Young Professionals Take Lead in Reviving Delhi’s Romance with Urdu,” Manoj Sharma, The Hindustan Times: http://www.hindustantimes.com/newdelhi/delhi-is-rekindling-its-romance-with-urdu-through-ghazals-and-nazms/article1-1355867.aspx. 

“Shifting Dunes: Changing Meanings of Urdu in India,” Rizwan Ahmad. Doctoral Dissertation (Linguistics), University of Michigan, 2007.

[1] Rizwan Ahmad,” Shifting Dunes: Changing Meanings of Urdu in India,” Rizwan Ahmad. Doctoral Dissertation (Linguistics), University of Michigan, 2007, 154-55.

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4 Comments

Filed under Delhi, Hindi, India, Language, Urdu

4 responses to “The New Urdu

  1. I will love to discover a good devnagari font that wont botch up the softwares in my computer! Avro is great but it messes up the o.s.

    sharmishtha
    http://hindibaaten.wordpress.com

  2. I am happy to see that you found my dissertation which deals with, among other things, the issue of script. Readers might be interested in this paper of mine:
    https://qspace.qu.edu.qa/handle/10576/10736
    Best
    Rizwan

  3. I transliterate urdu poems in roman text especially for my friends to have access to them who can’t read urdu. It’s a means to improve accessibility I feel. Bikhrelavz.wordpress.com

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