Sanskrit qawwali durbar

  • Parvesh Sharma, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Feb 24, 2015 14:14 IST

Napoleon was cent per cent right when he said that the word impossible is found only in the dictionary of fools. Actor Anupam Kher's television show "Life Mein Kuchh Bhi Ho Sakta Hai" (anything is possible in life) vindicates the French military leader's dictum.

A few days ago, I read in an English daily that a cyber geek had translated the dialogues of Bollywood classic 'Sholay' into Sanskrit. It seems amusing to imagine Gabbar Singh, the formidable bandit character in the film, mouthing those killer dialogues in the ancient language of holy texts.

It catapulted me to the time about a decade ago when I was at a seminar on "Challenges before Punjabi language in the 21st century" at Punjabi University, Patiala. Speaking on the topic, a noted prose writer said Punjabi had ample opportunities to flourish as a cultural language, while as a medium of instruction and intellectual debate, it had limitations.

His frank statement hurt some members of the audience who took pride in their mother tongue. The hall started buzzing with murmurs. About half a dozen scholars vented their ire against the sacrilege. Now it was the turn of the erudite gentleman who had made the observation to clarify. All smiles, he ascended the podium and said: "Friends, I am firm on my stand and reiterate with all responsibility and commitment that intellectual discussion in Punjabi is not possible.

This is no handicap of the language but just as you can't have qawwali in Sanskrit." The listeners had a good laugh and broke for lunch.

Hardly a week later, I found in my mail an invite from the languages department to an inter-school Sanskrit qawwali contest. I remembered the learned author who had dismissed the possibility, and an itch struck me to ring him up. I asked him to accompany me to the event and see for himself the marvel. As is the wont of scholars, he didn't budge an inch from his stand, and said children must have mixed a little bit of Sanskrit in their song compositions.

He didn't accompany me but I sat curious all through the contest. To my wonder, I found the schoolchildren at professionals-like ease while presenting Sanskrit qawwalis at the beat of claps. It was a moment of revelation, when my belief became firmer that anything is possible in life.
(The writer is a defence PRO based in Chandigarh.)

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