At a recent seminar on the Punjabi language, a woman in her late seventies lamented that her grandchildren did not express any interest in the language due to the influence of their 'modern' school and parents, who have told them that "speaking Punjabi was not good, as it was insulting, so they should speak English or Hindi."
"We are attracted by other languages and cultures, and do not bother about our own. The French and the Germans are among many of those communities that love their language, but we fail to be inspired by them," shared Iqbal Kaur, a retired Punjabi professor and writer. She added, "Our ability to learn new languages depends on our mother tongue."
Patiala folk singer Pammi Bai lamented, "Our language is fading away day by day, for which people of Punjab are to be blamed. They feel ashamed to speak in Punjabi. Punjabi films and the music industry, which are bombarding the audience with vulgarity and vague subjects, have also led to its decline. Rich literature, which is quite inspirational and has the power to connect youths with their roots are hardly touched."
Local folk singer Gurmeet Bawa said that while every year, various seminars were organised to save the Punjabi language, culture and heritage, but the discussions and debates never turned into action.
"If we put in collective efforts, we can make a difference," said Bawa, adding that people had no idea about Punjabi writers, poets and history as cinema, music and education were "not on the right track".
Making an effort towards popularising Punjabi literature, Nirmal Singh, a doctor and Punjabi writer who runs a small clinic in Lambra near Jalandhar, prescribes not only not medicines, but also Punjabi books to his patients.
Like many other writers, he feels sorry for Punjabis who have ignored their mother tongue. A few years ago, he founded the Punjabi Saath, an organisation that aims to promote Punjabi language, culture and its writers. Every year, the organisation honours individuals who work hard to save the language, and now has international presence.
According to the doctor, Punjabis abroad take more interest in their mother tongue as compared to people actually living in Punjab. "Once I boarded a taxi in New York driven by a Punjabi youth from Lahore. When I reached my destination, I asked him how much I had to pay him. He refused the money, saying that the opportunity to speak his mother tongue was worth more than dollars. I was really touched, but also saddened, as not all Punjabis love their language like he does," he said.
How can Punjabi language be saved?
We must take inspiration from lands like Germany and France where they love their mother tongue. If they can, why can't we? Iqbal Kaur, retired Punjabi professor and writer.
Parents and schools should never discourage children from speaking Punjabi. Film and music industry should be careful Pammi Bai, folk singer.
Collective effort is a must to save our language and culture. We can never stand tall if we feel ashamed of our mother tongue Gurmeet Bawa, Folk Singer.
It is all about our mindset. If we love our mother, then why not love our mother tongue? Nirmal Singh, writer and chief of Punjabi Saath and writer.