Famous poet Samuel Johnson once said, “I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigree of nations.” Talking of the status of the Punjabi language among the people of the region, not very many take pride in speaking their mother tongue.
In order to understand the trend and reasons for the same, HT City interacted with various youngsters and connoisseurs of the language about fostering and saving the dialect from becoming extinct.
To begin with, Jaspreet Singh, 23, a student of Young Writers Association of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) lamented, “Most parents in the state want their children to learn English and other foreign languages and are least bothered to connect them with their mother language.
In other words, being part of the global world it is good to learn international languages but at the same time it does not mean you forget your own roots.” Many Punjabi writers agree with the fact that parents and educational institutions must be questioned in this regard, before blaming the youth for ignoring their mother tongue.
Conceding with their views, Jagreet Singh and Swaranjeet Singh, both 22 years of age, underlined the fact that one should not forget that one’s mother tongue actually enables an individual to learn other new languages. The duo feel it is unfair to turn a blind eye to this language and have already penned many poems and articles on the declining status of Punjabi.
On the other hand, Gurwinder Sran, 23, and Navneet Kaur Sodhi, 22, suggested that rather than painting pictures that only depict how Punjabi was losing its sheen, it would be more fruitful to paint portraits to introduce us to ideas that could help in changing this strange culture against the regional language.
“Punjabi should be made an obligatory subject in the state at least till Class 12 or graduation level. Even work places and educational institutions shouldn’t discourage speaking in Punjabi,” said Sran. 24-year-old Sumita Bhalla recommended a language lab be dedicated to Punjabis in all educational institutions.
Youngsters even pointed out how theatre could play a positive role in realising the importance of their language and heritage. Amritsar-based Davinderjeet Kaur, 29, a PHd student in Punjabi at Guru Nanak Dev University said, “Theatre has the power to change mind set of the society. How about if department of cultural affairs come up with theatre groups that can tour across the state including villages to make the denizens realise the vitality of their native language.” Noted Punjabi theatre director Kewal Dhaliwal, a Shiromani Naatkaar awardee also agrees but denounces for the fact that most universities of Punjab and Chandigarh have stopped staging Punjabi plays in national youth festivals.
As most youngsters remain immersed in the world of social networking world, Punjabi anchor Ravneet Singh, 23, from Chandigarh shared that there were many pages on facebook dedicated to English language but not a single on Punjabi. “Why can’t the language department of the state launch pages and groups on various social networking groups on promoting Punjabi and keeping youth in touch with it! ,” he exclaimed. Singh also feels that various NGOs that run with an aim of saving Punjabi should regularly organise seminars in educational institutions than organising all events in the closed walls of their NGO’s.
Ironically, Punjabi NRIs settled in various pockets of this world are luckily more enthralled to their mother tongue than Punjabis settled in real Punjab, according to Punjabi writer, doctor and social activist Nirmal Singh, from Lambra near Jalandhar.
“It is a fact that when we leave our home country we begin to realise the importance of our language and roots,” he said adding, “This was while boarding a taxi in New York driven by a Punjabi youth from Lahore. When I asked him how much I owed him, on reaching the destination, he refused to take 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.”