Round about | Love of language, Punjabi style | punjab$regional-takes | Hindustan Times
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Round about | Love of language, Punjabi style

For some four decades ever since I stepped into the world of newspaper journalism, I have been witness to any number of protests by the Kendriya Punjabi Lekhak Sabha against the powers that be to give Punjabi its due status.

punjab Updated: Apr 02, 2017 16:21 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Members of the Kendriya Punjabi Lekhak Sabha going to register protest for enhancing the status of Punjabi language in Chandigarh.
Members of the Kendriya Punjabi Lekhak Sabha going to register protest for enhancing the status of Punjabi language in Chandigarh.(HT Photo)

For some four decades ever since I stepped into the world of newspaper journalism, I have been witness to any number of protests by the Kendriya Punjabi Lekhak Sabha against the powers that be to give Punjabi its due status.

It was so in the times of the grey-bearded Tera Singh Chann and it is so in the present of younger writers like Sushil Dosanjh and Sarabjit Singh. It has been an aggressive approach with agitations, press releases and courting arrests by hot-blooded Punjabi pen pushers. Recently, we had a bus load of Punjabi writers, 200 to be precise, courting arrests against the three-language formula of the Chandigarh administration. The protestors wanted Punjabi to be at the helm of affairs. When after the most uncertain of assembly elections like this time, the Captain verbalised the act of swearing in, there were these angry young men telling him to mind his language for he had taken the oath in the English language. All this is done in earnest but its impact even among the Punjabi writers is just moving on with a dismissive smile.

I recall when way back in 1982, our much-loved poet Amrita Pritam brought the coveted Jnanpith Award to the Punjabi language, late Bhushan, one of the finest satirists the Punjabi language has known in modern times, made a very pertinent remark: “This is the way of a writer showing love for language by creating literature that will enrich it and get it notice. One cannot promote a language by blocking traffic on the streets. That is certainly not a writer’s way.”

But the stalwarts of the Kendriya Punjabi Lekhak Sabha insist on the Punjabi style of raising slogans to show their love for their language rather than penning a beautiful piece in poetry or prose. The remark of a Punjabi poet to the recent protests was, “Since the sabha was an offshoot of the Left, it has to act this way because once the drug of agitation has been injected into your veins, there is no getting away.” A fiction writer added that those who were in the leadership of such outfits as the sabha were very often not up to the mark when it came to literary prowess. Little wonder they held their names back for who wants to get into confrontation with this quarrelsome lot.

A critic pointed out that during the freedom struggle, there was an effort to return to the Indian languages and that’s why the great upsurge of literature in the regional languages. And now language is linked to the market and all that which comes with it. Perhaps the finest work on the changes and the loss of Punjabi language among the young has been done by poet Surjit Patar who gives the example of the Bihari labourer’s daughter learning the Punjabi alphabet. On the other hand, the grandchildren of the Sarpanch of the village go to an Englishmedium school in Ludhiana to learn their ABC. So our friends of the sabha who used to send their children one time to Moscow till the finds of change made it imperative for them to go to the US, please look into your hearts before taking to the streets on a mind-yourlanguage high. Patar sums it up so well, pointing to the relationship of aspirations and alphabets.

nirupama.dutt@hindustantimes.com