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A UP trader's struggle to keep a dying dialect alive

Motilal Mehra, a bullion trader in his early eighties, is among the few who are well versed with ‘Mundiya’ language, which is now dying.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2013 15:21 IST
Oliver Frederick
Oliver Frederick
Hindustan Times

A multistoried house, painted in gray and white, in old Krishnapuri lane holds a distinct position among the houses established here during the pre-Independence era. It’s not the antique look or well-furnished interiors that attract a second look from a passerby, but the inscription in ‘Mundiya’ language on its entrance:. “Sri Ganesh Ji Sada Sahai” reads the inscription.

The building houses Motilal Mehra, a bullion trader in his early eighties, who is among the few who are well versed with ‘Mundiya’ language.

“It’s as good as Hindi, English, Urdu or Bengali. But still it could not survived”, said Mehra, while sipping tea on his bed on Thursday afternoon. Mundiya, during the pre-independence era, was among the most widely used languages among traders, Mehra said.

When Urdu was being widely used in government offices and other establishments, Mundiya was the official language of traders’ here, especially the bullion traders, Mehra said.

“I too grew up lear ning Mundiya”, said Mehra. Mehra was just 7 when his father who started his innings as a bullion trader in 1930, got him enrolled in a Mundiya school, locally known as Mundo School. “Lotan bhai used to run the Mundo School in Biharipur”, recollected Mehra.

The school, he said, was only meant for children of traders and the objective was to teach them the language so that they could help their families in business.

At a very early age, Mehra excelled in the language, which he said was introduced to manage the affairs within the trader ‘community’.

“It was a sort of code language. It was only the traders who communicated in this language and so their business dealings, even the secrets, are safe with the people of the community”, said Mehra.

At a young age, Mehra began to maintain the ledger in the same language. The traders communicated with each other through chits written in the language.

“At that time, there were no phones. Thus, chit system was an appropriate way to communicate. The traders used to write the chits in Mundiya,” he said.

Mundiya remained the most commonly used language even after India attained freedom. But from 1940 onwards, it began to decline.

“The upcoming generation never bothered to learn Mundiya which was our traditional language. Besides, the compulsion of income tax department, that was unaware of the language, to maintain the records in Urdu, Hindi or English, also played a major role in the extinction of this language,” Mehra said.

But Mehra did not give up. He still uses Mundiya language in day to day life.

Besides, he is also teaching it to others in a bid to revive the language.

“People are attached to Hindu, Urdu or Bengali.Similarly I am attached to Mundiya and I am making all possible efforts at least to pass on the language to my grandsons and their children before my demise”, he said.

Intense attachment to the language, he said, was due to his father who was fond of the language and this was the only reason he inscribed the inscription in Mundiya language at the main entrance of his house.

First Published: Oct 04, 2013 10:25 IST