DUBAI: Once a month, a group of about 50 Pakistanis and Indians meets in an attempt to sustain the Urdu language.
By reciting and discussing traditional Urdu poems, the group called Bazm-e Sukhan (gathering of poetry), is growing in popularity despite the fact that most of the members, including its founder, cannot read or write the language.
“Initially we started sitting together every month and used to share poetry,” said group founder and artist Chhabi Saksena Sahai.
“And now with the passage of time, the gathering has gradually become the source of learning and understanding Urdu poetry and other writings, which is so heartening,” said the 58-year-old from India, who has lived in Dubai for the past 30 years.
“Urdu is a dying language, as our current generation is so impassioned by the western culture and languages,” she said.
“The exposure to western languages and the mandatory use of English is so phenomenal, that Urdu lags behind by a long shot,” she said.
“Families from India and Pakistan living in UAE have also become victims of western influence and do not have time to instil the habit of practising the language, even at home,” said Ms Sahai, who inherited her love for Urdu from her father.
She believes that not being able to read and write Urdu is not a hindrance when it comes to celebrating the language.
“I personally feel that it is more important to understand or try to understand the depth of the language correctly. Learning to write and read could be another step,” she said.
“Like other languages, Urdu has reached its peak and is now moving downwards,” said group member Arif Nizam Dhaldar, 49.
“For many, it has outlived its usefulness, but it does not mean that our love with this classic language is also outlived. We continue to cherish this beautiful language as much as we can.”
Mr Dhaldar, from India, has lived in Dubai for 29 years and joined the poetry group a year ago.
He said that Urdu was in his blood as his father was an Urdu professor.
“I never thought I would meet so many like-minded people who share the same passion,” he said.
Mr Dhaldar acknowledged that most of the group members could not read and write Urdu.
“Yes it’s a bit of a tricky situation but that shows the status of Urdu among us. They (members) work hard to learn the right pronunciation while reciting poems and phrases.”
The group members often spell out the words phonetically in English to be able to read the Urdu text.
Azhar Abbas, 42, from Lahore in Pakistan, joined the group two months ago.
“It’s amazing to see people from different backgrounds are on the same wavelength,” said Mr Abbas, who is a poet and works as a finance manager in Dubai.
“We don’t gather to party. It is way beyond that. We are very serious about the cause,” he said.
“We are doing our best to keep the language alive among us and among future generations,” he said.
Anwar Afaqi, 60, an Urdu poet who has lived in Al Ain for 30 years and author of several books in Urdu, said that people used the language as a status symbol but seldom did anything to save it.
“They cannot be taken seriously unless they make extra efforts to learn Urdu as a language. Romanticising the language will not benefit it in the long run,” he said.
The National, “Love of Urdu brings Dubai expats together,” in The National, June 14, 2015. Accessed on June 15, 2015, at: http://www.thenational.ae/uae/love-of-urdu-brings-dubai-expats-together
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