By Irfan Aslam

Published February 26, 2023  


Description: — Dawn
LAHORE: Punjabi writer Nain Sukh said that after the Partition when Urdu was being promoted along with English, the people of Lahore started calling the new language as “Punglish”, a mix of Punjabi and English. Khushwant Singh was one of the big names related to it. Urdu speaking people were called “Urday,” he added.

He said the situation was so bad that one would start feeling ashamed at speaking one’s own language. “These days if one comes across an educated person, one starts speaking Urdu, indirectly accepting that his own language (Punjabi) is a rustic (Paindu) and backward language. Or we start speaking whatever English we know, right or wrong, with the new generation that speaks English.”

Nain Sukh was speaking at the launch of the English translation of Zubair Ahmed’s book, Grieving for Pigeons at the LLF. The session was moderated by moderator Shahzia Cheema.

Nain Sukh said even he did not speak Punjabi at his school, college or university and it was either his sheer love for his mother tongue that he spoke or wrote in the language or that he remained connected with the linguistic ideologues. He said if creativity was not in one’s language, it’s all translated.

He lamented that the old words of the language were dying and new generations did not know how to save the dying words. He said words carried whole cultures with them.

Zubair Ahmed said Anne Murphy, the translator of his short stories, said that as she had Irish roots, she could related to him and their shared history as they both came from the lands colonised by the British.

“I met her in 2014 in Lahore. Some of my short stories were already translated. They were published in India and some other magazines. I am thankful to Moazzam Sheikh who has translated my stories earlier. Murphy suggested that there should be a book of translations.”

To a question, Zubair said Gabriel Garcia Marquez had written somewhere that “the point is not how we live our life but the point is how we remember it. Milan Kundera said the man’s struggle against power is his struggle of memory against forgetting.”

Talking about his memories, Zubair said no other city had changed as much in such a short time as Lahore. He informed the audience that he was born in the 1950s and spent his youth in the 1970s in the old mohallah of Krishan Nagar, which was rich in culture, traditions and everything.

“I belong to the generation which had kite flying as its hobby and played Gulli Danda and Bandar Killa. We used to prepare kite twine with our own hands. I still remember the process of making twine, which we used to prepare all night to fly kites in the morning.” He said there was a social life and people were connected as they knew each other well. “Everything is lost now as you no longer know who lives in your neighbourhood. I miss the Lahore of the past with less population and less pollution. My work is not just memories but an attempt to tell the people how life used to be in the city,” he lamented.