Hon’ble Justice, Shri T.S. Thakur,
Janab Muzaffar Ali
Ladies and gentlemen
Naahaq hum majbooron par yeh tuhmat hai mukhtari ki
Chahte hain so aap Karen hai, hum ko abas badnaam kiya
Ashwani Kumar saheb dost hain aur dosti ha haq wazeh hai. Magar, dosti main be-wafai bhi hoti hai aur shaed aaj uska waqt aa gaya hai.
Two heavy weight and substantive tomes are before us;the occasion would have justified one! My escape lies in a confession of incompetence because both go beyond my bounds of knowledge; etiquette however imposes a duty and this audience would forgive my limitations.
Both volumes embody the range of his interests and belie the popular belief embodied in the observation of what a life should be:
Fikr-e-maash, ishq-e-butaan, yaad-e-reftagaan
Do din ki zindagi main ab koi kya kya kiya kare
Ashwani Kumar ji proves this to be simplistic, and plainly wrong.
The Book of Wisdom is a collection and a classification of a lifetime. It requires no commentary and would with ease find a place in any collection and grace with justice any coffee-table.
Andaz O Izhar reminds me of a volume that I came across last year. Its title is Yadon ke Intekhab Ne… and it is, like that of our author today, a personal selection of Urdu poem and couplets. Its author is a medical practitioner in a town in Uttar Pradesh, is blessed with remarkable memory, and has collected and classified all that interested him in Urdu poetry of different periods.
Ashwani Kumar ji’s focus is more on modern poets.By making the text bilingual in script, he has enhanced its reach manifold. By classifying it, he sheds much light on his own appreciation; he unabashedly proclaims his fondness for Sahir.
It is altogether an enjoyable selection.
Let me say a few words about Urdu as a language. It is one of the languages of our country, figures in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, has the 7th largest number of speakers, has the third largest press in the country after Hindi and English and is blessed with a history and literature that speaks for itself.
Yet, the number Urdu speakers is declining.This decline, in a framework of overall increase of population and more specific demographic data, raises a question. Why has this happened? Does it suggest a pattern of language abandonment – voluntary or otherwise?
The answer would seem to lie in state government policies and in the pattern of school enrolment. Ample data on this is available and shows that inprimary and secondary schools there has been a reluctance to avoid including Urdu in the curricula and in the employment of Urdu teachers.This has been most evident in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. The pattern is different in Maharashtra and Bihar, less so in Karnataka and Andhra.
In a confidential letter to Chief Ministers on July 16, 1953 Jawaharlal Nehru had described it as “a pettiness in mind, a narrowness in outlook and an immaturity” that characterised “a deliberate attempt to push out Urdu which is spoken and written by a large number of people”.
This has persisted despite various committee reports and their recommendations.
There is nevertheless a silver lining.Rekhta programs, and Bollywood, have contributed toa renewed interest in Urdu as would theselection before us.There is a neweagerness for enrolmentat the degree and diploma levels in Urdu coursesin universities. None of this however has an impact on the census data.
Urdu now is also an international language and no longer confined to the subcontinent and to our subjective perceptions about a neighbour.
Happy Diwali to all.