I’m Too Sexy … To Speak Urdu

January 5th, 2007

A teacher at the Karachi Grammar School once told her class that it was important for them to learn to speak Urdu so that they could communicate with their servants.

This used to be my prize story when dissing KGS or during discussions about how Urdu is being neglected in Karachi.

The top honor, however, now goes to the Convent of Jesus & Mary, where, like KGS, the only Urdu syllabus offered for O-Levels is Syllabus B, aka Easy Urdu.

- Class 10
- Urdu Period
- The teacher walks in and says “You can put your heads down or do your homework”.

I have never forgiven KGS for treating Urdu like a second-rate language and for nurturing the notion that speaking Urdu is somehow not cool. Obviously this is not an official stance but the truth is out there …


6 Responses to “I’m Too Sexy … To Speak Urdu”

  1. Edward says:

    I agree. The local standards of education, specifically for private schooling are in poor shape as far as urdu is concerned. Brought up as a product of private schooling myself in Karachi, I think its extremely unfortunate that we have not been able to learn the urdu language as expected from us as our mother tongue. However, having realized this deficiency a while back, I now make a concious effort to learn the language, read and write in it and converse on the same lines with others. Those who are NOT new-money thrash realize the significance of it themselves… the wannabe’s don’t. The only glimmer of hope is that some of the educated classes in this country do realize what is going on and are trying to adopt a different path.

  2. Well said, Urdu is slowly becoming a forgotten language at least in the upper class of society which quite easily chooses to twist their tongue to speak English with a foreign accent

  3. BeanZ says:

    A large segment of the population that aspires to join the ranks of the upper classes is also destroying language – English and Urdu. I recognize that English is essential and that it’s tough to get a job if you can’t speak and write English, but surely that doesn’t justify sentences like “Mein apnee sister ko pick karnay ja raha hoon” or “Log apnee mother tongue mein speak kyoon naheen kartay” ;)

    We’re simply ashamed of speaking in Urdu, and it isn’t just the upper classes any more.

  4. Kashif says:

    We can’t really progress unless we start using our national language as primary mean of education/development. Look at the far and mid eastern countries. They are doing everything in their local languages.

    By the way, Urdu is not mother tongue for all of us. In fact the regional languages are more in distress as people in rural areas first switch to urdu and then english, leaving their heritage in the villages behind.

  5. Rabayl says:

    Back in my day we were fined Rs. 2 each time we spoke Urdu in school (during recess, in class, or during assembly) at the City School. Albeit in 4th grade I used to find that rather odd and hypocritical.

  6. Zakintosh says:

    The much-criticized wannabe dresses, speaks and eats (in fact, consumes more burgers than the people he calls ‘burgers’) like his westernized ‘ideal’ because he feels that therein lies the path to acceptance or – at least – to looking successful. The schools he goes to, for the most part, are wannabe institutions – vying to be KGS or LGS or Saint-something-or-the-other. One is even named ‘St. Humpty Dumpty’ (I was ‘informed’ by a teacher there that ‘St.’ stands for english medium school! Hmmm.)

    While wannabe institutions and kids must share some of the blame for this, are they alone in this guilt?

    If job interviews demand angrayjee even in situations where it is not essential (and, often, very painful: I cannot get waiters in most restaurants to stop responding in incoherent English to my simple Urdu queries; or to stop calling my wife “Sir” …), this will happen.

    Where the average English Medium School product (incapable of speaking or writing any language well) lands a job more easily than one who can speak, read, and write fluently in the National and Regional languages, this will happen.

    Where Pakistani company dinners still require attendees to wear a lounge suit or tie, this will happen. (The excuse I was offered by GFK, a dinner-jacketed MD, was that they were hosting ‘goras’. I am not sure whether these ‘goras’ will reciprocate in the UK by asking employees to turn up in shalwar-qameez when Mr. Ghulam-e-Firangee Khan is on a visit there.)

    Where advertisers can get away by mocking local food and pushing Italian(!) Cuisine instead (”phir vohee qeemah?”), this will happen.

    Where elitism is the order of the day and someone using a phrase like ‘the other side of the bridge’ draws no looks of shock or disgust, this will happen.

    Where a person living ‘this side of the bridge’ feels it is perfectly OK to say (in a group of people from all parts of Karachi), “Oh. I went to Nazimabad once. It was fun.”, and does not get hooted/booted, this will happen.

    But, then, where the ‘idaarah’ in charge of the ‘urdu lughat’ is called the Urdu Dictionary Board, it is obvious that all is not well.


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