Culture Poetry and Language

The loss of a native language is a phenomenon known as first language attrition. It can evoke surprise and at times outrage. However, first language attrition is becoming all too common, as a greater number of people move around the world. Often we see our new generations struggle to even communicate with the older generation such as grandparents. Many do not go back to their homelands and try to learn about their rich heritage.

 

Sujata Bhatt wrote this beautiful poem on her fear of losing her native tounge.

 

My Tongue 

 

You ask me what I mean

by saying I have lost my tongue.

I ask you, what would you do

if you had two tongues in your mouth,

and lost the first one,

the mother tongue,

and could not really know the other,

the foreign tongue.

You could not use them both together

even if you thought that way.

And if you lived in a place you had to

speak a foreign tongue,

your mother tongue would rot,

rot and die in your mouth

until you had to spit it out.

I thought I spit it out

but overnight while I dream,

it grows back, a stump of a shoot

grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,

it ties the other tongue in knots,

the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,

it pushes the other tongue aside.

Every time I think I've forgotten,

I think I've lost the mother tongue,

it blossoms out of my mouth.

Bhatt is an Indian poet who grew up in Pune but migrated to the US when she was 12. In her poem, she describes a war between these two languages, as they compete for dominance. She writes about her anguish as English seems to be winning out, but it’s when Bhatt is asleep and vulnerable, when she longs most for home, that her first language asserts itself more powerfully than before. Every time she fears she’s forgotten; Gujarati comes flooding back to her.

There is a famous folk story in Punjabi which still a lot of old people from rural areas recall. This is situated in the Gujrat region of present-day Pakistan at some time during the Mughal era. A young boy travelled from his house to get higher education. Naturally all his education was in Persian. Like any other educated boy of today, he repudiated his mother tongue and only conversed in the language of the elites. Once he fell sick and his mother was taking caring of him. In his state he kept saying aab aab. However, the mother being an uneducated woman didn’t know what he was asking for. Saying aab aab, the boy died. Later the mother found out that aab in Persian is water. Wailing over the dead body of her son, she said the following verse:

 

Aab aab kar moiyon bachra

Farsiyan ghar gale

Je jana pani mangda

Bhar bhar dendi payale

Oh my son you died saying aab aab

This Persian has destroyed houses

If I had known that my son has been asking for water

I would have served vessels of water

Baba Farid Shakar Ganj, Guru Nanak dev ji, Bulleh Shah, and many more. All of these Sufi saints were learned in the Englishes of their time, which were Persian and Arabic, but they adopted Gurmukhi because they realized that if they were to connect with the struggles of the people they would have to take up their language.

Bhatt is an Indian poet who grew up in Pune but migrated to the US when she was 12. In her poem, she describes a war between these two languages, as they compete for dominance. She writes about her anguish as English seems to be winning out, but it’s when Bhatt is asleep and vulnerable, when she longs most for home, that her first language asserts itself more powerfully than before. Every time she fears she’s forgotten; Gujarati comes flooding back to her.

There is a famous folk story in Punjabi which still a lot of old people from rural areas recall. This is situated in the Gujrat region of present-day Pakistan at some time during the Mughal era. A young boy travelled from his house to get higher education. Naturally all his education was in Persian. Like any other educated boy of today, he repudiated his mother tongue and only conversed in the language of the elites. Once he fell sick and his mother was taking caring of him. In his state he kept saying aab aab. However, the mother being an uneducated woman didn’t know what he was asking for. Saying aab aab, the boy died. Later the mother found out that aab in Persian is water. Wailing over the dead body of her son, she said the following verse:

 

Aab aab kar moiyon bachra

Farsiyan ghar gale

Je jana pani mangda

Bhar bhar dendi payale

Oh my son you died saying aab aab

This Persian has destroyed houses

If I had known that my son has been asking for water

I would have served vessels of water

Baba Farid Shakar Ganj, Guru Nanak dev ji, Bulleh Shah, and many more. All of these Sufi saints were learned in the Englishes of their time, which were Persian and Arabic, but they adopted Gurmukhi because they realized that if they were to connect with the struggles of the people they would have to take up their language.

If you share the same passion to serve your culture please get in touch we would love to hear from you.

 

 

 Kavi Darbar 

Kavi Darbar is the name given to an event or gathering where poets ("Kavi") assemble to engage in recitation of their poetry. Poetry is what makes cultural arts rich, poetry creates impressions and poetry expresses the most intimate thoughts, emotions, feelings, nuances, ideas and expressions. Punjabi poetry is rich with its contribution from poets for hundreds of years from Baba Bulleh Shah to one of the most contemporary poets, Surjit Singh Pattar.

We take pride in hosting KAVI DARBAAR that brings together in unison the poems from the past to present. We rejoice in the exquisite stanzas of Amrita Pritam to Ahmed Faraz. We celebrate Shiv Kumar Batalvi, one of the prolific poets of the 20th century. We will ignite the love for the forgotten kavis of our rich Punjabi cultural arts.

This is where Poetry lovers will have a chance to read and reflect on their poem or a poem of their favourite kavi.

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