Is Urdu Making a Comeback? If so, then Mashallah!

Urdu is gaining popularity with the telecast of Pakistani shows, and the revival of performances like ‘Dastangoi’.

2 min read
A screengrab from one of the most popular Pakistani dramas, <i>Zindagi Gulzaar Hai</i>.

Don’t be surprised if while sipping your favourite cup of latte in a Delhi café you overhear conversations, interspersed with smatterings of Urdu. Words like sukoon (peace), inshallah (if god wills it), gunjaiish (scope), tazurba (experience), ana (ego), ehtaram (respect), jazba (feelings), tans (taunt), ikhlak (good habit), and many more have unconsciously seeped into the common Indian parlance. The immense popularity of television dramas from Pakistan seems to be an obvious factor contributing to this phenomenon.

With Pakistani TV shows reaching every middle class Indian household, Urdu has in some measure moved out of the small circle of sophisticated intellectuals who are pretty well -versed with works of Ghalib, Mir, or Manto. This growing fondness for Urdu, the language of tehzeeb, appears to be cutting across age, gender and occupation divides. Thus, two friends may be spotted sorting their masla (issue), or a proud mother bragging about her farmabardaar (son) having an ideal tarbiyat (upbringing).

Urdu Getting big on the Cultural Scene

<i>Dastangoi</i> performed at India International Centre, Delhi. (Photo: Shambhavi Prakash)
Dastangoi performed at India International Centre, Delhi. (Photo: Shambhavi Prakash)

The thumping success of the recent Dastangoi  performed at India International Centre, created a buzz in the Delhi culture circuit and beyond, also resonates with similar sentiments. Dastan (tale), and goi (to tell a tale) is an Urdu oral story telling art form, going back to the medieval times. Noted Urdu critic Shamsur Rehman Farooqui and his nephew writer, Mahmood Farooqui revived this form in the 21st century. Despite the tales being narrated in chaste Urdu, difficult for most to comprehend, the audiences of Dastangoi sit almost mesmerised, showing their keen interest and curiosity in the language.

<i>Lal Qile ka Mushiara</i> being staged at an Urdu festival in Delhi. (Photo: Shambhavi Prakash)
Lal Qile ka Mushiara being staged at an Urdu festival in Delhi. (Photo: Shambhavi Prakash)

At a deeper level, it is heartening to see Indians rediscovering their legacy and common shared heritage. What has been spoken across the subcontinent over centuries are shades of Hindustani, and not Hindi, including words from a shared pool of both Urdu and Hindi lexicon. Our cinema, plays, and even songs, reflect the same.

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