Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

February 5, 2011

Answer to the Hindu-Urdu question; Gandhi’s Hindustani?

Hitting my 3-a-day quote but I’ve been meaning to ruminate on Hindi-Urdu for a while, a couple of weeks actually, but can do so now that the Blasphemy Panel has wrapped up, successfully to boot (trying to effect dialogue, let alone change, in a decreipt community generates an incredible amount of ill-will).

I want to refocus on my “socio-cultural” perspective and less of those on a contemporary nature, which the Governorial assassination consumed. Its very addictive to be constantly involved in the “scene”, to be a living witness of history rather than a student, but that is a false reality. One must have a very firm understanding of the historical and cultural causes of our present situation before effecting any sort of remedy to it.

Are Hindi and Urdu the same language?Yes and no, they are one and the same but there’s been a conscious effort to wedge them apart. Incidentally one of the prevailing narrative is that Hindi/Hindustani was used by “Muslims”, who turned Urdu (with the help of the “Imperialist & conniving” British) as a badge of separate identity in a way to disassociate from their “Indic origins”.

Colonial Hangover:

A quick history lesson is in order and a clarification of semantics, which in South Asia can be very misleading. The British grasped the intricacies of Greater India supremely well and also understood the art of labelling things correctly. Furthermore there is the conception that the British were “forced” to leave India when in fact they “gave up” on it. Britain didn’t have to relinquish her empire, she did so because the British people never had much interest (the Empire anyway had a disproportionate Celtic presence with the Scots & the Irish); I feel Britain and the Roman Empire shared some similarity as being societies inordinately concerned with domestic affairs but acquired Empires almost as an afterthought (will leave it to our American readers to decide whether this too applies to the States as well). The faraway exotic East paled in British eyes in comparison to nearby Ireland, which split the Liberal party and drove it to its eventual oblivion (until its ressurection in a bastardised form in today’s coaliation; the Orange Liberals are frankly libertarian IMHO).

I provide this perspective on Britain because as much as we’re Brown, our experience and referential identity has been deeply impact by modern European history. There’s too much fawning and blaming the “Goras” (slang for white in Hindustani) when in fact a dispassionate perspective shows that they were fundamentally different to all previous conquest in that they midwifed our region into a painful and bloody modernity.

Hindi:

“Hindi” is a language family, which is divided into several different zones and therein lies the phrase “Hindi cow-belt”. Aryavarta spoke widely related range of dialects, which could be classified as a “Hindi language zone”. Most impressively it spanned from the deserts of dry Sindh to the borders of lush Bengal. For some reason the pictures I upload aren’t coming through but there’s a very good map on Wikipedia that illustrates the Hindi belt.

File:Hindi belt.png

Anyway back to topic India is the Greek adaptation of the Persian word Hind, which derives from the Sanskrit Sind.

Urdu:

Urdu is a Turkish word (same meaning as horde in the English language), the original name was Zaban-e Urdu Muallah (language of the army camps). Urdu was pioneered by Hindus (since the Mughals used Persian as the court language) and for a while hibernated (as Dahkini) in the South, taken there by Indo-Muslim Shi’ite kingdoms which fled the Mughal expansion.

Funnily enough until very recently (two centuries ago, or just on the eve of the British conquest and waning of Mughal-Muslim influence in South Asia) Muslim poets and writers used to refer to Urdu as Hindi or Hindavi. However Urdu should not be taken as some Muslimification or reactionary element of Muslims against “India” or the Brits; its liturgical tradition is in fact longer (by a century at least) than contemporary Hindi (which can be traced to mid 19th century Fort Williams as having been regularised and standardised).

Solutions:

Gandhi proposed we all use Hindustani, with two separate scripts, as a means of ensuring unity. However I believe that all of South Asia (I’ll be liberal and throw in Afghanistan/Burma too, I’m curious about the identity of the Indian-population islands in Africa, Oceania & Latam, what is their geo-cultural attachment to South Asia?) must switch to English immediately and comprehensively. We have a huge advantages, as Brownzters, that we are so fluent and have such a rich literary tradition in English. The Turks, Chinese, Persians and other peoples do not share this linguistic advantage (which they are making up for).

I personally believe there should be three official languages for South Asia, English, Sanskrit and Urdu. It pays tribute to our composite culture and provides for cross-religious understanding while respecting each aspect of South Asian historical context (ancient Hindu, medieval Muslim and modern European). You heard it hear first what did I say about never being controversial again? I don’t know how Dravidian speakers and Bengalis (the two big groups) would feel about this but the inclusion of Sanksrit & particularly English should hopefully allay any such fears of cultural domination, obviously all communities, castes and regions would be encouraged to keep and promote their own languages these three would be the lingua franca (Muslims would have to learn the Sanskrit script and Hindus would have to learn Nasta’liq).

Further Notes:

When I was writing up Pakistani atheists and this post I came across some websites that I thought were fairly interesting.

Now one and-a-half-century since the first Hindi prose book Prem Sagar (1805) published by Daisy Rockwell & Co. for Fort William College, appeared in order to promote Devanagari or “Hindi” script, it has succeeded in opening a Pandora’s box of controversies, hatred and divide amongst the masses. In this consciously or unconsciously created divide amongst Hindu and Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent I see a ray of hope of peace emanating from this controversy because this language is the strongest, closest and most unbreakable bond amongst the people of the subcontinent.

As Pakistanis we constantly struggle with the contradictions of religion and culture. Culturally we share much in common with Indians, religiously we feel bound to Afghanistan. Too many ironies lurk in our daily lives. We read Arabic without understanding it; we speak Hindi without being able to read or write it.

It is interesting to note that much before Mahatma Gandhi’s proposal of Hindustani as a language of composite Indian culture, Raja Shiva Prasad in his book of grammar, in the year 1875, reiterated that Hindi and Urdu have no difference on the level of the vernacular. He wrote : “The absurdity began with the Maulvis and Pundits of Dr. Gilchrist’s time, who being commissioned to make a grammar of the common speech of Upper India made two grammars… The evil consequence is that instead of having a school grammar of the vernacular as such… we have two diverse and discrepant class books, one for the Mohammedan and Kayastha boys and the other for the Brahmins and Banias.” (cf. Srivastava p.3O).

DAKHNI The Language in which the Composite Culture of India was Born

There are some lacunae in the standard account of the origin of Dakhni. For example, if the language was born with the Muslim invasion in the 14th century, how did such sophisticated poetry as that of Bande Nawaz emerge in so short a period? And why has Dakhni remained so popular? Deccan, as we said above, is an area that can be defined as lying between the Narmada and the Tungabhadra rivers. The area south of the Deccan is called Dravid. The Deccan has been a meeting point of southern and northern cultures. This has given its culture a special quality. It does not keep its independent existence but spreads and accepts influences from north and south. It is a home for Kannada, Telugu and Marathi, and also has contributed to Hindi and Urdu. So the contact with the north is far older than the Muslim invasion. Both Buddhists and Jain religions that were born in Bihar had significant presence in the South. The Jains even today have an important presence. After the decline of the Buddhists, it was the Shaivaite and Nathpanthis who inherited the Buddhist tradition. There was a lot of movement of Nathpanthis, Nirgunias, Sikhs and Sufis from Punjab to Gulbarga, through Gujarat and Maharashtra. In Maharashtra, Gyaneshwar and his elder brother Nivrutinath are in direct tradition of Gorakhnath. Hence we find Namdev (1270-1351), a saint from Maharashtra and a tailor by caste, writing in Dakhni. His son Gonda also composed in Dakhni. Some 50 of Namdev’s poems are included in the Granth Sahib. Eknath and Tukaram are the two other Marathi saints who wrote extensively in Dakhni. However the bulk of Dakhni literature is in the Sufi tradition. Sufis too travelled from the North to the South, as did Nanak. Nanak reached up to Nanded and Bidar. Sufis spread all over the Deccan and every district has at least one important Sufi dargah. One should remember that all Muslims poets were not Sufis nor all Sufis were Muslim. For example Nizam Bidri’s Masanavi Kadam Rao va Padam Rao is a Jain Charit Kavya. Countless number of Hindus goes to the Sufi dargahs and many sing Sufi songs.

British, Brown & Diverse but accepting (The story of the Lioness and her Prey inside)

My 18mth old nephew and mother have caught a virus, which means I’m staying in tonight. Luckily (or perhaps not) for Brown Punditry that means I’ll be manning my station, while occasionally checking up on my family (my sister-inlaw has entered her delivery period so Feb is going to be an interesting month isA). I come through as quite gossipy and personal and that’s also a reason why I am never controversial (apart from the occasional flirtation with Pakistaniat but even that’s fairly mild and comical). I’m no good at anonymity (nor is my family come to think of it; to my advantage and detriment I integrate all aspects of my life wherever possible) so like many mystic Shi’ites I have many opinions (several layers of opinions in fact) and ocassionally practise Ta’aqiyah (dissimulation) when it suits. Just because I avoid controversy doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions, its just that they are going to be very subtle and balanced to avoid offending anyone.

Britain and Diversity

Prime Minster Cameron today said that Multi-culturalism has failed in Britain. Britain is an amazing country, extremely humanitarian and very open-minded, but unfortunately society here is dealing with its own issues of assimilation & ghettoisation. The EDL (English Defence League) marched in Luton today and my opinion is that we definitely need a new national narrative to accommodate an increasingly diverse Britain (its irreversible now; white Brits may still be the majority going forward but the country has a huge ethnic population). After the surname map (the website is down from overloading) we need to realize Britain’s assets are her diversity and cosmpolitanism. I like my “hybridity” idea, let’s the best of our host culture here and mix it with the best of our native culture. Its the middle way (and Britain loves the middle way) between multi-culturalism and assimilationism. Also I think all sides need to adopt a measure of flexibility and fluidity; change is the only constant in this increasingly one world.

Brown Punditry and Diversity

My personal thoughts on “superstition” is the following, anything not empirical proved is a belief and all beliefs are acts of faith/superstitions. I respect all to be practised so long as its not imposed on my life in any way (I’m a libertarian dammit) and I try to remain curious/skeptical/openminded about them as long as they seem positive and uplifting.

As for the Astrology issue (Saggitarian, year of the rat if anyone’s curious!) heating up here, I think that’s a good thing that we’re discussing it but it should be done from a perspective on how it impacts Brown Culture. This blog is all about discussing Brownz and understanding the issues but not endlessly and circularly debating them (going indepth in Astrology is going to head to head on whether Partition was right or wrong; that’s not what this blog is about). All beliefs at BrownPundits are subject to scrutiny and investigation however comments that dispute evidential facts become redundant arguments.

I may have my sacred cows, Pakistaniyat, Baha’ism, banking (grasping for more please feel free to add to the list) but when I discuss and submit them here I have to accept that they will reviewed, scrutinized and examined in ways I’m not used to as for instance Omar does from time to time (7yrs ago it used to be the Kolkata Libertarian how times have changed). Its a good things because that’s precisely why we flock to these virtual portals to experience different ideas, mindsets and perspectives that we wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to.

I wrote a little comical email narrative (fictional) yesterday to our Blasphemy Panel email list and it sort of sums up the prevailing divide in British Asian Muslim (Muzzer) culture. Some of it is obviously an exaggeration (some of it drawn in real life you might recognise me toward the end) but it has some true elements (the British civil service hires many Muslims, even those avowedly not loyal to Britain)

The lioness and her prey.
A short story courtesy of edl/bnp

He is a sorely misunderstood and mild-mannered civil servant whose alter ego is a budding abu hamza, whom he channels for panel discussions and emails rants against secularism. She is a self-confessed liberal extremist who by her own admission can be a feisty witch.

At work he positively intrigues his superiors with his active and growing hobby in designing baggy overalls, refining basic chemicals and collecting high resolution population maps of all major British towns and cities. On their nightly escape to the shires his bosses sigh that if only native Britons were as single minded and disciplined as him they could probably have all the immigrants off work and back on welfare.

After winning a landmark case enshrining the right to hate infidels and foment terror in the EU constitution the prey has been moved to the building’s unmanned cctv control. He passes tea breaks issuing fatwas against various female colleagues who allow the silhouette of their cleavage to cross his peripheral vision. If he’s up to it he might loudly condemn the busty online gals whose websites he stumbles on for a few good hours. He will be sure to give precise descriptions, with no detail spared, of these virtual temptresses to his saturday co-pamphleting ‘bruvas’.

One day in April he shall attend sq & zls upcoming performance ‘Call Me Kafir’. He is so moved by the lead actor, surprisingly zl, that he auditions for ludoo/pipas next performance instead of having a blast with the cast and crew as he had originally intended.

He wins a starring role in their next production and works hard all summer. He realises the prey has become the hero when after a standing ovation as the drunken Devdas he notices in the far corner of the room the lioness with a glint of a tear in her eyes.

Mourning her lost prey she silently moves on to her next kill, a young social spammer who constant blogs about losing friends, ham acting and debate moderation.

This time she will not fail since her slow-moving target is lagging all his new years resolutions spinning out nonsense at all hours of the night to people he’s never met before..

February 4, 2011

I am not irreligious

Filed under: Culture,Desi,Identity,India,Islam,Pakistan,Religion,Zach — Zachary Latif @ 1:11 am

From my HinJew thread I’m nominating Omar as my online shrink and Zaynab as his deputy. The nature of their queries this session is why do I obfuscate  by saying “I’m not irreligious”. In the world of  BrownPundits Jaldhar and myself seem to be among the devout.

Personal Beliefs

Anyway I like to be clear, when I can. I’m proud to be a Baha’i (3rd gen as a Latif 5th gen through another line), on a communal and spiritual level, however my family, stemming from generations, values open-mindedness, individual conscience and humanism above all else (my father and his brother’s facebook statuses is proof of that they actually get a bit of flack for it). Therefore we tend to transcend labels where we can and avoid division. Therefore when Razib correctly mentions that my parents are “Baha’i” I would actually say we’re bourgeoisie, with a dash of boheme (still sticking to our B’s).Also Razib (my middle brother has actually put the name on a shortlist for his second son due next week, the letters Rs zs & bs recur in our family names so its a good combo) mentions:

and to be clear, in parts of europe the roman catholic church has reduced the level of new age belief among its flock on specific issues, such as charms, astrology, etc. but once the church loses institutional support these beliefs seem to pop right back up again out of the universal retard cognitive furniture.

Familial & Esoteric Beliefs

I fear my beliefs (and that of my extended family too) may be a bit of a throwback to “universal retard cognitive furniture” so while we can all accept and very readily internalize atheism (my grandmother’s thoughts on religion is pretty out there; she’s atheisque but still does the Baha’i namaz thrice daily) we respect and syncretise with various & all forms of belief (conciliators rather than confronters; exemplified by the comment I am not irreligious). Ultimately (and EconMichelle may especially remember this post) I believe in the God of ethics, which is either a factual or fictional personification of pure logic and reason. So I’m a mish-mash of Baha’i theology (super duper idealistic about human nature), bits of Zoroastrianism dualism (good vs. evil & all that) and bits of new-age French Revolutionary thought (Supreme Being & Goddess of Reason).

February 3, 2011

Quotes on Religion

Filed under: Identity,Iran,morality,Quotations,Real Life,Religion,Zach — Zachary Latif @ 9:41 am

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”….Carl Sagan

“No man of any humor ever founded a religion”….Robert G. Ingersoll

[ The Bible ] has noble poetry in it…and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”……Mark Twain

“A man is accepted into a church for what he believes and is turned out for what he knows.”… Mark Twain

“I cannot believe in a God who has neither humor nor common sense”…W. Somerset Maugham

“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence”. Richard Dawkins ( Scientist )

“Only the Atheist realizes how morally objectionable it is for survivors of a catastrophe to believe themselves spared by a loving God while this same God drowned infants in their cribs.” Sam Harris

“Mystery [the divinity of Jesus Christ] is made a convenient Cover for absurdity”. John Adams (founding father)

“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” Benjamin Franklin

“All thinking men are Atheists”…Ernest Hemingway (P.S., notice the word THINKING ?)

My post on HinJew led to my uncle (who is Chicagoan) and I to banter about on email. He pointed out that while I am quite forthright about my views on the Baha’i community I’m a soft touch when it comes to Muslims. Two reasons:

(a) I’m an outsider, have been so for at least 3 generations, so am not qualified to comment

(b) self-censorship; at our talk last week the Christian rep amusingly contrasted  how many “liberal extremists” killed people versus Muslim extremists.

Anyway to end our back and forth he sent me a few amusing quotes on religion, which I thought I would share below. I’m not  irreligious by the way is just I feel the path to true religion is  valuing one’s moral and intellectual conscience as the  guide to living rather than hearsay or scriptural texts of any hue. Adopt the good of all, eschew  the bad where-ever you find  and if God is telling you something wrong defy him/her.

February 2, 2011

Rant: Let the HinJew reign in perpetuity.

Filed under: Culture,Identity,Pakistan,South Asia,South Asian,Zach — Zachary Latif @ 9:38 am

I’ve been thinking about it, its not the religion but the people. In my career I’ve never had any serious help from a Pakistani, Iranian or a Baha’i. All of my contacts (and very close friends for that matter) have either been Hindu, Jewish or good ole Westerners. I’ve only encountered hostility and “competition” from my people; this is irrespective of their depth or level of religiosity. Now it could be my own personal character but then how do I get on so well with the “Other”? 

Why can’t we help each other? The competitive complex is far too deeply ingrained and has absolutely nothing to do with the religion but our tribal nature. Until we learn to cooperate, form alliances, resolve our issues amicable (the level of jealously, viciousness and animosity is intense) I much prefer the commercial and pragmatism of the HinJew to the tumultuousness and turbulence (and high-minded & unrealistic idealism) of my so-called “people”.

My PIPA colleague Rubia concluded last week’s debate (jump over to the last two minutes) very presciently and movingly by saying Pakistanis never help each other; I’ve just realised how true this is (I always knew but never understood till now). I guess the road gets harder before it gets easier for our part of the world?

Also a final thought the “critiques” I find in my “people” are the very same characteristics I possess in abundance. I’m idealistic, quite ambitious and can be fairly aggressive when I want something perhaps it is because I possess these very traits that I find them intolerable otherwise; like cannot accept like.

Rant Over. Back to Regular Programming so what about those Egyptjains?

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