Friday, 12 June 2009

Writers Block: Lets Get Local - Bushra Hassan

I can not speak any local language. I do now know any. Of the over dozen languages spoken in my country, I know none. I do know English though, which is why I’m here. Writing, communicating to a wider audience. I have reached out, through articles and academic papers to the international community, but it’s a shame I am unable to converse with the IDPs, who have moved to my city, and tell them I care. I do not have the words. I can not understand when they share their plight. I will not be able to reach out to my own people, and for that I am ashamed.

My parents spoke Punjabi at home, sometimes, mostly to speak to the servants in the house, but I was never interested. No one spoke these languages in school. It was considered uncouth. I do know enough Punjabi to sing along to wedding songs, and Kh. Khursheed Anwar’s timeless music. I understand Punjabi, somewhat, but what about other languages. What about the rest of my people?

I work in the development sector, because I want to help. Period. No two ways about it. But how can I go about propagating wanting to reach out to the people when I am handicapped. Rozan Islamabad needs volunteers to provide counseling to the IDPs. I want to be a part of this process, part of this journey. I want to feel like I’m a small part of something bigger, better, greater than myself. Yet, I can not.

What about our Sindhi siblings, and the Baloch, who feel alienated and isolated? If only I, with my Islamabad upbringing, fashionable English and western attire, could go and sit inside a Balochi home, and speak in their language, listen to their stories. Maybe then they would feel less isolated.My daughter is two. She talks more than her father and I combined, and yet, we have taught her nothing but urdu and some feeble English. Her cousins, I feel, are superior, since they speak Seraiki at home. My daughter will remain underprivileged because she is privileged. I urge you all, as I urge myself, not to deprive your child or yourself from the essence of who we are. Urdu, we are proud of, but other languages connect us to each other. Just as we encourage our children to connect to the outside, let’s connect to one another. Maybe that will make us a better nation, more united, more together.


Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and English is the official language. Apart from Urdu and English, there are four major provincial languages spoken in Pakistan and these are Punjabi (44%), Pashto (15%), Sindhi (14%) and Baluchi (4%). The number of living languages listed for Pakistan is 72, some with millions and some with only around thousand or so speakers.

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