Monday, December 25, 2017

To the language of love, with love

Here's a twist on the Ship of Theseus paradox. The original paradox is this: if a ship has been restored or fixed after having all its parts replaced, is it still the same ship? Now what if a ship was taken apart, its rusty parts polished, its software updated and the whole thing re-assembled and manned by a new crew. Is it still the same ship?

A decade ago, Urdu was a cultural vessel that looked the worse for repair. Lovers of the language spoke of it ruefully, as if it was headed for the shipbreaking yard.

Mushairas (public poetry recitations) were organised in a few cities but tucked out of sight of the cultural mainstream. A generation educated in English medium schools couldn't even read the posters advertising the event. Besides, Urdu wasn't necessarily their scene. College fests had jazz and hip-hop rather than ghazals and qawwalis. The new leisure was gaming and memes, selfies and social media, Netflix and trying to chill. Couplets and metaphors?

Actually, yes. Couplets and metaphors.

Enter the new Urdu. The old ship has got a fresh coat of paint, new steel joints and a robust crew.


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