India’s famous poet, composer and writer Javed Akhtar received a thunderous applause at the 7th Faiz Festival in Lahore. Apart from his love for the famous Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, the 78-year-old spoke a lot about language; English and mother tongue – be it Hindi, Urdu or regional – and the need to give equal respect to all of them.
The office of Faiz
Akhtar, in his opening speech, shared with Faiz, whose memory of the festival, is often followed and read in India – even today. “His works had magic. It is published and read not only in Urdu, but also in Devnagri. His fans are not limited to Pakistan or India,” Akhtar said.
Political agenda destroys culture
The belief of the respected poet is that competition and enmity has spread between countries bordering on language and culture. “Some who are called the messiahs of the language on our side, whether for Urdu or any other language, they say to remove this particular word because it is not ours. You keep removing it, the language will become poorer,” he said adding that writing is not a language and there are many words we use in our daily lives such as Turkish, Punjabi, or Japanese too for that matter.
“A language is never made in a day; new words are added over the years. Our entire cultural story is in our language. You cannot weaken a culture by banning words. A person has many identities but the most important thing is language. When you cut yourself off from a language, you cut off a whole culture, your identity, your roots,” he said.
The cost of learning English
Akhtar thought that “it is very sad to see children in the continent learning English at the cost of their language.” The poet said that many parents in the country are sending their children to English schools but this is not the problem.
“I have nothing against English. Those who say they don’t learn English are your enemies; yes, it is very important. But now children are learning English at the cost of their own language. That should not happen. Whatever your language – Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto – you should know,” he said.
Grammar, not words
While the language is widely defined in his writings and lyrics, Akhtar has a different opinion. “A text or words that are not languages. The purity of language is a myth. A language is enriched when more words are added to it. Language is how you speak. It reflects your culture and roots,” he said. “For example, if I say ‘Ye hall air-conditioned hai’. In this sentence, there are two key words — ‘hall’ and ‘air-conditioned’ – it’s from English but does that mean I was speaking English? No, I’m not because ‘oe’ and ‘hai’ hold the sentences. Language is related to grammar. It’s your own way of speaking, not words or writing,” Akhtar added.
Combined for the love of poetry and music
After the festival, many videos were made on social media where celebrities like Sarwat Gilani, Ali Zafar, Resham and others spent the evening entertaining the poet with live music and poetry. Akhtar was seen hanging out with Zafar at Kishore Kumar’s house Zindagi Aa Raha Hoon Main.
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