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 Another Kashmiri notices language disappearing

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PostSubject: Another Kashmiri notices language disappearing   Fri Aug 14, 2009 4:29 am

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Our son speaks Kashmiri!

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MOTHER-TONGUE


But we wonder why Kashmiri kids don’t speak the language, lament Latief and Saman Bazaz.

We are a couple who grew up in Kashmir, spoke Kashmiri with pride, moved to the United States 12 years ago, still spoke Kashmiri with pride to whoever we could find.

We worked hard to make sure that our son (who is now seven) spoke fluent Kashmiri, even though he was born and brought up in the United States of America. Now, coming to Kashmir after five years with our two kids, we have struggled to find a “Kashmiri” kid that speaks Kashmiri…..what the heck went wrong….An American Kashmiri kid, who has every right not to speak Kashmiri, speaks the language with authority and “Kashmiri” kids don’t know the language. Call us old fashioned, but it just does not make sense.

Seems like the Kashmiri language is becoming extinct like some old pre-historic dialects, when it comes to the new generation Kashmiri’s, especially Kashmiri kids.

When we were growing up in Kashmir, Kashmiri speaking kids used to be frowned upon in the elite schools of the valley but we, the students spoke the language anyways. Fast forward 20 plus years and the language situation has totally changed. Today, speaking the Kashmiri language is not “in”. It is actually looked down upon, even by the Kashmiri parents. Everywhere we go with our son, people start talking to him in Urdu (Kashmiri style Urdu, which would make the pioneers of the Urdu language flinch). Kashmiri’s have adapted a weird mix of Kashmiri/Urdu/English/Gibberish to come up with what they call “URDU”.

We try to remind these people that our son speaks fluent Kashmiri. No one seems to be able to control the spoken language anymore. Urdu comes out by default. We find this really annoying and irritating. We told quite a few “Urdu speaking” Kashmiris that they should either converse with our son in English (provided they are able to figure out his American slang) or speak to him in Kashmiri. They still stick to Urdu.

Now, as Kashmiri parents, we find it hard to justify to our son what exactly is happening here. Among the forty plus Kashmiri Muslim families, that live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we reside, we have yet to meet a Kashmiri kid that speaks the language. Our son is the only one and he does wonder why he is alone…For the last few years, we have been telling our son not to worry about the non-Kashmiri speaking “Kashmiri American kids” and that he can speak Kashmiri to kids in Kashmir. Now, we are in Kashmir and no kid speaks Kashmiri. Where do we take our son now? Where is that town, that city, that state, that country, that continent, where kids will speak the Kashmiri language? It is not in Kashmir, for sure.

We wonder and wonder why it is considered to be embarrassing by the home grown Kashmiri parents if and when their kids speak Kashmiri. Why does speaking our mother tongue feel less “modern”. We look at all the Indians leaving in the United States and most of them have made sure that their kids speak their native languages, with PRIDE. What makes Kashmiri language the bad apple? What makes it so unpopular?

We have heard the lame argument that Kashmiri kids “need” to speak Urdu because that is the language spoken in the schools. Our rebuttal to that argument is that if our kid, growing up in California, going to a school which has predominantly White American students, can master both English and Kashmiri languages, why can’t Kashmiri kids speak Urdu “and” Kashmiri.

Spending the last few weeks in Kashmir, we find the spoken language here both amusing and sad. If an American Kashmiri can proudly speak Kashmiri, why can’t Kashmiri Kashmiri’s do the same? Why the race for appearing “Westernized”….why the embarrassment……why the facade……why the futile attempts to be someone that you are not…..why …?

(Authors reside in San Fransico, California)

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