Twist of the Mother Tongue


The author jibes at his triple selves, in triplicate

By Mohammed Hanif

Sometimes fellow writers and journalists ask me how I choose whether to write in Urdu or English or Punjabi. I usually start my answer with a self-deprecating remark: I can write badly in three-and-a-half languages. Like most self-deprecating remarks this one barely conceals a boast: I read and write Urdu; I can also borrow my ideas from ancient Punjabi, unlike you posh prats who rely entirely on English. But why would someone boast about their ability to read and write in their mother tongue (Punjabi, in my case) or express themselves in their national language?

I guess you show off because most people who write in English cannot pick up a newspaper in their local language to find out what yesterday’s riot was about. It’s not their fault. They went to good schools, sometimes schools so good that the main purpose of their education was to ensure their talents remained unpolluted by local languages and cultures.

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