The Angraizi Complex


Aamna Haider Isani had written an article for Instep by the title:  ‘A New Body Language For Cricket!’. In it, she mentioned the joy of watching a win for Pakistan but something she wrote triggered the engine of my mind to run and the muscles in my fingers to be exercised. Such were the two lines:

“The only slight shudder one feels is when Pakistan wins and Afridi has to talk to the commentator on how the “boys played well”‘ and “All credit goes to Umar Gul for sticking to Urdu” and from here I begin another blog post : The English or Angraizi Complex.

With a society immersed in denialism, dogmatism and their thorny roots that prickle when someone thinks out of the box – and that too, in a country marred by terrorism, corruption, unstable Governments with even exacerbated situations of political tensions, social confusions and economic strains, since the commencement of the War on Terror : the Pakistani mind-set is labyrinthine.

Although its been more than six decades since Pakistan’s liberation from the yoke of imperialism, yet the colonial-inculcated sense of inferiority in the natives of this land relating to their culture, language, customs, physical characteristics et al lingers tenaciously here.

The best manifestation being that speaking English in the country is the yard-stick to measure the education, personality, back-ground, caliber for many; the ultimate crown of sophistication.

And so, it’s considered a reason to shake your head from side to side, in an expression of shame lest Angraizi does not flow ‘fur fur’ on your tongue.

One fails to understand this, why do the Pakistani people stress incredibly upon learning English for our players or any other famous person from this land? Yes, this language is a global and important communicative tool to interact with and put one’s message across almost all around the world but everyone knows, its not for this reason that such emphasis is pressed on English here.

Our players do not go to the cricket grounds to speak Shakespearean English but to play and win. So what if Younas  spoke at a rate of 20 words per 5 seconds? So what if Afridi repeats the same words?

Are their accents and pronounciations larger than their achievements?

Indeed, celebrities and such popular persons are considered ‘public property’ and their lives are scrutinized but dismissing his flair and blazing performance for a mere language which he can’t speak fluently as it is neither his mother tongue nor his job to perfect it ? Those are petty thoughts.

The task of giving this country moments of joy is cumbersome in these times, but people like Afridi and our team make them possible through this sport. Then why does their fluency in this language matter?

Just because a language is global, it does not define or measure talent, class or stature.

Top football stars like Messi and David Villa, tennis champions like Nadal and many players in both football or cricket teams do not speak English. Many sporting stars of the world of today are proud to speak their language even if they know English or often speak English in their natural accents that are even difficult to comprehend, but neither does it disconcert their fans nor does it faze them.

Then why do we, impose this complex of the English language upon ourselves? Or feel dishonored when our cricket players utter broken English?

What loss of glory or ignominy  does it bring us? At a time when a variety of terrorists are the perceived face of this country, is the inability to talk in fine English, really the most of Pakistan’s worries? 

The success of India is often pondered upon by many Pakistanis but little do they realize that one of the basic reasons that the country is blooming today, both culturally and economically is their attitude. Apart from their hardwork and what has contributed to their economic success – most Indians seem to deal with their heritage, culture and history with three P’s : by taking pride in them, preserving them and promoting them.

Whilst in Pakistan, the culture and heritage is dealt with deal with three S’s : feeling shame in associating it with one’s self, shunning it and attempting to separating it from the course of life.

[Bear in mind, I do not mean the foul aspects of Pakistani culture and traditions. ]

Then why burst into flames of anger at other nations who scorn at our culture or country when Pakistanis themselves, fail to ‘recognize’ and embrace their own heritage, culture, roots, language, identity and past ? For if one himself does not respect them, why expect others to?

Hindi today, is in the top 4 most spoken languages of the world and Urdu? Pakistanis, the inheritors of this beautiful language which comprises Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Hindi itself, still hesitate to confabulate in it.

It is strikingly hypocritical, how a local who speaks in ‘broken’ English is met by pityful sighs and an eyeful of eyerolls but when a gora speaks ridiculously-incorrect Urdu, it is viewed to be ‘fascinating and cute’. Sad, to laugh and embarass one’s own while he tries to grasp a component of another culture but to be captivated by another when he tries to grasp our culture.

Culture and language are inextricably entwined or weaved into each other and spurning one’s language is tantamount to disgracing one’s own culture: a major social agency that forms any individual’s identity.

The capacity of this unfounded feeling of inferiority is the touch-stone of a failed people.

I do not condemn the usage of the English language or knowledge of it, but to treat it as some gauge-meter for many an significant things is a plain farce.

Deplorably, this concept is being furthered by many educational institutions and the institution of a family in Pakistan. Elite private schools prefer English as the sole medium of communication, rather some even handle the use of Urdu with strict handling [ Students are reportedly liable to punishment for conversing in Urdu in some of them ]

Families and parents are often seen to place the teaching of English as a priority for their little children while they crawl to reach the stage of learning, instead of Urdu. Its not a rare scene, to see some children in Pakistan with fluent English but terribly poor Urdu.

The abasement of Urdu and the ensurance of its protection, was also what was included in the list of interests of our people [ That later became Pakistanis ] in the pre-partition era and in the championing of the ideology of Pakistan.

To go by history books, it was one of what their identity comprised thus, there is less doubt, that Urdu language was integrant in Pakistan’s emergence.

When the British Imperialists came to the Sub-continent, they tried to foist the ways of their civilization (especially the language) on the people of the region, considering it far more superior than the culture of the people whose land they ruled. It may have inflamed the people of that time to revolt and rebel, but surely it is evident, that the imperialist-instilled constituents of their superiority as a people and all that their race represents and the state of being subaltern of all the natives and what is linked to them – are still obstinately self-retained in our minds; now be that the Gori-Chamri complex or this, Angraizi Complex.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

8 comments on “The Angraizi Complex

  1. hamarapakistan1947 says:

    Thank you for raising an important issue in our society.
    I think we Pakistanis have Identity-crises. We are still mentally enslaved and our politicians, and media hasn’t done anything to free us from it, instead they like the status quo.

  2. Sakib Ahmad says:

    You are spot on. Last January I wrote at length on the same subject, which aroused considerable interest. May I request you please to read that article and ALL comments that follow? The link is:

    http://sakibahmad.blogspot.com/2010/01/punjab-governments-own-goal.html

    I have heard of Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Urdu but its website appears to be in a sorry state and the e-mails I sent to the addresses given at that website have never been acknowledged. I also wrote – in Urdu – to Jameel-ud-deen Aali Sahib who writes regular columns in Jang but, again, I received no reply. Aali Sahib is in his mid-eighties and in poor health so I wasn’t surprised – but I had expected someone else to respond on his behalf.

    I wonder if you are aware of an effective organisation which works for the promotion of Urdu?

  3. Eman says:

    Hafsa im impressed!🙂
    thanks for raising such an important topic.

  4. thought-provoking hafsa🙂 love the article..simply it is the voice of my heart🙂

  5. rehanud1975 says:

    I didn’t read the article in it’s entirety but putting together the Title and the picture of Pakistani Players gives me a very clear idea of what you are saying and I agree completely. I think we need to promote Urdu as much as English. Go to any big book shop and you will see Urdu books “living” there like a second class citizen in some other country. English books get all the VIP treatment and front rows while Urdu books are usually crammed in the dimly lit corners or less frequented areas. We need to respect Urdu and the evidence of this respect should be out there !

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