Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee | 31.3.19



I attended World Urdu Conference held in Delhi from 18 to 20 March. Delegates from over 18 countries and academicians including Vice Chancellors of two Urdu Universities and research scholars from across the country attended the conference. Over 20 research papers were presented on the status and prospects of Urdu language.

Contrary to popular and increasingly and deliberately created perception, Urdu is not the language of Muslims. It was a lashkari (soldier) language (the word ‘Urdu’ comes from the Turkish word ‘ordu’ meaning ‘camp’ or ‘army’), nourished during the period of Mughal emperor Shahjahahn. It had words from Persian and local languages. The purpose was to make communication easy among soldiers who were from different places: Arab, Turk and locals. Based on the Khariboli dialect of Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh in the Indian subcontinent, Urdu developed under local Persian, Arabic, and Turkic influence over the course of almost 900 years. It began to take shape in what is now Uttar Pradesh, India during the Delhi Sultanate (1206–1527), and continued to develop under the Mughal Empire (1526–1858).

The Persian newspapers of West Bengal were fore-runners of the Urdu press. After the decline of Persian as an official language, Urdu gained prominence.

The first newspaper of Urdu language was Jam-i-Jahan-Numa, founded by Harihar Dutta in 1822 in Kolkata (then Calcutta). He was the son of Tara Chand Dutta, eminent Bengali journalist and one of the founders of Bengali weekly Sambad Koumudi. Editor of this three page weekly paper was Sadasukhlal. After English and Bengali, it was the third language newspaper in India. It continued to be published till 1888.

Urdu is spoken by large number of people, especially Muslims in about 10 states of India. After English and Hindi, Urdu happens to be the most pan-Indian language. The problem with Urdu is- increasingly it is being associated with a particular religion. The protection and promotion of Urdu is also being viewed from religious prism. When this happens, gradually a wall grows around the language and it creates a distance. The language gradually loses its appeal for the people of other religions. This is unfortunate as Urdu has such vast literature to savour.

Kolkata and its Street Food

Kolkata is known for its street food.

I had recently been there and stayed at a guesthouse at Belgachia, North Kolkata, the older part of the city. I instructed the guest house caretaker to get me brown bread and boiled egg. Instead he brought kachuri and potato curry from roadside eatery. Both were not good for me as I am over weight and diabetic.

But boy, it was delicious. I devoured it and told to myself – ek adh bar, kuch paap vi kar lena chahiye. Afsos sametke duniya nehi chodni hai.

The non-existent footpaths of Kolkata

I like to walk. I believe, you can see more of a city by walking. But it is difficult to walk in Kolkata as there is, practically, no footpath in Kolkata. In many places it has turned into bazar. Or somebody has made a shanty on it and living with family. You can see full colony of such shanties right on the pavement. There are tiny temples. One can find pictures and clay idols of various Gods and Goddesses near the trees lining the pavement. There are shops selling flowers to offer at these tiny temples on the same pavement.

People, for whom the footpath has been originally build walk on roads dodging the moving vehicles like in the latest edition of ‘khatron ke khiladi’.

The Rat Story

A rat swallowed a diamond and the owner of the diamond contracted a man to kill the rat.

When the rat hunter arrived to kill the rat there were more than a thousand rats bunched up and one sitting by itself away from the pack. He killed the one by itself and that was the exact one that had swallowed the diamond.

The amazed owner of the diamond asked: How did you know it was that rat?

He responded: “Very easy…. When idiots get rich they don’t mix with others!!!”

(Courtesy: Social Media)


The author, a journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. An anthology of his weekly column Window Seat, published in 2018 has been published as a book. Write to him to get a free e-copy.

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