“The great enemy of clear

language is insincerity.”

–George Orwell – 1946

The language, Urdu, is as old as the 13th century and has close to 100 million native speakers around the world, predominantly in India and Pakistan. The name Urdu was first used by the poet Ghulam Hamadani Mushafi in around 1780 and is derived from the Turkic word orda which means army. In the 7th century, Arabs invaded the subcontinent while in the 13th century, Persian was declared as the official language of the Delhi sultanate by the Turkic and Afghan dynasties. Hence, Urdu draws its influence form Persian and Arabic languages which contribute many words to the official speech. It also borrows considerable amount of words from the Chagatai language, an extinct Turkic language. With the advent of the British Raj, Persian was replaced by the Hindustani language which was written in the Persian script as well and was used by both Hindus and Muslims. Urdu, however, was known by various other names at the time such as Bahlavi, Dehlavi and even Hindi. The promotion of this language by the British caused a backlash amongst the Hindus who wanted the official language to be written in Devanagari script. This led to the formation of Hindi, which replaced Hidustani, and the formal recognition of Urdu as a language for Muslims. The linguistic divide continued till Pakistan’s independence in 1947. It is still spoken in many parts of India where the Muslim communities used to reside in majority. Many words from regional languages like Pashto, Punjabi, Sindhi and Balti, have been incorporated into Urdu, giving the language a distinctly Pakistani flavour. Urdu literature and poetry works are studied worldwide and translated in dozens of languages. At present, the language is losing much of its significance amongst the youth. Unless a change in government policy increases the influence of Urdu in the education and corporate sector, the new generation will never be able to grasp the beauty, wisdom of Urdu, and the struggle of its writers.