“Sirf ek pal se vo train chuthi thi.”
“Agar aap us train mein bhethi, tho humara khandaan nahi hota.”
I lie on the soft, worn bed. My Ammi (grandmother) is telling me the story that I have almost memorized by heart; her family’s migration to Pakistan during the Partition of Subcontinent-India in 1947. I can feel the rising tremors in her voice as she describes the injustices done to her people, and can vicariously experience through her the freedom she felt, the crisp sweetness of the fruitful air she breathed when she first stepped foot in my motherland. The poetic, silky sound of fluent Urdu resonates in my ears. Many a time I wonder what the point is of learning and speaking a language that isn’t spoken where I live, a language that I will stop using the second I stop speaking to my grandparents. But it is after these stories I realize that it doesn’t matter that I won’t speak Urdu when I get older. It doesn’t matter that this language belongs to a people eight thousand miles away. This language makes me who I am, down to the shalwar I wear when I go to sleep. This is the language that flows in my veins, the same language that flowed in the veins of my ancestors hundreds of years ago. It is this wondrous language that lets me hear the rhyme of a poetic verse written in 18th century India. It is this language that holds my family together, that lets us say “I love you.”
Like education, language is one of the few things in this world that no one can take from you. No one can go into the deep recesses of your mind and withdraw your vocabulary and intellect; the most they can do is influence them. Like an unbreakable bond, language can unite tribes, regions, and countries; it ties people together so tightly that they cannot turn away from one another, even if they try. Language has the remarkable ability to bring together a group of people to struggle and make a better world for themselves. When one learns and understands a new language, they are given a precious key, one that will unlock a wholly different world. They are given the key to speak, express ideas, and feel each other’s sentiments in a way they have never experienced before. How can someone refuse this extraordinary tool?
Through learning to value my mother tongue, I have discovered my identity; I have discovered my culture, my history, my roots. My language is spoken daily by millions. It can be called commonplace, ordinary. But it isn’t. Urdu is intertwined with the very thread of my existence.
I await the day I can teach this beautiful language to my children.
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