Publication of 22-volume Urdu Lughat celebrated
By Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: The compilation, publication and merits of the 22-volume Urdu Lughat were celebrated at a ceremony organised by Unikarians International at Karachi University’s arts auditorium on Saturday.
It was a well-attended programme presided over by KU Pro Vice-Chancellor Shahana Urooj Kazmi. Chief Editor of the Urdu Dictionary Board and poetess Fahmida Riaz was the chief guest.
Azhar Abbas Hashmi conducted the event in an eloquent manner and his talk was replete with anecdotes from his university days and the things that led to the making of Unikarians, an association of former students of Karachi University. He recalled that when after a painstaking effort spanning 70 years the Oxford English Dictionary was completed and published, the then British prime minister Stanley Baldwin lauded the effort in parliament. Mr Hashmi lamented that no such praise was showered on members of the Urdu Dictionary Board, past or present, which is why Unikarians thought it appropriate to arrange a function in their honour. In this regard he particularly acknowledged the endeavours of two members of the association, Abul Hasanat and M. Iqbal Khan.
Unikarians president M. Iqbal Khan was the first speaker of the day. He said it was a moment of pride and joy that after 52 years of hard work and meticulous research the Lughat was finally out. He also recalled the incident in which a British prime minister had appreciated the publication of a dictionary in parliament with a standing ovation. He remarked that perhaps Pakistani rulers had other important things to do. He commended the efforts of all those who made the event possible, and of those who had come up with a book, a compilation of essays on the Urdu Lughat.
Prof Malahat Kaleem Sherwani gave a presentation on Urdu’s universality. She traced the history of languages and said that it’s through natural (qudrati) and forced (jabri) ways that languages usually evolved. She said four periods were significant in the study and progress of languages: (1) prehistoric (2) when people started to get divided into groups and tribes (3) the age when means of communications began to take root (4) the current period of information technology etc. She argued that a language was deemed universal if it had a vast diction (vocabulary); it had its own grammar; and had its own lexicon. Urdu had all of it, she said.
Former Unikarians president Syed Safwanullah said societies that cared for their language(s) were bound to prosper, for conscientious nations admired those who put together words (dictionaries). He said governments in Pakistan had never kept the Urdu Dictionary Board on their list of priorities, with the result that it had always been plagued with many a problem.
After Mr Safwanullah’s speech a commemorative plaque on which names of some distinguished officials of the board were written was presented to the pro vice-chancellor. Then the book in which essays on the Urdu Lughat are compiled was presented to some guests who in one way or another had contributed to the 22-volume dictionary.Fahmida Riaz began her speech by telling the discerning audience that the marked feature of the 22-volume Lughat was that it had been prepared using philological principles, and the role model for it was the Greater Oxford Dictionary. She talked about the thorough research work that had gone into it and commented that a Lughat indicated the evolution of a whole civilisation. She talked about those who had helped the cause of the Urdu Dictionary Board starting from Maulvi Abdul Haq to Liaqat Ali Asim and Farhat Fatima, and also mentioned with gratitude Daily Dawn’s contribution to it. She informed the audience how certain people wanted to merge the board with some other organisation and how she with the help of some like-minded individuals resisted it.
Ms Riaz said she told the cabinet that in 1986 it was decided to make the board ineffectual, so if they did it now it’d be attributed to the current government. She said the board vanished from government files in 1986 and itÂ’s her wish to bring it back where it belonged. On the subject of the Urdu language, she spoke of the time when Gandhi wanted Urdu and Hindi to be thought of as one language but some members of the Congress didn’t approve of it. Later on Gandhi held a procession and things got out of hand vis-Ã -vis partition, which made Maulvi Abdul Haq despondent.
Speaking about the administrative and financial issues of the Urdu Dictionary Board, Ms Riaz said it’s been a year since she joined it and there were employees there who hadn’t been promoted to the next grade for the past 25 years. Certain pension-related cases were pending in courts. And the computers installed there were two decades old.
Dr Farman Fatehpuri rejected the claim that Urdu was the third widely spoken language in the world. He said languages were analysed on the basis of their influence and impact, and in that respect Urdu had the widest reach. He spoke light-heartedly about the languages that had the requisite auditory effect (sh) but no corresponding words (admission, tuition, etc). Bearing that in mind, he claimed, Urdu was the first complete language.
Justice Haziqul Khairi lauded the completion of the 22-volume Lughat and said it was the Quaid-i-Azam’s dream that Urdu become our national language. Sadly, he said, it was not being employed as the official language. He said Urdu was the language of the masses which is why it should be used in government offices.
Head of the National Language Authority and poet Iftikhar Arif said the work of a lexicographer was never complete because lexicography is an ongoing process. He said when the first volume of the Lughat was printed Shanul Haq Haqqi was no more, though he’d done a lot of work for it. He said 10 volumes were published when Farman Fatehpuri sahib was heading the board. He said Urdu should be adopted and not imposed (musallat) on our society and argued that if the country’s linguistic diversity had been accepted things would’ve been different. However, the situation improved after the fall of Dhaka. He said that it was not in 1948 that the Quaid-i-Azam first spoke in favour of Urdu in a speech that had since become controversial. He added that the Quaid-i-Azam had regularly been speaking about Urdu since 1913. He claimed that in the last 100 years more Urdu-related work had been done in areas which were traditionally not thought of as Urdu-speaking regions. Reflecting on Dr FatehpuriÂ’s comment on the language’s impact, he said the biggest region in this regard was India and the languages that were spoken there and their assimilation into Urdu could not be ignored. He said Urdu should also accept words from the Sindhi, Punjabi or Balochi languages.
Mr Arif said that while revising lexicon reference cards such words must be looked into. He said many of the verbs employed in the Urdu language were derived from Sanskrit or Hindi and wondered if anyone at the board was familiar with those languages. He said all the asnaad (cards) should be revised on a continuous basis, and laid emphasis on the need for a one-volume concise dictionary. He said it didn’t matter if the prime minister of the country didn’t consider it important enough to talk about the Lughat, for what mattered most was that men of letters were all praise for it. If a government official acknowledged it, it’s his or her good fortune.
Pro Vice-Chancellor Shahana Urooj Kazmi was the last speaker of the programme. She termed the occasion an historic one and echoed the Prof Malahat Kaleem’s musings that Urdu was a universal language.
Fahmida Riaz came back to the podium stating that revision work and work on a concise Urdu Dictionary had already begun.
In the end Mansoor Naqvi thanked the participants and guests of the programme. Certificates were also distributed among workers and officials of the board.