The Angraizi Complex – by Hafsa Khawaja

Cross-posted from her blog
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.

The Pakistani mind-set is labyrinthine. With a society immersed in twisted ideas and thorny roots that pull when someone thinks out of the box and a country marred by terrorism, corruption, unstable Governments with titled foreign media that is bent on portraying Pakistan as a land rocked back to the Stone-Age, an atmosphere has been created in the land of pure that pushes the notion into the heads of Pakistanis that they are subaltern in every defined way. Until, obviously they inherit the ways and culture of the West which they feel have been the base of their prosperity and progress.

Speaking English in my 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 hang your head in shame when a celebrity or any person who is a known as a representative of Pakistan speaks broken or flawed English. A sorry fact.

And I fail to understand this as why our people stress so much upon learning English for our players or any other famous person for that reason? Yes, this language is global and an important tool to interact with and put one’s message across to people from other countries but judging your sports’ teams or other personalities by it and sighing in embarrassment over it is unreasonable and a tragedy itself.

Our players do not go to the cricket grounds to speak Shakespearean English but to play and win. So what if Younas also spoke at a rate of 20 words per 5 seconds? So what if Afridi repeats the same words? 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? Why do some of us make them a subject of comedy? Whats in a language? Are we so narrow-minded? They embody the hopes of a nation!

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 who continue to shower their unconditional love on them nor does it faze them.

Then why do we, a nation with much to be proud of, 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? The inferiority complex that we nurture by such meaningless events or actions that display our cultural roots such as wearing Shalwar Kameez to a foreign country or even to a local posh café to our team struggling with imperfect English, will eventually damage us.

The success of India is often pondered upon by many of us but little do we realize that one of the basic reasons that the country is blooming today, both culturally and economically is their attitude. They deal with their heritage, culture and history with three P’s : by taking pride in them, preserving them and promoting them. While we, deal with our culture with three S’s : feeling shame in associating it to us, shunning it and separating it from us by abandoning it.

Why burst into flames of anger at other nations who scorn at our culture or country when we ourselves, fail to take pride in our heritage, culture, roots, language, identity and past? For if one himself does not respect them, why expect others to respect? This is what we need to learn from India.

Hindi today, is in the top 4 most spoken languages of the world and Urdu? We, the inheritors of this beautiful language which has been made up of combining different languages from Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Hindi itself, still hesitate to confabulate in it.

Culture and language are inextricably entwined or weaved into each other and spurning your language is equivalent to disgracing your own culture.

The capacity of the feeling of inferiority is the touch-stone of failed civilizations. Just because one’s country is at cross-roads, it does not require and it is wrong to fill the void in our muse of determining how other nations progressed by straggling to inherit their culture and abandoning our own. The Arab world is filled with raging conflicts, but in contrast to their situations, the Arabs feel immensely in love with their background and culture and nothing holds them back in showing it.

The path to success is carved by a nation itself, not by following one that another treaded and a nation that does not feel pride in the elements of its own existence: his culture and roots is surely hopeless.

It may seem ironic to all, that I myself have written this in English but my intention behind writing this is to reach those who feel abashed at the sight of our people not being able to speak it perfectly or trying to learn it or believe that speaking Urdu would degrade them, realize that it is an absolutely ridiculous thought. I do not condemn the usage of the English language or knowledge of it, but regard Urdu paramount to it.

I request them, to wonder why is there a need to whine and shudder if our players or anyone else speaks English in a effective manner? Surely, if one does not know the language properly, we might think that they should not speak it but why not? When they have the confidence and make the choice to coverse in it, who are we to condemn?

It is widely said when the British Imperialists came to the Sub-continent, they tried to foist the ways of their civilization (especially the language) on the Asians, 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 seems to be working in Pakistan today until we break out of this shell of self-made inferiority of ours, stop feeling debased in and start being proud of the identity that belongs to us.

– Hafsa Khawaja



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