Mere Purkhan di Virasat-The inheritance from my ancestors

Wajiha Saqib

I often think about my mother-tongue, Punjabi, and my relationship with it. Growing up in a household where the focus was on Urdu, I connected with that language on a deeper level. Later it became my passion. I began teaching Urdu and promoting its literature

But what about Punjabi? Punjabi, the language of my ancestors, the language of the land where I was born, where does that fit? While growing up, I had only heard Punjabi being spoken by people from the lower socio-economic strata, so my association with this language became classist, my thoughts – elitist and to me, Punjabi became a commoner’s language.

It is with great embarrassment I say this, that in my adolescent years I only spoke Punjabi to interact with people of a certain socio-economic class, and like all my peers, I started believing that language has class. As I grew up and understood the politics of language, identity and class, I realized that language does not belong to any class but to the culture, to the land and it is only the people of that land who can embrace it.

That is when I tried to read Bulleh Shah’s shayari and Waris Shah’s Heer to break free from class politics and to embrace Punjabi as my own language. But, to my great misfortune, I failed in most of these attempts to learn Punjabi, or so I believed.

Recently, reading and listening to Hassan Shah’s Punjabi poem “Sarkan”, on this platform, reminded me of one such attempt of mine which was somewhat of a success in brining me closer to Punjabi. And that, my friends, is listening to and reading Anwar Masood’s Punjabi shayari.

Anwar Masood’s Punjabi shayari is beyond class politics and is for everyone. The humor of Masood’s Punjabi shayari speaks to every Punjabi about the Zinda-dilli and the josh-o-jazba of our culture and tradition. I remember as a teenager, I heard Anwar sahab reciting his poem “Bunayn” which translates to “Men’s Vest.” This poem is a narration by a street hawker who sells his merchandise of men’s vests at bus/train stations.

Having witnessed many such street hawkers when I used to travel via train from Lahore to Faisalabad every summer vacation as a teenager,  the poem brings back many childhood memories. This poem is a typical marketing anthem of a street hawker for selling his merchandise to the passengers on trains or buses.

  • Street hawker announcing wares
  • Vests hanging on wire

When I first heard the poem, I fell in love with it and learnt it by heart, in the process, establishing my first link with Punjabi language. To this day, this nazm speaks to me of the tehzeeb of the Punjabi culture and the shaistigi of the Punjabi language.

My audio recital of Anwar Masood’s “Bunayn” (vest), so that you may share my love for this poem.
A smiling college graduate: Wajiha Saqib

Wajiha Saqib is an education researcher who founded Alif Se Yeh, a platform to teach Urdu language/literature to anyone, anywhere in the world. She believes that learning languages help people understand different cultures and traditions. She is currently pursuing a doctoral program in Education Policy at UT Austin, Texas, USA.

Books by Anwar Masood

More from the great poet Anwar Masood.

3 Comments »

  1. That is so true! Punjabi as a language in Pakistan is highly misrepresented and looked down upon. It has definitely become a class symbol which is unfortunate.

  2. This piece spoke to me. I have gone through a transition in relation to punjabi quite similar to my feloow Austinite. It’s amazing how poetry breaks the barriers and biases we have built up against a language. For me coke studio proved to be the key. Their translations of many of the songs that I had not understood as a child allowed me to relate to them on a spiritual level.

    • I agree. Reacting to a language in a negative way seems universal. So much relates to history and politics. And, of course, how we are taught by family, teachers, and the community.

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