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Friday, November 04, 2005

It's that time of the year again ...

... and I am inundated with text messages on my cellphone, instant messages on chatware, eMail, eCards, snail-mailed cards, print ads, and billboards screaming out EID greetings. Yechhhh! I hate it! No, I am not referring to the Festival, but to what has happened to the spellings and usage of our words over years.

Some of you old enough to recall the period may remember that the Brits - and this may offer a clue to why it rhymes with Twits - decided to spell all our words any which way they wanted. Part of the arrogance of being rulers, I guess. Some clown among them started to call the festival "Id" and that became the de facto English spelling. Greeting cards, on both sides of the line of partition, until the late 50s, predominantly used this spelling, and, in India, many continue to do so, as a quick googling of "Id Festival" will show. The Hindu has a story today titled KALAM, MANMOHAN GREET PEOPLE ON ID.

Around 1947, some people decided that independence meant all old things had to be changed ... and added another D to the word. "Idd Mubarak" was soon seen on many cards and banners, as it still is. (Yes. You can google that, too). Eid, the more common (though equally painful and incorrect) form really seems to have caught on like a blaze after the UAE and Saudi Arabia opened up job markets and many people from India and Pakistan used the opportunity to establish new links with imaginary roots. Some day I'll write about that, too.

The correct form, IMNSHO, should simply be Eed. Here are 2 arguments:

1. Which form (among Id, Idd, Eid or Eed, ) will help a person, used to any Western language, pronounce the actual word more correctly?

2. If Seen + Aen + Yay + Daal = Saeed (please picture this in Urdu) then dropping Sa (Seen) would leave Eed. As a corollary, adding Seen to Aen-Yay-Daal would turn Eed to Sa+eed or Saeed

(I am certainly glad that the festival is not as commonly referred to as Eidé Saeid as it used to be.)

Since our contact with the Middle-East ... and our concerted efforts to move away from the cultural heritage of pre-partition India, seen as much in our text books as in the increasingly guttural sounds some of our newsreaders and comperes produce, our language and culture have slowly been undergoing changes that are often unnecessary, if not ludicrous: Ramzan has become Ramadan ... and will soon become Ramadhan (which, to be fair, is closer to the original than Ramadan).

I am told that this is so because that is the correct Arabic pronunciation. OK ... but the word had become part of Urdu, na? So why this going back? Does just pronouncing a few words in the original Arabic form make us holier?

Will we, in the immortal phrase coined by P G Wodehouse, go totus porcus and change Majeed Lahori's delightful character Ramzani's name to Ramadani. Will our dameer allow this?

I'll emigrate, I swear, if Farida Khanum ever sings Aaj Jaanay Ki Did Naa Karo ...

Jokes aside, there are real reasons to worry. For example, when the parents of an unmarried girl are told that her mard requires immediate treatment, they may kill her on the spot!

Another offshoot of this mindset, even more difficult to argue against because the supporting arguments from the other side emotively invoke Islam, is the insistence of a growing number of people that the correct form is Allah Hafiz ... and, that Khuda Hafiz must be done away with. Can't both forms co-exist, as they have done for years?

At the end of my last flight from Islamabad to Karachi, I responded to a steward's Allah Hafiz with an instinctive Khuda Hafiz (entirely due to my almost 65-year-old habit). I was informed, in an unmistakable Liverpudlian accent, by a young person - sporting a beard that reminded me of an Edward Lear drawing - that this is a 'minor küfr'...

Unable to argue with Aalims Offline (Why do they always tend to be bigger built than I am?), and desperately wanting to be on the Right Side of something in my life, I am currently considering a petition to alter the offending line in our National Anthem to read " ... Saayaé Allahé Züljalaal".

Letters of support may be emailed to me. Duaaé Maghfirat for Hadrat Hafeez Jullandhari, who wrote the now sinful Anthem (and, as a concession to the minorities and immigrants, included "ka", the only non-Faarsi or non-Arabi word in it) may be offered in private, since his current address is not known.

Legend has it that Noel Coward, having been tortured all evening by an American visitor's constant pronunciation of Schedule ... "Skejule", as opposed to the British "Shedule" ... just could not take it any longer. He walked up to the visitor and said: I think, Sir, you are full of Schitt!

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Blogger the olive ream said...

Words fail me at the moment. You have hit so many (of my) right nerves with this post that my jaw still resides comfortably on the floor due to total astonishment. It is as if you've read my mind.

Personally, what vexes most is not being able to say KHUDA HAFIZ without having some pretentious git with a f**k off beard make some snide comment regarding the choice of my words. I swear one DAMN more time this happens, I will lose all control and rip off all untidy, ungroomed beards in sight, no matter who these might be attached to.

05 November, 2005 15:06

Blogger BeanZ said...

Thank you for FINALLY doing this piece - even though I had to beg. While we have had this particular discussion so many times, in the "lunch room", I am thrilled that it has all been documented and the etymology unravelled.

Olive Ream: lol ;-) It's so bizarre how one feels more connected to, and in sync with virtual friends now, than "real" ones.

06 November, 2005 19:30

Blogger gautami tripathy said...

Virtual friends are there to stay!

10 November, 2005 23:50

Blogger sabizak said...

OH GOD ALMIGHTY (or is it Allah). For years I have been arguing with people on this Khuda and Allah issue. Aaaah....i am REALLY exhaling now. So satisfying to know there are people out there who actually think upon the same lines that I do.

I am writing this comment now coz i only read these posts now, so don't even know whether they will be read or not.

28 November, 2005 11:15

Anonymous Rahmat Masih said...

Wow. Just found the arguments I needed.

28 November, 2005 13:34

Anonymous Jehan said...

Zak, that is why we need you to work on your book - much of what you say hits a nerve or two with a lot of us. Of course those who have known you for years have heard these views many times, but it is wonderful to see them written down.

The guilt trip that most relatives, colleagues and friends send me on whenever i write Ramzan or utter the words Khuda Hafiz because these are the words I grew up with, is totally amazing. How is it that these words are suddenly wrong when they were absolutely acceptable a few years ago? Why do we let people shove these ideas down our throats? Are we as a nation naive? Maybe it is just that we do not have opinions or beliefs of our own? Or are we too terrified that if we don't conform, we will not fit in? So what is the big deal with fitting in anyway? :-) I like being different.

23 October, 2006 09:11

Anonymous hira said...

oh gosh i remember being at your house and discussing khuda hafiz vs. allah hafiz with ragni. And how it's fundamentally the same thing, with khuda and allah both of the same essence - but how we have construed only 'allah' to be the one true form. the divisive fastidious sophistry of it all.

enjoyed your piece...v. much!

23 October, 2006 11:02

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I have noted over the years your persistent use of the spelling Eed.
Although I follow the logic of your argument, I feel nonetheless that
'Eid' has become a part of our collective consciousness and there is
no reason to alter the spelling for the sake of making it phonetically
correct....or for that matter as a final bit of definace against the
'Twits'. There are so many words, in both languages we speak, that
are phonetically nightmarish...and Eid is probably less of an offense
than most. As for Saeed, the majority that I know spell their name
'Said', perhaps because they're not from Pakistan...
EID Mubarik!

23 October, 2006 18:55

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But on a different note, I have always said Khuda Hafiz, and ALWAYS WILL. Fuck anybody who has a problem with that.

23 October, 2006 19:02

Blogger Zakintosh said...

:-) KK - I will continue to spell as many things as I can 'phonetically correctly' when it comes to romanizing words. It's NOT defiance at all. Just my belief that the people who read my language, without understanding it, should at least be able to pronounce it close to the original. I use this rule in my romanizing of Urdu poetry - a task that I engage in very often, even on my blog.

Eed MubarAk!

23 October, 2006 19:04

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have a problem with that. Now, will YOU? Or was that an order to 'zakintosh'? Didn't realize it was part of his brief...

23 October, 2006 19:17


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