Najam-Ud-Din If Punjabi develops it will enrich Urdu," Dr S. N. Sewak says. "Punjabi has no conflict with Urdu. Punjabi is your state language and Urdu your national language. Punjabi is the 13th biggest language in the world and the language of Shah Hussain, Bulleh Shah, Waris Shah and Shiv Kumar. Yet it is only taught in Punjab as an optional subject. This is really too much.

Giving examples from other countries on the issue, Dr Sewak said that in England, where emphasis is on regional languages, "they are actually asking students to learn and study their mother tongue." He also identified the problems in Pakistan and India. "One thing that has gone seriously wrong in both India and Pakistan is the public and English-medium school system. I honestly believe the public schools are putting unnecessary emphasis on English. We in India and Pakistan are crazy about English. We've started considering it a superior language, and we have slighted Punjabi. It is all right with the sciences. But if you are going to teach Guru Nanak to a child, why not do it in Punjabi instead of first translating it into English?"
Dr Sewak has to his credit ten books in Punjabi and four in English. "I am more proud of my Punjabi books for that is my creative work," he said during the interview. "My entire education has been in Urdu. I know seven languages but that poses no contradictions for me. And I don't see why it should be any different for anyone else. I say teach them all the languages. Teach them Urdu, English, Hindi and Punjabi. Give English its due, but give Punjabi its due as well." According to him, Punjabi in Indian Punjab is in a better state than it is in Pakistan. "In Indian Punjab no one can get a government job unless he has studied Punjabi up to matriculation," he elaborated, but added that in Pakistan as well there were many individuals working for the Punjabi language and culture. Among them he mentioned the names of Iqbal Qaiser who has recently set up the Punjabi Khoj Ghar near Lahore, noted Punjabi writer Fakhar Zaman who was also the organiser of Punjabi Conference and Maqsood Saqib, the publisher of Punjabi magazine Pancham who earlier took out Maan Boli.

"Together with some theatre groups and forums like Punjabi Adbi Sangat, these people are doing a lot for the promotion of Punjabi language and culture on an individual level," he said. "Now if the state also helps in promoting Punjabi education and culture, that does not pose any threat to any language."

Dr Sewak has taught English to university students in many countries of the world. Now he represents a cultural academy in India - Punjabi Sabhyachar Akademi, Ludhiana. "Our academy is trying to do serious work in Punjabi culture," was how he described his present brief. "We believe that culture unites people and politics somehow divides them. And it's the culture of the people of the east and west Punjab, that overwhelms them.
"At Punjabi University Patiala, we teach Pakistani Punjabi literature. I wish that Indian Punjabi literature is taught here in Pakistan. Studying Pakistani Punjabi literature is not very easy for Indian students as it is written in the Persian script. But our children will have to learn that. Students in Pakistan should also learn the Gurmukhi script to appreciate the Punjabi literature from India. If the people are closer together, I believe the bitter realities of the subcontinent can somehow be forgotten."
Speaking of relationships, Dr Sewak said the work done by Islamabad and New Delhi in this regard was hardly impressive. "Both the governments lack the will to address the issues. They only need to display this will. The people want peace, they want peace at any cost."

So how is it going to come about? Dr Sewak borrowed a verse from Urdu to explain his point:"Bari mushkil hey keh haalat ki guthi suljhey Aqlmandon ney bari soch keh uljhai hey." (Sorting out the puzzle, it is a most difficult task, For the wise ones have thoughtfully created this tangle). "But," he added, "we the men of letters and culture lovers are playing our role. We are creating an environment for the governments to move ahead."

Dr Sewak had been planning to visit Pakistan for some time and wanted to formally release his book on Pakistani Punjabi Drama here. Published by the Language Department Punjab University Patiala, the book was finally released in Lahore at the office of Punjabi magazine Bhulekha on April 21.
The book contains one-act plays from seven Pakistani playwrights -- Sajjad Haider (Bol Mitti Deya Baweya), Nawaz (Rani), Fakhar Zaman (Chirriyan Da Chamba), Sarmad Sehbai (Panjwan Chiragh), Kanwal Mushtaq (Raat Paawey Baat), Hanif Chaudhry (Kanday Di Wis) and Shahid Nadeem (Jhalli Kitthay Jawey).
A visit to this part of the divide is not new for Dr Sewak. He was born in Multan before partition and in the 1980s he visited Pakistan when he was conducting a research on comparative drama and the element of realism in modern Punjabi and English drama. "My advisor on English drama was happy with my work but my advisor on Punjabi drama said the study would not be complete without applying the dimension from the Pakistani Punjabi drama. He asked me to go to Pakistan. With help from Punjab University, I got my visa and came here for two weeks in 1982. "During that stay, I found commercial and popular Punjabi theatre flourishing here. But there wasn't much by way of serious Punjabi stage drama. I met people and talked to them about it. Later in 1990, when I came to Lahore again, I found a definite improvement vis-a-vis serious theatre. There were four theatre groups in Lahore then who were staging serious Punjabi plays -- Ajoka, Lok Rahas, Sojhla and Saanjh. Ajoka and Lok Rahas are still very active."

A day before the interview took place, Dr Sewak had seen Bullha, a play staged by Ajoka, and liked it. "It was a wonderful play, with an impressive theme and performance. I have seen many good Indian plays recently and Bullha compares very favourably with them."

Dr Sewak's wife, who also accompanied him to Pakistan, is herself involved with theatre. She is the president of Ludhiana Kala Manj. She is also an accomplished actress and has acted in four Pakistani Punjabi plays staged in India.
The delegation from Dr Sewak's academy was planning to attend the World Punjabi Conference in Lahore. But delay in grant of visas made them miss their flight and they only reached Pakistan by train on April 16th - the last day of the conference. The train journey from Attari to Wagha took them 16 hours and they could not even attend the final session of the conference.
"Visiting Pakistan is more difficult than visiting any other country in the world. But the people are so helpful," Dr Sewak said. "I was overwhelmed by the love and cooperation of people in Pakistan. I wanted to visit many Pakistani cities to see the state of the Punjabi drama and language and meet the people involved with both. But I had only got a visa for Lahore. But here in Lahore I got a visa for five cities simply through fax messages without even going to Islamabad. Getting the visa for Pakistan from New Delhi was more difficult.

Send email to nazeerkahut@punjabics.com with questions, comment or suggestions

Punjabics is a literary, non-profit and non-Political, non-affiliated organization

Punjabics.com @ Copyright 2008 - 2018 Punjabics.Com All Rights Reserved

Website Design & SEO by Webpagetime.com