Documenting dying voices

'Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi' endeavours to preserve, promote dying languages and cultures of north Pakistan.


Zubair Torwali December 15, 2011

Although awareness about the beautiful, cultural and linguistic diversity of Pakistan is growing steadily, we have miles to go before achieving a national sense of the need to accommodate the various ethno-linguistic ethnicities of Pakistan. Even today, the proponents of one-nation, one-language and one–religion regard the mention of this diversity as a threat to the so-called national integration.

Pakistan needs national unity and accommodating different entities, whether religious or otherwise, does not mean weakening that unity. Contrary to this, doing so can, in fact, add to the strengthening of unity and peace.

Though the situation is rather dismal, there is hope because of the efforts of certain individuals and organisations who are passionately carrying out the work of not only documenting and preserving the country’s linguistic diversity, but also promoting it.

The ‘Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi’, or Institute for Education and Development, is one such organisation which endeavours to preserve, revive and promote the dying languages and cultures of north Pakistan, particularly the Torwalis who have been living in Swat for centuries. Along with the organisation’s multiple initiatives, it has also been carrying out programmes for documenting and promoting indigenous cultures and languages. For instance, in July, Bahrain, Swat, celebrated the indigenous culture festival named ‘Simam’ with the support of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

I have in my hand a bilingual book titled Inaan, published by this institute. The book consists of a collection of Torwali classic poetry with a free Urdu translation; and, where possible, with Urdu verses with meanings similar to Torwali verses. For instance, on the cover page, two verses are given which have a similar meaning. The Torwali couplet, which was written 80 years ago, is by a poetess, while its equivalent is from none other than the greatest poet of Urdu, Mirza Ghalib.

Torwali: “Zo si misaal kardwaal shid honeen afaraa/Theye koyi soowaal bhi na ban doobaraa

Urdu: “Khulta kisi par kiun mere dil ka ma’amila/She’ro ke intikhab ne ruswa kia mujhe

It is worth mentioning that about 70 per cent of classic Torwali poetry is by women. Inaan has over 200 couplets with almost all poetic expressions, such as sorrow, loss, love, secularity, religiosity and wisdom. Inaan in Torwali means rainbow. The compilers have named it so because of its multiplicity of poetic expression.

A considerable portion of Torwali poetry involves the celebrated Pir Baba of Buner. People used to travel to his shrine through the mountainous tracks in small caravans. On these journey’s, the pilgrims used to create songs related to the purpose of their visit. In this, it is similar to the Canterbury Tales by the first English poet of the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer.

The book has pictures relevant to the literary themes of the couplets on each page. These are meant to help both the Torwali and non-Torwali reader enjoy and correlate.

Inaan is an appreciable step taken by the Institute for Education and Development. The organisation intends to publish books on folk stories and historical legends as well. It also plans to publish Inaan with English and Pashto translations.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2011.

COMMENTS (7)

Muhammad Arif | 9 years ago | Reply

Great wrok by Zubair saib. It's time to work for the diverse cultures.

Afsar Ali Chitrali | 9 years ago | Reply

Noam Chomsky says, "Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation."

I always admire by IBT's great work toward Language Documentation. Great job guys keep it up.

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