“Meri Aawaz Suno”, an Impressive Urdu Show at
UC Berkeley
By Talat Sattar

L to R: Professor George Hart, Dr Tariq Rehman, Shazia Kamal, Shabih Rezvi and Khydeeja, Rabia Siddiqi, Warsi and Zain Jeewanje

Berkeley, CA: A language is more than just a means of communication. It is a repository of a community’s collective history and heritage. It also provides an identity and a focus that binds together a community for social togetherness, which makes individual accomplishments much easier. Keeping this in mind, University of California at Berkeley recently held an Urdu cultural show at Evans Hall, which was attended by around two hundred individuals from a different ethnic backgrounds.
The cultural event was organized by Mohammed Jahangeer Warsi, an Urdu professor in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Berkeley. In his opening remarks, Mr. Warsi said that Urdu is one of the Indo-Aryan languages spoken in South Asia. Together with Hindi, it is the second most widely-spoken language in the world (after Mandarin). Urdu is also one of the primary languages of South Asian Islamic culture and history. It is perhaps best known for its traditions of romantic literature, especially its poetic forms, the ghazals and masnavi.

Professor George L. Hart, Chair in Tamil Studies at University of California Berkeley was the second speaker. Speaking on the significance of Urdu, Professor Hart said that though about twelve (12) languages are taught at UC Berkeley, Urdu has a prominent place because it is spoken by one-third of the population of the world. Almost the entire Hindus, half of the Buddhists and seventy percent of Muslims speak Urdu. Mr. Hart’s comments received a big applause when he mentioned that the University has approved a professor position to teach Islam in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Berkeley.
Next speaker, Dr. Tariq Rahman, a distinguished linguist and Quaid-i-Azam scholar at the Center for South Asia Studies said if one takes spoken languages into consideration, then Urdu is the most widely spoken language in the world. A large population speaks Mandarin, but as a language, it is only the collection of several Chinese dialects. Urdu can be a more powerful language if Indian and Pakistani Governments take interest in promoting it. Dr. Rahman credited the Indian film industry for popularizing Urdu worldwide.
The second part of program started with classical music played by Mr. Srinivas Reddy who entertained the audience with classical Indian music.


A group of students

Rabia Siddiqi who is also a student at the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Berkeley, sang a ghazal which was written by her. Huma Attari presented a poem. The emcees for the function, Khydeeja Zafar Alam and Shabih Rizvi, did an excellent job with not only presentation but also with the Urdu language expression. The last item of students presentation was a qawwali from Mughl-e-Azam in which Rabia played a lead role.
The musical portion of the program ended with the rendering of Noor Jehan’s famous qawwali “Duma dum mast qalandar” by Ustad Sakhawat Ali Khan.

The highlight of the Urdu Cultural Show was that almost all students of Indo-Pak origin participated in it. All participants made superb performance and they deserve our appreciation. It is a matter of great pride to see these young kids having a desire to study Urdu in a country where most of the older generation is drifting away from its language of origin.
The great show followed one-course rationed dinner by Mehran Restaurant. The only food item “biryani” served by Mehran definitely lacked taste and quality which took away the splendid-ness of the entrancing musical evening. Zain Jeewanjee was the main sponsor of the show.

 

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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