Friday, 20 April 2012

Queen Victoria and Hindustani/Urdu

So it happened today in the afternoon when instead of taking a siesta I thought why not while away browsing the internet instead of lying on the bed and looking at an old slow moving fan hung at the ceiling. I started out with checking my Spanish reading skills on El Mundo. Then, deciphering an article there, I came across the word Francia (France). There is nothing special about France except that on reading the first image to strike my mind was of Napoleon. Nothing special about that either except that I suddenly developed an interest in that era and how he made the Portuguese Royal Family escape to Brazil on English ships to save themselves. From there began a journey which took me to different corners of the Portuguese Empire.

Reading about the Portuguese a sudden thought crossed my mind, what were the Indian empires like during the Age of Discovery? So I turned to reading about the Mughal Empire, how Babar (a descendant of Genghis Khan) established the empire in India during the middle of the sixteenth century, and how his son Humanyun almost lost it in 1540 only to capture it again some fifteen years later and what a splendid empire it was during the reign of King Akbar.

The last Mughal Emperor was exiled to Rangoon (Burma) by the British following the 1857 mutiny. After the "rebellion" or "insurgency" the British East India Company had to hand over power to the English monarchy and Queen Victoria was declared the empress of what was later to be called the Raj.

Of course I was already aware with the sequence of events (except that Humanyan once lost the Mughal empire to the Suris) from history textbooks in school. But I didn't know that Queen Victoria took her job so seriously that she began to learn Hindustani (Urdu/Hindi). Her teacher was Abdul Karim. (I don't know more about the man.)

Not only that she also wrote in Hindustani in her diary. Here is one of the entries: 

The English text reads:  

Today I and my family were almost in greater .... and grief than they had ever been as my young grandson Prince Albert Victor of Wales died this morning at nine o'clock.

The Urdu text reads: 

آج جس ... اور ... ...

Unfortunately I can't read the Urdu (Hindustani) text. Of course I can read printed Urdu and write myself. But because I have never ever seen anyone writing in Urdu, it's impossible for me to decipher.

This makes me wish if Nathu Ram Godse hadn't assassinated Gandhi on that fateful evening, his policies would have more of an impact on independent India and I would not only be able to read that diary but also appreciate Urdu calligraphy. What a pity! Urdu (the language that brought us independence - azadi ki zuban) is now an "enemy" tongue!