As I traveled the streets of Karachi, I realized there are only two constants in this city – people and schools. It would be easy to fool someone into believing the overwhelming number of educational institutes inhabiting every nook and cranny of a seemingly never ending metropolis exist because of people’s thirst for knowledge. That theory is quickly discarded when searching, often in vain, for non-curriculum books or just a library.
Does anyone read anymore? The correct seems to be when trying to become a doctor or an engineer.
Each institution claims to be ‘certified,’ usually by a foreign university or college in an attempt to validate its existence in an otherwise monotonous collection. Medium of instruction is almost always English making it hard for anyone to guess the national language is Urdu. If the obsession with light skin was not enough, the inferiority complex has managed to find its way in other walks of life.
This had become starkly clear upon attending my cousin’s graduation from the Pakistan Naval Academy. The officer corps boasted titles inherited from the British Navy and the English language. My cousin was commissioned to become a sub-Lieutenant while the sailor class, presumably those who studied in Urdu medium schools, left with Urdu titles. The ceremony was conducted in English, speeches were delivered in English, and I’m certain if there was a way to eat the food in English that would have happened too.
Another cousin of mine born and raised in Pakistan stared blankly when I used the word ‘mushkook.’ Initially, I imagined it was the look of offense for calling her suspicious but quickly realized she was trying her best to decipher its meaning. I repeated the word in English hoping the angrezi-medium schools have done their job properly but she was just as puzzled.
I meet people in increasing numbers who begin their sentences in Urdu and finish in English or vice versa. Others seemingly incapable or unwilling to express themselves articulately without resorting to the language not their mother tongue.
To take away a nation’s identity, first step is to take away their language. I hope we can still turn around.