COLOMBO: The Pakistan High Commission has started an Urdu Language Training Center in the Sri Lankan capital. The avowed purpose of the venture is to help Lankans who go to Pakistan either for higher studies or to do business, communicate with locals. But it is undeniable that one of the aims of the Center is to counter the spread of Hindi, which is already a hugely popular language in Lanka thanks to Bollywood films and their songs.
Besides the Indian High Commission, which has been running Hindi classes for a number of years on a professional basis, there are dozens of private Hindi tutorials in Colombo and surrounding areas where hundreds of Lankan students, mostly Sinhalese, learn Hindi to appreciate Hindi films and songs better.
But those who know Hindi film music acknowledge that Urdu cannot be brushed aside.
“One cannot fully understand Hindi film songs without a knowledge of Urdu,” said Jyoti Parmar, producer of a daily Hindi film music program at the state-owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). “Hindi film songs use a lot of Urdu, but this is not acknowledged,” complained a Pakistani diplomat.
But Parmar wonders if there will be a sizeable demand for the Urdu classes given the fact that in Lanka, Urdu can only be an adjunct to Hindi. A knowledge of Hindi (including its Sanskritized version ) is necessary to follow Hindi films while a knowledge of Urdu will only be an added advantage, she explained.
“There is a demand for Hindi-Sinhalese translators in the Lankan film and TV dubbing industry. To get a job as a Hindi-Sinhalese translator, you need to know Hindi more than Urdu. There are no jobs for Urdu-Sinhalese translators because no Pakistani films or tele-dramas are dubbed and shown in Sri Lanka. In fact, there is no demand for these as Lankans know little or nothing about Pakistan,” Parmar said.
Given the lack of awareness of Pakistani culture, arts and music in Lanka, one of the aims of the Urdu Center is to create an awareness through the study of the Urdu language.