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I am Gujrati
The French Indian from Gujrat without the Gujrati language…
Long life to our mother tongue, the Gujrati!
We must learn lessons from the linguistic twists and turns full of disappointment and clowning as well as the strong selfish reactions towards our own language.
It is now time to ask ourselves the right questions…
Particularly about our mother tongue at the end of its rope. Should we feel sadness?
Gujrat’s deliberate denial could have promoted the apparition of its genuine recognition which is strongly felt today and which is based on its wealth.
We should give back to our community the Gujrati language that it has deliberately seized.
We should struggle for a real awareness concerning the usefulness and the beauty of our mother tongue, Gujrati!
WHO AM I?
« Va min aayaatehii khal qus -
And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge.
(Surah Ar Roum , The Romans, n°30 ; Verse n°22 )
« …..Va ja-
Indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.
(Surah Al Hujurat , The Rooms, n°49 , Verse n°13)
"Addressing the Believers living abroad, he asked them to carry on their mother tongue as well as their traditions and culture so that the religious attachment among their community can be transmitted from generation to generation.”
(Message of Ayatullahil Ozama , Marjae Jahane Tashayyu, Hazrat Agha ALI AL HUSSEINI AL SISTANI Maddhazihul Ali , addressed from his bed in a London hospital on August, the 19th 2004 , to a group of Khojas Shia IshnaAsheri from Paris who visited him)
Above all else, I am GUJRATI and then, something else.
I was born GUJRATI, I become someone else.
My language, the GUJRATI, is neither my second nor my first language; it is rather my mother tongue that I have sucked together with my mother’s precious milk.
It constitutes one of the components of my blood.
I have acquired it just like my appearance and the color of my skin.
I will never give up on my identity wherever I am and whatever I become.
The day I will give it up, my neighbor is the one who will bring it back to me. And I will never forget that moment until my last breath. It will be the most difficult moment in my life.
I don’t learn the other languages so as to neglect mine. They bring an extra but don’t replace my mother tongue.
The French language goes hand in hand with GUJRATI. I have to shine in both of them.
Allah swt gave me birth in a GUJRATI-
My mother used to whisper in GUJRATI when she kissed me tenderly. In order to cradle, sing, tell stories, cuddle, even scold, she only used words and phrases from this natural language.
The first language that came to my ears when I opened my eyes in this world was GUJRATI.
The first words that came out of my lips before everything was also GUJRATI.
I am surrounded by a GUJRATI family and I was brought up within pure GUJRATI culture and traditions.
Every language has its own existence and deep emotions as well as strong feelings can only be expressed in the best way in one’s fitting dialect.
My mother tongue, Gujrati, is spoken, above all, in the state of GOUJRAT in India. It is an official language recognized by the Federal Constitution. It has approximately 56 million speakers, an amount equal to the total population of Mainland France.
One day, someone has said that "Christianity is the Europeans’ mother tongue.” Personally, I am European, but I’m not a Christian. Maybe this quotation was true in the past but it isn’t accurate any longer now because we note that Islam is France’s second religion.
What do you think of this sensational declaration?
The French people don’t learn the French language. They speak it because it’s their mother tongue. Nothing more. Just like the English people, the Arabs, the Iranians, the Indians etc. Everyone uses his language in his own community and learn the other languages only according to his needs or the demands of the moment. I shouldn’t be ashamed of my dialect.
What is the difference between the native French and an Indian who doesn’t speak his mother tongue? Of course, there’s no difference between the two, but if the first clings to his, why shall I give mine up?
Have you ever seen a European citizen who doesn’t know his natural language?
Man is endowed with the power of speech. So, he has to speak a language, which is his mother tongue. The European speaks the language of his country because he hasn’t got any other choice to express himself. He hasn’t done anything extraordinary. As far as I am concerned, I use mine and I also have the great opportunity to learn his without having to sacrifice the first for the benefit of the second!
France, my dear beautiful country, wants everybody to speak its language and hopes that French will become universal! I agree with this idea. What an honor for me and for my fellow citizens to have a linguistic tool such as French at our disposal, which allows us to communicate easily with the others while travelling!
Great Britain, whose leaders used to proclaim with pride that their territory was a world where the sun never sets, also demands its language!
It is true that English is much more widespread throughout the world than French. However, France doesn’t give up and tries hard to spread its language all over the French-
Furthermore, it does not dictate to its citizens having multiple roots to bury their regional dialects. These contribute to its rich cultural heritage, thanks to the ethnic and linguistic diversity, with Breton, Corsican and others, having their own vocabulary.
When I go to London, San Francisco or Montreal, either at the Mosque or at the Conference Hall, I remain silent in front of the Khojas of my Community who can only speak English. Indeed, it’s difficult for me to talk to them. We have to face linguistic barriers: they speak English whereas I use the language of Moliere. Both of us have sacrificed our common language at the altar of Civilization. The Gujrati language was our link that we have moved aside; consequently, we find ourselves around the table of the muted. What a terrible loss, both from the cultural and spiritual point of view!
My mother tongue, Gujrati, constitues the backbone on which all Madressa courses, lectures, majlis, Friday sermons etc. are based. It is an essential tool for the strengthening of my faith.
French, my national language, constitutes the body of this backbone, on which all my formation forges so that I can earn a living within faith.
Like the skies and the earth, the oceans, the stars, the sun, the moon and the numerous other creatures, the variety of languages and of complexions is a sign of God, as mentioned in the verses of the Holy Quran quoted above.
Allah swt wanted Humanity to be composed of different nations and tribes, expressing themselves in various languages with their specificities.
If I don’t feel ashamed to be a French Muslim within the Christian Europe, why should I feel embarrassed to belong to the Gujrati Community?
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the genuine founder of Pakistan and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the soul of the independence of India were not less civilized than us. England was scared by these two men. They spoke better English than this great country’s expats. The former was a Khoja and the latter came from Porbandar in Gujrat. Both of them also excelled in their original language.
India’s inhabitants speak their own dialects together with Urdu or English. The Indian living in Madagascar speaks Gujrati together with Malagasy and French in the same way the one living in East Africa speaks Swahili and English without denying their mother tongue.
There’s nothing wrong if I increase my linguistic knowledge reaching Persian. As a Muslim, I should also learn Arabic which constitutes the linguistic foundation helping to understand Islam.
THEN, WHO AM I ?
Wherever I go, the same question is asked to me: “Who are you?”
It’s true that the answer is obvious: “I am French!” is my answer.
My interlocutor is stunned. He stares at me. We stay muted for a few seconds.
I can guess what he thinks through his expression because it is not my first experience.
“I have Indian origins,” I add.
The smile that had disappeared from his lips is back. He has the answer he was looking for. And my heart whispers to me: “You will change your language, your clothes, your hairstyle, your behavior and even your country, but you will never be able to change neither your physiognomy nor the color of your skin! You will remain what you are!” Alas, it’s too late to exhume that language that I have killed! Of course, regrets always come too late.
Shall I bury with my own hands my language taught to me by my dear mummy and that I have inherited from my beloved daddy?
Shall I be the killer of my mother tongue whereas I struggle for non-
I realize that all the nations in the world, even the smallest ones, struggle for the survival of their dialects, despite the existence of a foreign national language – such as English, French, Spanish or Portuguese – in their country.
Is there a greater ungratefulness than the fact of denying one’s property? Is there a greater loss than the fact of rejecting that Divine grace?
Let’s not ignore this danger and let’s save our language while there is still time! The total indifference towards the Gujrati language questions our long history, our common life, our traditions and customs, our culture, in short, our identity!
Denying one’s language is not a progress but a tremendous and irreparable loss.
I should love my language, speak it, learn it, listen to it. I should change by going forward, not backwards.
“It is a duty to love one’s mother tongue. Neglecting it is a sign of moral decline.” (Doctor MOTTA)
“Not teaching a language is killing it. Killing a language is a crime.” (J. JULLIAN)
“We speak several languages, but we only chat in our mother tongue.” (Jules Barbey d’AUREVILLY)
Article written by Mulla Nissarhoussen RAJPAR