How I learnt to speak Kashmiri

Mahaq Tahir Tromboo

I was born and raised in Karnataka. My parents are from Kashmir and I have always fancied the Kashmiri language and wished my Kashmiri was as good as theirs.


At the age of five, I could speak English, Hindi, a little bit of Kannada but I could hardly understand a word or two in Kashmiri. Being the only person at home who didn’t know Kashmiri, I missed out on a lot of family conversations. That’s when I knew that I NEED to learn the language soon!


The story of how I learnt Kashmiri is quiet funny and a story that my mother has told  literally everybody she knows!


I picked up random phrases from Kashmiri daily soaps on the Doordarshan channel and used to repeat those dialogues all day long. In fact, I still remember some of those dialogues! So, I decided to keep my self learning a secret and surprise them the day I could speak perfect Kashmiri.


During my initial days of learning, I picked a catchy dialogue from the TV soap. My heart was filled with joy when I could repeat it correctly and I spent the entire afternoon practising this phrase. With great pride over my accomplishment, I walked to my mother and said- “mama, che payyi thratth!”. The reaction I got from her was completely different from what I had expected. She was shocked, confused and angry, all at the same time! She asked where I learnt this from. It was a Kashmiri curse and definitely not something she wanted her baby girl to hear, say or even know!


My mother had realised that I was adamant on learning Kashmiri so, she decided to teach me herself and monitored the words that I picked up. I seemed to pick up the language pretty fast. My grandfather also helped me by correcting the errors I made and encouraging me to talk in Kashmiri.


Fast forward to 2014, when I moved to Kashmir, I was shocked to see that most Kashmiris around my age chose not to speak in their own language. In Karnataka, Kannadigas love and promote their mother tongue, I was expecting to see the same in Srinagar but that wasn’t the case here. I was extremely disappointed to see that Kashmiris who chose to speak in their mother tongue were looked down upon. In fact many parents didn’t even teach their children Kashmiri for this reason. I failed to understand this behaviour of the Kashmiri society.


The best way to kill a community, is by killing its language. Kashmiris need to realise the importance of learning their mother tongue and preserving their language. Youngsters in Kashmir must be encouraged to speak in their mother tongue. It’s high time for us to realise that if our language dies, then so will the essence of Kashmir.

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