Hong Kong Sindhis: Are You Mother Tongue Tied?

By on August 14, 2014

sindhis in HK2

After more than 68 years of independence, I thought it would be interesting to check whether we Hong Kong Sindhis have become too independent with our home language. There is a very important question which comes to mind. We may be Indian, but as the future generation of Sindhis are we speaking our mother tongue enough?

How do we know what our mother tongue is? Is it the language spoken where we were born or what our parents spoke growing up? Is it the language of our ancestors? Here’s a test: Have someone hit you unexpectedly. The language of the first word out of your mouth is considered your mother tongue. Most Sindhis say “Allah!” At least, they used to.

Isn’t it enough to speak a little? For Sindhis moving around the world, learning many languages at a basic level has become a norm, so the need to learn fluent Sindhi isn’t very important. But shouldn’t this be the case for other Indian communities? Most of the Gujaratis, South Indians and Punjabis in Hong Kong (to name a few) can speak their mother tongue fluently. By comparison, most of us Sindhis nowadays seem to be mother tongue tied! Many of the upcoming generations can only say a handful of words (like “yes”, “no”, “Jhulelal” and “papad”). Is that what our language will be reduced to?

Why is it so important for us to speak Sindhi? Every language we speak adds another feather to our hat of skills. It gives us access to a whole new section of the world. Sindhi is the golden key that allows us to access our relatives and our culture. It shapes our identity. Hindu Sindhis are the only group that doesn’t have a hometown on the Indian map, which is why it’s even more essential for us to keep our culture and language alive.

Why aren’t we speaking Sindhi anymore? We say we are worried about mis-pronouncing words or not having enough vocabulary to communicate with. We’re worried that those we speak with will laugh at us. Even if this is true, does that mean we should stop trying?

Perhaps it boils down to what we think is important. Do we want to keep our heritage and culture alive? Do we aim to keep close ties with family (especially those in our grandparents’ generation)? Does it matter if the Sindhi language is reduced down to a few words like “papad”?

Learning to speak Sindhi will only add value to who we are as Sindhis. What qualifies us to be Indian, being Sindhi or being labelled Sindhi? Now, the question to ask yourself is: Are you mother tongue tied?

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Reena Bhojwani

Reena is a true Yan To Yan, born and brought up in Hong Kong. She teaches creative writing at Elephant Community Press by day and writes fiction stories by night. She regularly publishes her stories with the Hong Kong Writers Circle.

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