Tuesday, May 08, 2018

In search of a Urdu Dictionary

Lately, I have been searching for (the right and the best) Urdu dictionaries for meaning, context, etymology and pronunciation of various words. Given the ease of the cyber world, my search has centered on the resources available online. Here is the summary of my endevors.

Before providing a list of various dictionaries of Urdu language, it might be handy to have an overview of the history of various dictionaries of Urdu and its lexicogrphy. In this context, Molvi Abudl Haq's introduction to lexicography in Urdu, at the beginning of Lughat-e-Kabeer's volume 2 (1977) is quite useful. Shamsur Rahman Faruqi's (1990) article in Annual of Urdu Studies also provides a good overview. Similarly, Saleem (2007), adds history and development of Urdu dictionaries in the Journal Linguistik, Another great source for this is an article by Rauf Parekh, a well known linguist and lexicographer of Pakistan, who also has also served as Editor on the Urdu Dictionary Board. Dr. Parekh provides a detailed review of various dictionaries of Urdu, in his article in Dawn  (2013). Moreover, Urdu Lexicography has been the focus of a few doctoral thesis in local universities, including the following three:

Now, here is a selected list of some of the major dictionaries and lughat of Urdu language.

Post partition dictionaries and lughat from Pakistan:
In 1958, the government of Pakistan established Taraqqi-i-Urdu Board (aka Urdu Development Board which was later named as Urdu Dictionary Board in 1982) in Karachi. The main objective for this was to compile a comprehensive Urdu dictionary "keeping in view the standard of Greater Oxford Dictionary." The Board has published a 22-volume Urdu Lughat called "Urdu Lught Tareekhi Asooloon Par [Urdu Dictionary on Historical Principles]. The volumes, comprising 20,000 pages took more than 30 years to publish--between the years 1977 to 2010. These volumes can be searched online on the Urdu Board site and can be accessed here. In addition to that the Board is also working on a shorter 2-volume version of this dictionary. The effort that will be successful is going to contain about 300,000 words. The Board is also working on developing an android and apple based application for the search page.

A digital version of volumes 2 to 21 have been scanned and uploaded by Rekhta from India, as part of their massive collection of Urdu/Hindi publications from the sub-continent. Here is the link for that:

While the rekhta resource is a great help, the drawback with that is that you you have to flick through the pages to look for the  specific words and meanings. For this it is handy to know which volume contains which of the alphabets (see the image file next to this paragraph for details or check the UDB link). The University of Chicago's Digital Dictionaries of South Asia also plans to digitize this dictionary and make all the volumes searchable through their website. They are however, still working on their plans to digitize and upload the magnum opus.

The government of Pakistan has also produced two other online dictionaries (English to Urdu and Urdu to Urdu dictionary). The (English to Urdu) dictionary compiled by the National Language Promotion Department/ Idara-e-Tarraqi-e-Urdu Zaban (aka idara-e-faroghe-qaumi zaban) is available online on nlpd site . Available in hard bound copy, this is also called the Muqtadara Dictionary. The main page of this site also hosts various other lughat/dictionaries which are worth a look. The site also hosts "Farhang-e-Talaffuz" (pronunciation dictionary) by Shahul Haq Haqqi in 1995. Though useful but its biggest drawback is limited word stock.  

The Ministry of Information Technology, Pakistan also attempted online Urdu lexicography and produced an comprehensive Urdu to Urdu dictionary/lughat (2006). This can be used for online search for meaning and explanation of Urdu words. 

Some other dictionaries published in Pakistan after partition are:
Qureshi, Bashir Ahmad. Kitabistan's 20th century standard dictionary(1971). (it is not listed officially on their site, so I assume the digitization is not final yet.)

Ferozsons English to English and Urdu dictionary has 50,000 words and idioms and phrases in English with meanings in Urdu and English both.

Feroz-ul-Lughat 1992 (Urdu to Urdu) Standard Twentieth Century Dictionary also known as Feroz Sons Jamae Dictionary.

Lughat-e-Roz-Marrah  (dictionary of colloquial Urdu), compiled by Shamsur Rehman Faruqi (2003) published by a local press of Kararchi. Read the preface(s) for history of changes in the spoken Urdu language. This was also published from Delhi, in 2011.

The father of Urdu language Molvi Abdul Haque had started working on a mega dictionary (lughat-e-kabeer) project for Urdu language, in the thirties. After partition he brought the compilations with him to Pakistan. Parts of this work were published by Anjuman e Taraqqie Urdu Pakistan (in 1975) as Lughat-i-Kabeer Volume 1 (1973) and Volume 2-part1 (1977). This dictionary also includes a detailed account of history and development of Urdu dictionaries. 

An online Urdu thesaurus, compiled by Mosharaf Ali Farooqi was launched in 2014. It can be accessed here. It is also available as a mobile app.

Post partition dictionaries from India:
The National Council for promotion of Urdu Language, India also has published a 6 volume English to Urdu dictionary (1994-98). Compiled under the chief editorship of Prof. Kalimuddin Ahmed, it includes more than 250,000 English words, phrases and idioms. The website of the Council also hosts several other useful resources related to Urdu language. One can download the pdf version of all the 6 volumes from their website. (links are not working anymore. Even the link from internet archive does not have the pdf files.)

Muhazzabul Lughaat, 13 volume, published from 1958 to 1982.

In addition to this, the national digital library of India hosts several "Lughat" and dictionaries.

Dictionaries and lughat from British and pre British period

Gharaebul Lughaat (~1695), considered the the first lughat of Urdu was compiled during Aurangzeb's period and was compiled by Mir Abdul Vasi Hansvi (Datta, 1988)   published in eighteenth century. It explained Urdu words in Persian (Parekh 2013). I could not find any online version of this.

John Gilchrist’s English to Hindustani dictionary (1778-1790) English to Hindustani (meaning is provided in Roman letters), available on internet archive

Shakespear, John. A dictionary, Hindustani and English: with a copious index, fitting the work to serve, also, as a dictionary of English and Hindustani. (1834)

Fallon . A new Hindustani-English dictionary, with illustrations from Hindustani literature and folk-lore (1879)

After several years of (re)search and usage, I have decided the best dictionary for me is the one compiled by John T. Platts (1884). Thankfully a fully digitized version is available on University of Chicago's database of resources related to South Asia. Thought is a Urdu to English dictionary, but you can provide key words for search in both English and Urdu.

Farhang-i-Aasifiya is one the oldest and comprehensive Urdu to Urdu dictionaries. It took Syed Ahmed Dehlvi around 30 years to complete and its last volume appeared in 1898.
Containing around 60,000 entries this dictionary encompasses 4 volumes (1888-1901). All of the four volumes are available online on internet archive.*

Ameer ul Lughat by Ameer Ahmad Ameer Meenayee, 1891. The same lughat (in two parts and better resolution) can be viewed on rekhta site as well.

Noorul Lughaat by Noor-ul-Hasan Nayyar Kakorvi, comprising 50,000 entries in 4 volumes, was published between 1921 to 1931. It is available online on internet archive for viewing and/or downloading. This was re-published by National Book Foundation, Islamabad. Parekh (2013) notes that "Noorul Lughaat is one of the authentic Urdu-Urdu dictionaries [and]... it is second only to Farhang-i-Aasifiya."** The University of Chicago is working on digitizing this.

Standard English-Urdu Dictionary. by Moulvi Abdul Haq, 1937. The dictionary can be accessed in pdf and other formats, from the internet archive.

A great online resource for translation to and from Urdu, is the service provided by Google. Though not perfect, they are getting better with time.

*Farhang e Asfiya:
Volume 1: Contains letters alif to tay.
Volume 2: Contains letter Tay to zay.
Volume 3: Contains letter seen to kaaf.
Volume 4: Contains letter gaaf to Yay.

**Noorul Lughaat:
Volume 1: Contains letters alif (الف ا) and bay (بے ب).
Volume 2: Contains letters pay (پے پ) to khey (خے خ).
Volume 3*: Contains letters ddal (ڈال ڈ) to kaf (کاف ک).
Volume 4: Contains letters kaf (کاف ک) to yay (یے ی).

References:Parekh, R. (7 October, 2013). Noorul Lughaat: a dictionary much underrated despite its merits. Dawn. http://www.dawn.com/news/1047943
Datta, A. (1988). Encyclopaedia of Indian literature: 2. New Delhi: Sahitya Akad.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Food from various religious traditions

Here are some resources on food from various religious traditions:

Syllabus of a course on food and religion

Jainism and food

Sikhism and food
Sikh religion is known for its tradition of Langar (the food kitchen) where food is served to all visitors of the Gurdwara (their place of worship). Here is a link to langar food recipes:

Jewish food
Jewish food is well known in America. We have all seen (and/or eaten) Challah, Bagels and Lox,
Matzah Ball Soup, Knishes, Blintzes etc.

For more information: http://www.jewfaq.org/food.htm
There are many sites decided to Jewish food recipes and other information including their dietary restrictions!

Hindu Food
Recipes for various Hindu festivals

Buddhist Delight

Korean temple food

Parsi food

Muslim traditions
Ramadan/Ramzan food

The Sufi cookbook

Ashura food

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The matriarch is gone

Nani is no more. She breathed her last breath on April 24, 2017 in Karachi in Choto Mama's house. Mama, who is a marine engineer, gone for work and on that  day his ship was near Abu Dhabi. Nani did not have anyone around her when she passed away.. Mami (Mama's wife) and the children were outside. When mami came inside the house, Nani's body was bent, in a prayer posture, seemed frozen in time. Perhaps she passed away while praying a few hours ago. I do not know what were her final thoughts, I will never know that. At that time, I, who live thousands of mile away in a place 15 hours behind in time zone, was deep asleep at the time of her passing. That night, I was dreaming in which she was cooking fish for me... Alas, her beloved son, one the very few people in this world who actually loved her was not there in her final moments!

Her death was expected, it was neither sudden nor shocking, as she was old and was diabetic. She was in some way some extremely lucky and other ways extremely unlucky.. There were many who have been waiting for her death for several decades, as one can guess, they were relatives who came to her family through marriage and somehow started considering her enemy...

Nani, born Jehan Ara was the darling daughter of Ali Nawaz Chaudhry (son of Aleph Chaudhry?) and Sadia Begum. She was born in Nematabad, British India (now Bangladesh) in the year 1930 (or perhaps 1929). In her days and in her family there was not much emphasis in record keeping. Her mother died when she was only 5. Her father, a hard working man employed by the British Govt. as Post Master in his area, married again, but he was rarely home due to his work commitments. His second wife also died leaving a son.

Nani was famous in her village (in Comilla, Bangladesh) for her love of mangoes -- apparently, her dad had built a whole cellar for mangoes only for her.... And, for her fierce protection of her land (owned by her father)... She was so spoiled that she got married very late, at the age of 15-16!! In her time, girls as young as 7 were married off!!

She moved to West Pakistan in 1969 (after the landing of the moon!) with her husband (our Nana) and children to join her eldest son who was in the military and her daughter who lived there with her hsuband. Once her family made the move, she had no intention to go back. I do not remember her regretting the decision!

I will remember her for curries, especially curry with eggplants and tomatoes and pakkon pitha (a kind of Bengali sweet). I would not certainly remember her fearlessness and love of food and in general the zest for life!

She is survived by 2 sons and a daughter and 22 grandchildren and 14 great grand children living all over the word-- Islamabad, Karachi, Jeddah, Dhaka, Bonn, Melbourne, Toronto, London, and Honolulu. Her husband and two of her children died, in their adulthood, during her lifetime.

Nani was not the kind who would cuddle you, spoil you, tell you stories, give you advise, tell you the tips to manage your house well and protect you from fear/anxieties. She was known to invoke fear in others and she herself was the fearless in the whole family. She was sometimes defined a despot like Neopleon or Hitler. But the positive aspect of having such a strong personality was that she did not have the word "impossible" in her dictionary! She got angry, yes, but she was never depressed or despondent about a situation. She was the ever optimist... Things always looked sunnier, brighter and pink to her... Which was great, as I personally have a cynical personality and easily succumb to desperation and negativity.. So, having an elder like her was always a positive force.

She was a considerable beauty in her youth and she herself was never embarrassed about getting compliments about her fair complexion, which, according to the family legend was due to her ancestors who were Arabs!

She was 87.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Using Bible as a basis for law (not my writing)

By all means, let's use The Bible as the measuring stick for Gay Marriage. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination ... End of debate. I do need some advice from my fellow believers, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual un cleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women
take offense.
4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football (American) if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his Wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)
Thank you for any clarification you can provide-

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Background post for my blog on Urdu Dictionaries

This is a disclaimer and a short background note to go with my other blog about Urdu dictionaries.

According to Ethnologue, a language reference website, Urdu is spoken (as a first or second language) by around 162.6 million people all over the world including Pakistan and India. It is also the national language of Pakistan. The number of native speakers of the language is around 70 million or so--14 million in Pakistan and 60 million in India. Moreover, the number of people who can understand the language is much larger due to its similarity with Hindi, which in spoken form is many a times indistinguishable from Urdu. Hence, based on this, there are more than 500 million people around the world who can communicate in Urdu/Hindi.

Urdu uses Perso-Arabic system writing that uses ABJAD (ابجد) script, or in other words this uses a consonant based system with only long vowels as part of the alphabets. To denote short vowels, Urdu uses various diacritics. However, in written Urdu the standard practice is to omit the diacritic marks. For the native speakers (called Ahl e Zubaan in Urdu) of the language this poses no problem, as they know the correct pronunciation of the words and in cases of words with similar spellings they can identify the correct one. This however, can be confusing and frustrating to non-native speakers. For example let's take the words "BUN" "BAN" "BIN." All three are written as BN (بن) in Urdu, in most cases without any diacritical mark, assuming that the reader would know the relevant short vowels (according to the context) and hence read it correctly. Similarly, I recently heard the word KNARA (کنارہ) --which means edge or border and commonly known as KINARA-- pronounced as KANARA by a poet, and upon exploration, I found that the prevailing pronunciation is a "vulgarized" version. This makes it harder to speak the language like an "Ahl e Zubaan." Non usage of diacritics makes it difficult for machine translation and text to speech recognition programs.

Urdu is not my first language nor is English. I had to learn both languages because I grew up in Pakistan and attended government schools and colleges, where the medium of instruction is Urdu. Most people around me were also not used to Urdu as their first language, including teachers in my educational institutions due to which I never got the opportunity to learn the language properly from Ahl-e-Zaban. Hence, I still make silly mistakes in pronunciation and grammar, which is the reason for writing this Blog in English and not Urdu.

To improve my (spoken) Urdu, all my life I have relied on listening to the diction of native speakers and television, radio and internet for renditions and readings by Zia Mohiyuddin and others like him. Despite all these efforts, I know I have serious deficiencies in the language in terms of vocabulary, choosing the correct gender of words and pronunciation etc. Plus it is difficult for me to translate anything which is beyond basic conversation, from English to Urdu and vice versa.

Here is the link to the blog post on Urdu Dictionaries.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Students in a university

In my experiences of teaching in Pakistan, one major problem with students I have noticed is their lack of interest in class. If given a choice most would just spend the day in loitering in the university, in chat chat or simply doing nothing. For them, university is a place which will give them the paper, aka degree, which will help them get ahead in life, regardless of the actual skills and information they learnt. There is, however, a small proportion of this lot who are actually interested in the subject matter and you can see their faces light up when you explain something new to them.

I used to believe that it is due to the incompetence of the teacher that the students' mind wander rather than the readily available internet (with Facebook etc.) in their hands, the rules of university where students are not penalized for using gadgets in the class or arriving and leaving at whim. I used to think that a "good" teacher has the capacity to arouse curiosity and interest about any subject/topic in any student, no matter how dull or disinterested. There are loads of scholarly work on this subject which shows the "best" methods to teach.

But after around two years of intensive exposure to this, I have a new thought to explain this. In my view, university education is not meant for everybody. There are many who go to universities just because they want the degree which is needed for the modern society that is based on "credentials". Without the piece of paper known as degree, no respectable job is possible, these days. Even if one want to start their own business or just stay home and do nothing productive (as many female students in Pakistan plan) one needs the degree for "social" prestige. Hence, we have the universities full of students who need to coerced and/or coaxed to learn something. Reminds me of my first day in school when more than half of the children were mortified because of being in an alien environment, far from their homes and the molly coddling of their family. Only a few were actually excited at the prospect of learning something new. Using their minds and satiating their curiosities.

I want to argue that we need more community and technical degrees granting colleges which would just teach skills that would be directly relevant to the job market.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Early impressesion of Pakistan (or rather the society) once again (dobara)

I have lived in Australia and Hawaii and have had visitors from Pakistan during those stays. One of the first thing these visitors would say is that there is no care for guests (no mehman nawazi) in those countries . But, now that I am back in Pakistan, after a long time I want to say the same thing for here. I find people are busier than before. People do not want to meet you unless they have a particular objective, like financial or social gain. I am sorry to say that many of my friends, who are earning 10 times more than what they used to earn back in 2005 have also become 10 times more selfish.