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Why scare the world?
Sir: A lot of hue and cry has been raised since the victory of the religious right in the October elections. We need to realise that a mandate has been given to the religious right by the electorate and we as a democratic polity must honour that mandate. Second, it should be of no relevance if someone grows a beard or wears shalwar kameez or has orthodox beliefs as far as religion is concerned. What is important is that people are citizens of this country, pay their taxes, do not cheat and like anybody else want to see this country prosper.
We should welcome the religious right, involve them in the decision making process and let them take responsibility. After all, once they get into the nitty gritty of governance, raising revenues and reducing expenditure, they will see the ground realities more clearly. We must create the perception for the outside world that beards or no beards we are a tolerant nation with responsible citizens, we respect individual rights, we believe in consensus. And this is the reason the rest of the world should invest in this country.
MUHAMMAD AUN ZAIDI
Sir: I read with alarm Khaled Ahmed’s column (Word for Word, The common fly and the Aryans, Daily Times, December 29, 2002).
While his aim is commendable, he is clearly not prepared to tackle the issues he wants to discuss. It is not enough to look into a few dictionaries to discuss etymology. One has to have some direct knowledge of the languages under consideration.
His reference to the “Aryans” does not make any sense at all. Even if we assume the existence of these first speakers of the Indo-European languages, we know nothing about their “Diasporic travels”.
There is no such thing as a “European” group of languages. Most Europeans do speak a language belonging to one of the branches of the Indo-European family (Germanic, Slavic, Romance, etc.) but there are languages in Europe (Basque, Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish ) which have nothing to do with the Indo-European family.
Also, it is clear that Mr. Ahmed knows no Sanskrit, though that does not prevent him from sermonising about word origins. Just to point out a few obvious howlers (I put correct Sanskrit words thus: <>, although the spellings are only approximate, thanks to the absence of diacritical signs).
The Sanskrit for “Bee” is <>, which means “one who moves around”. Another word one could use was <>, meaning “honey-maker”.
Mr. Ahmed’s “Bhanwra” (Hindi) of course derives from <>, but through Middle Indo-Aryan and over 2,000 years later.
The Sanskrit word for honey is <> (not Mr. Ahmed’s “Madh”). The “middle or medium” root that Mr. Ahmed warns us about confusing it with <>. Not “Matsiya” but <> is the correct spelling for the Sanskrit for fish. I understand Mr. Ahmed may be a victim of Urdu spelling but that is no excuse at all.
Also, it should be <> rather than “makshi” would be the usual name for the fly, and the mosquito is <> (Not “makshara”, which I have never seen).
“Methyl” denotes the presence of the radical CH3- in a compound. Methylated spirits are for industrial use and have been rendered poisonous by the addition of methyl alcohol.
I would like to know what he means by spellings such as “Makhkhi, Machchi, Muththi” instead of “makkhi, machchhi, mutthi”. Does he really pronounce these words the way he spells them?
I don’t mean to be judgemental, but it seems to me that Mr. Ahmed should not try to give more than he has. The study of language is a scholarly discipline, and only after you have acquired a thorough knowledge of the relevant languages can you venture to say anything about etymologies.
Khaled Ahmed replies: I think I know the emotion which has driven Mr Chakrabarti to add disparaging personal remarks to his perfectly valid criticisms. This is not an unknown emotion among scholars. He doesn’t want me to correct myself; he wants me to simply stop writing. Can I go on writing if I spell Sanskrit the way I do? He presumes recklessly that I read “just a few dictionaries” and have concocted my own words. All of them are taken from the classical studies on the Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Sanskrit originals. If Mr Chakrabarti disagrees with the literature available on the ancient movement of the people who used Indo-European words, should it disqualify me from writing about words? There is not much expertise involved in his correction about the “European group”. What I obviously meant was the European group of Indo-European languages. His remark on “methyl” reveals to me his disregard of the Greek root that has gone into it. It is the same root that has gone into “amethyst”. He ignored my reference to what he passes off as his own “knowledge”. All the “mistakes” he has pointed out are really not mistakes but the product of his premeditated resolve to “knock” the column I write. He is welcome to write his own column on the subject to let the readers judge for themselves.