In the narrow lanes of Old Delhi, a unique and flavoursome dialect of Urdu is going extinct

Image credit: Photo credit: Ashcoounter/Wikimedia Commons [Licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0] In Old Delhi’s anarchic tangle lie lanes named after ancient crafts and trades: Sui Walan​, the ​tailor’s ​lane, Phatak Teliyan, ​the oil presser’s alley, ​Kinari Bazar, ​the border or brocade market, ​Galli Jootewali, ​the cobblers street, ​Choodiwalan​, the bangle makers’ quarters, and Kasaabpura, ​where the butchers plied their trade. Artisans, traders and workers lived, worked and sold their wares here. These streets once rang with an earthy, flavoursome and idiomatic dialect of Urdu called the karkhandari zubaan. As the name indicates, this was the dialect of those who worked in karkhanas or factories, but embraced a wide set of worker communities. The karkhandari zubaan was first analysed socio-linguistically by veteran Urdu scholar Gopi Chand Narang in 1961. He estimated that around 50,000 people spoke the dialect in the area ringed on four sides by Chandni Chowk, Faiz Bazar, Asaf Ali Road and Lahori Gate. But Old Delhi has changed vastly since Narang’s research – several crafts and professions have died and many old-timers have moved out to the newer parts of Delhi. For those who stayed on and moved up in life, the patois was simply not refined enough to […]

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