ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Linguistic choices of a multilingual writer in the shadow of Partition and identity politics: The case of Kartar Singh Duggal and others.


Puri Maria - Independent scholar, New Delhi, India


32 – Dynamics of Language Diversity, Multilingual Identities and Linguistic Nationalism in South Asia


 As stated by Arundhati Roy in her lecture, “What is the Morally Appropriate Language in Which to Think and Write?” (2018), linguistic choices of Indian writers reflect the linguistic realities on the ground. This paper takes as its starting point the pre-Partition Lahore, where Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and English were used side by side in administration, education, reformist activities and literary production. Brief overview of linguistic preferences of some writers who debuted before 1947, all Punjabi speakers connected to Lahore, reveals a plethora of possible trajectories, making individual choices less obvious and thus more remarkable: English—Mulk Raj Anand (1905-2004), Khushwant Singh (1915-2014); Urdu—Krishan Chander (1914-1977), Rajinder Singh Bedi (1915-1984); Punjabi—Amrita Pritam (1919-2005), Kartar Singh Duggal (1917-2012), the last also writing in Urdu and English; Hindi—Upendranath Ashk (1910-1996), Bhisham Sahni (1915-2003). English prose of Mulk Raj Anand is thought to reflect Punjabi diction and sensibilities, Amrita Pritam is said to have at times translated her Punjabi texts into Hindi herself for wider circulation, and Krishna Sobti (1926-2019) wrote in Hindi but in an idiom drenched in Punjabi. Current paper proposes to look at the linguistic choices of Kartar Singh Duggal through the lens of his Partition novels and stories, while keeping in mind the Partition theme in the oeuvres of other writers mentioned above.