What stammers my mother tongue?


By: Naresh Sharma

Throughout my life, I have been a victim of bitter experience relating to my mother tongue – “Kangri”.  Though born and brought up in Delhi, I still believe I belong to district Kangra,  Himachal Pradesh (HP).  My father came to Delhi from HP before India got independence.  I left India in 1982 and since then I’ve got a chance to live in various parts of the world.  Since preoccupied with studies and job in Delhi and other places, opportunities to visit my ancestral home in HP have been very rare.  In spite of all this, I have great love for my mother tongue ‘Kangri’.

While in Delhi, whenever I came across people from HP, more especially Kangra, I tried to converse with them in my language.  In return, I usually had a very similar answer that they could understand this language but did not know how to speak.  Whenever I came to know about anyone who hailed from Kangra or nearby in HP, I would immediately switch over to Kangri.  To my dismay, in most of the cases, even if I would continue in Kangri, the other party would keep talking in Hindi to which he is not at all comfortable.  A man like me would easily make out people from Himachal, this always came as a terrible blow to me.  I am yet to understand why our people hide this, when it is widely acceptable that Dogri or Kangri is a very sweet language.  Do they feel ashamed or while speaking in their mother tongue does their standard goes down?  I am yet to get an answer to this question.

There have been good instances as well which I would call as examples and would like to highlight to all those who read this piece.

I was in Helsinki, Finland from 1982 to 1985.  For the first time, I’d left home all alone. I was feeling home sick.  A couple of months later, I came across two young boys from a Sood family from Solhan.  Their origin was from Garli Paragpur.  They were talking to each other in fluent Kangri.  Having undergone homesickness for a few months, how I would have felt at that very moment, you can very well imagine.  I immediately started talking to them in Kangri and we are good friends till today.  Those two boys introduced me about half a dozen Sood families who are settled in Finland for the last four decades now.  One such matter of pride was that when I met children of Mr. Lal (from Sohan) and Champa (from Palampur), I spoke to them in English. I got an answer in typical Kangri language. On probing further, I was told by the kids that they were yet to visit India. They were born in Finland and since then have been studying there only.  Languages they spoke comfortably included Swedish, German, English and Kangri, apart from Finnish.  I was thrilled to see these children talking in Kangri because, what I did not see in India I was witnessing in Finland.

One of my friends from Hamirpur in HP was once asked to receive and see off Dr. Karan Singh in Kathmandu, Nepal, while he was on an official visit there. Dr. Karan Singh asked my friend about his origin. When my friend told Dr. Singh that he hailed from HP, this great man of India (Dr. Karan Singh) spoke with him in fluent Dogri till his stay in Kathmandu.  I opine this sounds great.

My Grand Nana moved to Kullu from Bageda in Sujanpur long ago. Language spoken in Kullu is ‘Kulluvi’. This dialect is entirely different as compared to Kangri.  Since they were in business profession, they always speak with masses of the native land only in the local dialect i.e. Kulluvi.  But what I saw on my few visits there was that the language spoken inside home of my Nana was pure “Kangri”.  The scale of fluency was excellent.  Therefore, my Mother was very good at Kangri too.  She has always been using this great and sweet language while talking to her children, whereas we always spoke to our late Father in Hindi.

A very interesting episode about ‘language’ was once narrated by my Maternal Uncle (Mama).  My Mama who is more like a friend to me was on training as a Probationary Officer in one of the nationalised banks in Gujarat in 1979.  He was home sick for want of friends or family members accompanying him on training there.  One day he came across a customer in the Bank, who arrived with a damaged pass book, requesting for a duplicate one.  While talking to that customer, Mama could easily make out that the man carrying the passbook hailed from some part of HP.  Mama thought some homesickness would go after having met a Himachali friend in that part of Gujarat.  Mama asked him about his origin – unexpectedly, the man said that he hailed from Bhatinda in Punjab. Disappointed, Mama asked him to wait and meanwhile, had the duplicate passbook written.  Before handing over the passbook, Mama queried as to how the old passbook got damaged (it was moth eaten.)  The man immediately answered in uncomfortable Hindi “Isko ‘Jeeju’ ne kha liya hai”.  When ‘Jeeju’ word appeared, Mama had a big laugh and told the guy, “You are caught and I am now 100 per cent sure that you are from some part of HP”.  Mama forced him to speak the truth and the man confessed that he hailed from district Kangra in HP.  A big question mark – why he was feeling ashamed in disclosing his origin.

As the readers would agree with me that people from Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, Punjab etc. feel proud while talking to their wards in their mother tongue.  People from these parts of India would first let their children speak in their mother tongue and then come to English or Hindi.  My experience has been that the countries I have lived in during these three decades, children speak their mother tongue first and then switch over to foreign languages.

Himachal Pradesh is a prospering State of India with rich culture and sweet people having very polite and sweet dialects. A very close friend of mine always used to tell me that in most of the dialects of Himachal Pradesh, he knew about, one opens his mouth at a very limited level and that shows how polite and sweet Himachali dialects are, especially Kangri or Dogri.

Himachal is a Great State. Proudly, we have no starvation deaths. Why should any Himachali hide his origin, especially when it comes to speaking in Mother Tongue?  Why we should not teach our children our mother tongue?  I invite you all to share your views on this and tell all those who hail from Himachal to take an oath today that our children must learn their mother tongue, at some stage if it is not before Hindi or English. They should not be deprived of their RIGHT. Feel proud to be a Himachali.

(The author is a Himachali, presently living in Annadale, VA, USA) .

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  1. Hi Naresh ji,

    I am totally aligned with you, in terms of our disregard for our native language specially "kangri". but irony is u feel it is important when u r in USA where as while in Himachal if u want to be respectable u need to communicate in English or Hindi. The momemt u cross Kangra border mandyali people start ridiculing "kangri", moment u cross Mandi Border, Upper shimla people start ridiculing "Mandyali" and vise-versa. The problem is, within Himachal we ( all 12 district) don't respect each other's culture and language and that is the root cause of spoiling our culture and language. Another point I would like to bring up is growing culture of envious feeling about each other in Himachalis, people are becoming more and more self centred and selfish with the more materialism in society. Children are lacking the feeling of sharing and sense of giving. Teaching moral values to childern has become last priority among parents. I regret to say the problem is more prevailing in lower Himachal areas (Mandi, Kangra, Bilaspur, Hamirpur). I would say the himachalis are on the verge of loosing their image of honesty, truthfullness and sense of giving and sharing. We must not forget such moral values are our assets that we owe to pass on to our next generation. The survival of a good society does not depend on materialism but Morality and ethics.

    Mukesh Bhandari

  2. Makes an interesting reading but few questions pop up.

    If mother and father have different mother tongues, what would be the mother tongue of Children ? My mother tongue is Kangri, My wife's mother toungue Punjabi….what should be the mother toungue for my daughter ? I don't follow the logic of father's mother tongue being the mother tongue of kids. My daughter speaks Hindi and that has become the language for the entire family.

    Regarding adhering to one's culture, values et al I would say that an individual must have the flexibility of adapting as well as adopting good things from other cultures. This is very important for gaining acceptance and mingling with others and learning to co-exist.

    The migration of communities is from developing world to the developed world, not other way round so obviously if one chooses to settle abroad for good must be willing to make sacrifices.

    World order has been established by the victor/developed nations…one consequence of it…English becoming a common language.

    The world has become flat…concepts of close knit communities are gradually vanishing….why wail about it. It is a choice of the society.

    People of Indian origin who have settled abroad for good will not be able to sustain their culture beyond one or two generations. One has to accept this fact. An Indian marrying a Non-Indian….obviously next generation will have dilemmas about their identity.

    I know a family from Himachal living in Copenhagen for the last forty years…..sons are born and brought up in Denmark and bride for one of them was brought from India!! What a decision made by imposing parents!!.

    Choosing to live in different cultures challenges your values, fundamentals. Even if entire village community moves to a foreign land lock, stock and barrel its culture, values will undergo an irreversible change in 2-3 generations.

    Life is all about making choices…there are no perfect choices..but host of imperfect choices..one has to choose what is better than the others.

    I visited Shimla after a gap of six years…whole city looks like a pile of concrete garbage. Eysore constructions can be seen everywhere. Unsavoury scenes of garbage strewn downhill by the 'educated elites'…Little do these ignoramuses without an iota of civic sense realise that such acts spoil the ground quality of water. Which gets back into the 'potable water' stream even after 'treatment'…No surprises…Incidence of Jaundice is high in Simla.

    I completely agree with the observation that many people in Himachal are no longer bhola-bhala/Seedha-Saadha type…envious/jealous attitudes…living in a mode of comparision.

    Life is all about making choices.

  3. This article was a reflection of some of my experiences in the past. I am from kangra in himachal and we all speak in pahadi at home and it comes naturally to me and my siblings.

    It was only until we moved to bombay we experienced something that you have written in this article. people were surprised to hear us talk in pahadi in bombay and when we would visit himachal in vacations, people started talking to us in hindi. (As if you forget your mother tongue just because you move to a city)

    I am in US now and people talk to me in hindi or english rather than in pahadi even if i am speaking pahadi.

    One learns their mother tongue from their parents or at home.If the parents themselves are shy to talk in pahadi how will the next generation learn the already depleting language. (i say so because many people who grow up in himachal cant speak in pahadi)

    Most of the parents dont talk to their kids in pahadi ..just because they think their kids should know hindi or english. how will pahadi help them in future ..

    Its all about personal preferences .. I am proud to be a himachali and i am thankful to my parents for passing on this sweet mother tongue to me and my siblings ..

    I think

  4. You reinforced what has already been stated…life is all about making choices or preferences but some of them get imposed whether one likes it or not..like Hindus living in Europe/US and consuming beef.

    Moving to a foreign land…does pose challenges in maintaining values, languages et al. There many people of Jewish descent living in India..how many of them speak Hebrew.

    Anybody watching Indian Idol…One of the participants, Mr. Chang (whose great grand parents came to India during first quarter of 20th century) can't speak Chinese! And so do many chinese families settled across the length and breadth of India..barring a few exceptions like..Ta Tung & Co in Shimla.

    Above arguments will hold good if mother and father are from the same region..e.g. Kangra and had Kangri as the home language. But what happens after 2nd/3rd generation is raised in foreign land…it is only a guess but with a high probability that kids will speak English or Spanish or a local language.

    For fanatically protecting one's language, culture..one has to probably live in isolation and today that's not going to happen…so accept the change.

  5. I am from Paprola(Baijnath),kangra in himachal and we all speak in pahadi at home. from birth we live in jammu city view father works in jammu and there only i have joined the navy,presently i m in navy and i m in visakhapatnam.

    i love my pahari language as well as himachali people.

    where ever i would come to know that so & so person from himachal i start talking with him in pahari.

    but as u have mentioned earlier that people start talking in hindi or english, i m fully agree with this.

    till today i can't be able to understand that why people feel shy to talk in pahari, such a sweet language. but whoever himachali talks with me in hindi/english i always checks him in between that being a himachali u don't know pahadi if u grows outside himachal than its ok but inspite of educating/growing up in himachal u don't have to feel shy in speaking in pahari.

    As if you forget your mother tongue just because you move to a city its totally wrong and just an excuse.

    Most of the parents dont talk to their kids in pahadi.just because they think their kids should know hindi/english. than how could we could be able to say that we are from himachal.

    as u have to keep in mind that as compare to other states of india, himachal is far better state,coz there is no case of deaths due to starvation, its climate is best in all india, there is almost nil power cuts.

    I am proud to be a himachali and i am thankful to my parents for passing on this sweet mother tongue to me

    I think

  6. If Himachal is the proverbial land of milk and honey, then why Himachalis are tumbling down the hills to settle in other states or float to other parts of the world?

    Any language is sweet..it depends upon how you use it.

    Life is all about making choices….a process forming backbone of Economics..a subject inseparably intertwined with people and hence choices..

  7. I also feel the pang now not able to speak fluent pahari. Though everyone at home is fluent at it. I blame it for my hostel upbringings. My wife chides me whenever I reply to her in hindi against her perfect pahari. I make a fool of myself in social gatherings as am the only one speaking anything but Pahari. One must hve full fluency over the native language whichever part of the world they belong to.

  8. Lots of people have said lots of good things here infact most of them , but i couldn't hold myself feeling a bit uneasy on our penchant for,to an extent even deriding others,pushing them for not being able to speak pahari or even of their sweet will they chose not to.

    let's take it straight guys if someone has not got it in his heart to do that let us leave it that for whatever reasons.whatif your chiding takes him off.This is sweetness of action making life more beautiful moreso than sweetness of words.

    I am here noway anatagonistic to anybody's remarks ,love ur culture ,language, prophece their beauty, revel in its magic and charm but appreciate the human first standing in front..learn their language,share their concern ,try to mould you in him..you will see the dance of lord…and take my word he will speak sweet if not pahari whatever.

  9. विनडुआ ते रेना री ड्रापा लागी रई पर माला जाणा मस्टा ।

  10. Pathania sir,

    tab emotional ho kar likh diya tha ab dobara padhne par meri bhi samajh nahin aa raha…is ka jawab sirf yehi hai "dobara mat puchna"..

  11. I left my village (2 miles away from Paprola across the Taragarh Palace) some 40 years ago and since then visits have been limited. I learnt speaking Pahri/kangri from my parents and can speak it quite well. My wife is Punjabi and we speak hindi at home and that is what kids speak. I like and love to speak Kangri .Recently we played cricket match against HSBC India and there was a chap from baijnath -Mahakal and we spoke in pahari for almost 15-20 minutes. It was so nice to speak to him.I don't think people are ashmed of speaking the language but many times you are in a situation where no one else can understand it and in a group this then becomes awakward when others want you to speak in a language which all understands.

    I must add it here that recently whenever I have been to Palampur and I found that people speaks in Hindi more than Pahari.I am not against Hindi but then at least locally language should be preserved .



  12. Hi,

    Happy to see the comments and the site itself. I was just searching on the net about Palampur (where I belong to) and came across this.:))


    New Delhi.

  13. Hi Naresh. I am a Himachali (Dist:Hamirpur) and would be moving over to VA,USA from UK. Your article is a true reflection of todays reality. I would definitely like to connect with Himachalis while in usa. Hope to hear from you soon.

  14. DS Pathania sir, yeh tanh bada hi badiya hoona ki ye forum hi pahari vich huan, aur sanjay dhar sir mere ghar bhi taragarh(vill- kukaina) hain

  15. Naresh,

    Nice to read your views and experience about our Kangri bhasha… but one is thing for sure whenever we are away from our culture we have a great passion and respect for it… like you also mentioned in the article that people having homesickness while they are away from their culture/hometown then they are more curious and anxious to hear Kangri and meet people from Kangra and Himachal and I am in the same position now…


    Jai Himachal 🙂


    Cleveland, OH, USA

  16. Dear Naresh Sharma,

    I am interested in the contact details (preferably emails) for soods in Helsinki.

    Thank you,


  17. Folks,

    Sometime back I met a person in Singapore airport working in a restaurant (A South Indian eatery).While paying for the bill, I asked him from where do he belong to. He told me he is from India… From Distt. Una in Himachal. He has shifted in Singapore sum years back.

    It was such a delight to meet a Himachali person there irrespective of his profession. I told him that I too belong from Himachal (Palampur).. But sadly he wasn't much aware of the place….

    But yeah! I still converse in Pahari (Kangri) with all my Pahari friends located all over India N for sure I love it.

  18. all said and done, love for one's mother tongue is a desirable trait and one should not hesitate to converse in it with persons,who we know belong to the same area .people do relish and enjoy talking in their mother tongue to their ilk in some areas of himachal pradesh.however it is the manner and the content that is of importance, as Hafeez Jallandhari has put it

    hafeez apni boli muhabbat ki boli

    urdu na hindi na hindustani

  19. My grandparents and parents belong to garli-pragpur in Himachal. But since my birth, i have stayed in punjab/chandigarh. As a child, i still remeber, my parents used to speak in pahari and used to teach me the same. But outside home, when i was in school or with playmates, they will not understand half of the words i speak and i used to feel a discomfort and always used to get in an awkwad situation. Eventually, in my subconcious, i started focusing more on Hindi/punjabi rahter then pahari. So after 26 long years, i can understand pahari but can’t speak it at all. though i love the language and when i meet someone from himachal i generally tell them to please speak in himcachali as i luv listening the dilect, though i respond in hindi.
    Recently i got the chance to meet Mr Naresh, in Bogota-Colombia, and he got me from my surname, that you belong to Himchal and we started talking. Though i have met couple of Indian’s out here, but still it felt so good speaking to someone from Himchal that i cant put in words. I guess, it is the same way he felt or others feel then they meet someone from there hometown in a foreign land. He even introduced me to another guy from Himcahal, and although he was speaking with me in HIndi but with pure himachali dilect and it felt so good, just to hear him speak.

    So what i wanna say is, there could be numerous reasons that why you dont know your native languae, but still deep down, when you meet someone from your region, your area, you get a sense of comfort and closeness with that person, irrespective of where you meet, weather you speak the language or not. These things become trivial if your hearts can touch and share the same love & passion for your region.

  20. hii friends my mother is kullvi ..and love and prod to be himachalaly .and always reeffered my friend to speak pahadi and prod to be himachali .I am a taxation manager here in mohali and we all three roomie from himachal and always played pahadi song in woofer . himchaliyo ko proud hona chahiye ki hum swarg me reh rhe Hai bhgwan ne himachaliyo ko bahut nayab tofha diya Hai ,bhgwan himachal k kan kan me hi bhgwan himachal ki khiobsurti me Hai ,himachliyo k dil me Hai imandari me Hai shant enviourment me Hai yaha k khoobsurat pahado me Hai ,nadiyo nalo jhrno bag bageecho har cheez di Hai uperwale . fir kyun na proud kre proud kya hme to ghamand krna chahiye himachli hone ka yaha rehne . last me yahi kehne chahunga ki bhagwan mujhe har janam himachal me de .. jai himachal jai hind

  21. सारे भाषा प्रेमियो तुहां कांगड़ी अंगरेजिया च ई गलाणी। पहाड़ी पहाड़िया च नीं? ता सैह् असां कैत पाणी।

    • अनूप भाई जी ठीक गला दे। एह बड़ा चक्कर है। जे ग्लोये भाखा तां किछ गल होए।

  22. वौहत वद्धिया लेख। शैहदे साह्यी।इक्क वरी जे जीब्बहॉ लगी जायै ता कुण छड्डणा चाहै।प्हाड़ीया नै तुसां दा प्रेम दिक्खी नै बड़ी ख़ुसी होई। अपणीयाँ मा बोल्ली इतणी मिट्ठी है कनै इतणी असां दे आत्मे यो छुन्दी है, अपर मते माहणु बाहर जाई नै वापस जे आउंदे तां अपणीयां जुवानी दा इतणा बेड़ा गर्क करी छड्डदे भई, सुणने आळे जो मिचली लई पौंदी औणा। इस तरीक्के दे लेख अख़बारा च छपणा चाह्यीदे।
    अगलिया वारीया पहाड़िया च लिखनेयों। असां पहाड़ी ग्रूपे च पाहंगे।
    तेजकुमार सेठी धर्मशाला।(हि प्र)

  23. नरेश जी तुसां दा लेख पढ़या छैल़ लग्गा तुसां जेह बी गलाया सैह विलकुल ठीक ऐ। असां म्हाचली पता नीं कैंह अप्पूं जो जाहर नी करना चांहदे एह जाणदे होयां बी जे असां ईह्यां करी नै अपणिया कांगड़ी जां म्हाचली बोलिया कनै ना इन्साफी करा दे। मैं एह बी बोलणा चाहंदा जे काश तुसां एह लेख कांगड़ी जां कुसी बी म्हाचली बोलिया च लिखया होंदा। खैर मेद ऐ जे गांह तुसां जरुर कोई पहाड़िया कांगड़िया च लेख लिखी करी पोस्ट करगे।

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