There's still hope for Urdu!

I'd written earlier about how languages like Urdu are being neglected on the web. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see an Urdu version of the BBC website. I am not sure how old it is, but this is the kind of thing that is needed to keep the language alive. An Urdu website does not necessarily need to deal with shayari (poems), literature or recipes as we see often on the Urdu websites of our neighbouring country. Very often, the content is laced with an Islamic flavour, which is good only as long as it is relevant to the content. I think an effort needs to be made to separate the language from its Islamic association, at least for the sake of giving it the identity of a language with a rich literary tradition. I can understand that happening to Arabic (which I respect as the language of the Holy Qur'an), but Urdu deserves a different treatment. Contemporary content is what's really required to attract readers to the language. As for the BBC Urdu site, its a great option to get the latest news which at least appears unbiased. The fonts could have been more aesthetic, currently it looks a lot like typewriter Arabic. An interesting section on the site is Fauji ki Dairy which is a journal of a soldier fighting a war. Besides, the site also has versions in Hindi, Persian, Pashtun, Arabic and Bengali. A South Indian language is conspicuously absent.

I tried looking for similar websites in India of the Urdu newspapers published here. The results were not so bad:
  • There's Inquilab which does not look like a news site at first glance. They've even roped in a radio advertiser and the font is legible and looks good.

  • Munsif Daily is bilingual and looks more like a news site. They even have an e-paper.

  • Siasat is bilingual too and looks neat. You also have the option of viewing the site only in English or Urdu.

  • Urdu Times has great legibility. It's a Mumbai paper and I havn't seen it but the site is a good effort, though limited in content.

One paper which is sitting out on the online buzz in Urdu is the Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, which I believe is widely read. They just have a site for their Hindi newspaper, Rashtriya Sahara.

All this makes me optimistic that Urdu will not be sidelined on the web after all. Though I am sure that websites like these could do with some support from the advertising community and high-profile investments wouldn't hurt either.

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