I don’t really sound like a Gora Saab. (White-man) At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself all these years of speaking Urdu as a second language, and I would like to believe it, honestly I would. But I admit, my Urdu’s not perfect. –sigh- I’ve never studied Urdu before actually, not beyond the basic introduction to Urdu writing that I got back in sixth grade. (Alif say Allah, bay say balla…)
So is my Urdu good or bad? Well, that depends on how I introduce myself. If I tell people that I am an American, they say my Urdu is wonderful and they compliment how far I’ve come in just four years. If I tell people I’m Pakistani then they tell me my Urdu is disgraceful, especially for someone who’s been back in Pakistan for four years. But if I don’t tell people anything about where I’m from and just jump head-first into Urdu conversation, do you know what they say?
“So, how long’s it been since you left Afghanistan?”
And that’s how I know that I don’t sound like a gora saab. I sound like an Afghani, or perhaps a Pushton, specifically one from Peshawer. Case in point:
When I had my appendix out in Karachi a few years ago I was rushed to the emergency room wearing shalwar qameez and an ajrak (traditional Sindhi chadar). I was later changed into hospital clothes but kept the ajrak to cover my head. I got to keep the ajrak until I was wheeled into surgery and it was time for the anesthesiologist to shoot me up. They always talk to you while they’re putting you to sleep, and they decide that you’re out cold once you stop responding. Well, my anesthesiologist decided to ask me where I was from, and just as he pushed the needle into my IV tube he said in Urdu, “So Abez, you’re from Peshawer?”
“Peshawer?” I replied sleepily in English, “I’m not from Peshawer, I’m from Chicago.”
The anesthesiologist did a double take and the last thing I remember before passing out was hearing the surgeons and the nurses laughing at him.
I know my accent is funny. If you’re ever heard a pathan speaking Urdu then you know what I sound like. It gives my cousins a good laugh every now and then, but it’s not that bad. I can say Khyber you people, and I can open my mouth without making people crack up.
Most of the time anyway. <:(