Exploring Love for Persian: In conversation with Majid Ahmady- Shehnaz (2013)
Majid Ahmady is a native from Iran, and is presently teaching Persian in the Iranian Cultural House, Delhi. He feels deeply connected to Delhi, because of city’s long attachment with Persian language and customs.
Majid Ahmady aspires to be instrumental in teaching as many students who has the desire to learn the language. He is also passionate about discovering the unknown cultural history of medieval India by his ability of language expertise and his love for art and architecture. He believes that only by being known and rooted to ones culture can any nation become strong.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the interviewed person and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Anand Foundation
Majid Ahmady is a native of Iran, and is presently teaching Persian in the Iranian Cultural House, Delhi. He feels deeply connected to Delhi, because of the city’s long attachment and association with Persian language and customs. This according to him is visible in the monuments that Delhi cradles. Many of these monuments have Persian quotes and calligraphy on them.
He states that Persian Language is related to who we are and our past. Quoting Maulana Rumi Ahmady says , people who have forgotten their roots, will be soon looking for them…for there is a lot of emptiness…
He says his ancestors came to India in the 14th Century and traces his lineage to the Sufi Saint Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadan popularly known as Shah Hamadan, who has been credited with popularizing Islam in Kashmir. Shah Hamdan was a craftsman, he brought hundreds of craftsman, who popularized Shawl-making, carpet-manufacturing,cloth-weaving, pottery and calligraphy and was very instrumental in shaping the kashmiri culture. Majid Ahmady quotes Allama Iqbal and says that Shah Hamadan made Kashmir into a ‘little Iran’.
Majid Ahmady aspires to be instrumental in teaching as many students who have the desire to learn the language. He is also passionate about discovering the unknown cultural history of medieval India by his ability of language expertise and his love for art and architecture. He believes that only by being known and rooted to ones culture can any nation become strong.
Majid Ahmady corrected me when I called him a Persian scholar. He said, "I hardly know 20 % of the Persian Language . I am still learning. I am just a ‘Danishjo’ (student) ". He did his schooling in Hamadan in Iran . And did his 6 years masters in Persian Arts and Crafts in Tehran. And he came to India to pursue it further.
Majid Ahmady traces his love for the language to his childhood. As a child he was very fond of poetry. He recalls that when he was in class 5, he went to a Book shop and innocently asked demanded from the shopkeeper, "I want the book that has all the poems, ever written ". To this the shopkeeper smiled and gave him a book that had a collection of poems and quotes. And from then the love for the language and poetry only grew…
He sees India as a land that has always accepted, absorbed and accommodated the ‘other’cultures. The way persian has crept into our lives is evident not only from the language we speak but also the cultural norms that we follow. The words that we use daily like, pareshan, roz, humesha, khushi, sabzi, diwar, darwaza, shahar etc… are derived from Persian.
When asked about contemporary prevalent myths about the Persian language, Majid Ahmady told me about an interesting myth among Persian speakers , about a deep rooted paranormal belief attached with the language and the power it occupies. He narrates a very interesting incident. A Hakim friend of his writes continues to write his prescription in Persian even now, when most of his patents cannot understand the language . So he asked the Hakim why he gives the prescription in Persian.And the Hakim retorted , that he believes that if he did not write the name of the medicine in Persian, he feared that the medicines would not work.
Majidy also talks about how the ignorance of Persian language has made us mis-interpret the past. He talks about various ideas that we have about our medieval past that is flawed according to him because of the language barrier.
And one of the narratives he cited was that the stories that run around in making Aurangzeb the villain of the Mughal history, in portraying him as a Muslim fanatic. The popular belief is that Aurangzeb banned the construction of temples in the region of Banaras. But if we look into the Persian sources an alternate history builds up. According to him in a an original Persian source the narrative states that a temple's ownership in Benaras was disputed by two Brahmans and remained unresolved. And so Aurangzeb passed a verdict that since the differences is not resolved, none of them have the right to build or destroy the temple. But according to Ahmdy due to a construction of nationalistic history over the years,this went down to become a citation to build into the reputation of Aurangzeb. Majid Ahmdy believes that Indian history is disturbed as language remains unknown to many, it is shaped by the way we choose our source.
He is saddened by the way Manuscripts are kept in the country. He states that we have a long way to go to start valuing our pasts. There are lakh’s of Persian manuscripts that has yet to be identified.
Popularizing any language is always the concern of any linguist specialist, in the contemporary city when there are so many languages. But Ahmad Majidy states that the desire to learn should be present in the student. A mother does not know if the child is hungry, until he/she cries. He believes that the desire to learn anything cannot be created. It has to come from within the learner. And a teacher can only take this forward.
In this fast pace of life, no one wants to invest their time in anything that has no utility. Learning Persian should come with some benefits and career opportunities. Majid Ahmady gives a very witty remark and says ‘ If you know only Persian in India, than the opportunities are quite negligible. I would rather like to say that persian is only one of the various weapon with a soldier. And if you are a student of history, arts, painting, calligraphy, history of art, conservation, librarian, documentation, archives, music, poetry etc… Persian will give you an edge over the others.
According to him People who are learning Persian come from various backgrounds. Students especially from History and research, archeology, cinema and literature come to learn Persian. M.ahmady also states that people involved in business with Iran and other persian speaking country also learn the language.
Majid Ahmady prescribes J.N.U and Iran Culture House to any one who wants to learn Persian.
Majidy informs that presently the Iranian Culture house is engaged in copying and translating original manuscripts. This will give researchers greater access to the original sources. ICH also gives yearly scholarship to M.phil and PhD students for learning Persian in Tehran.
Just for the facts:
Persian is the official language of Iran and is spoken by around 59% Iranians. However,there are also many other native languages like Azerbaijani, Turkish, Kurdish, Lurish, Balochi, Arabic. Also, there are various different accents in which Persian is spoken.