Basics of Urdu Language

Posted on 30. Sep, 2015 by in Uncategorized



What is significant about the Urdu alphabet?

The Urdu alphabet has 39 basic letters and 13 extra characters, 52 all together. It is written from right to left and is closely related to the Arabic and Persian alphabets, but also contains some sounds from Sanskrit.


Certain sounds in Urdu have no equivalent in English or in other languages written in the Roman alphabet. For this reason it is often difficult to express the true pronunciation of Urdu words using Roman letters.

Examples of letters that are not found in the English alphabet are:
ق – a sharp sound at the back of the throat, similar to ‘k’
خ – the pronunciation of ‘ch’ in Scottish ‘loch’.
ژ – much like the sound made by ‘s’ in ‘pleasure’


Urdu has three short vowel sounds and seven long vowel sounds.

In writing, short vowels are represented by special symbols above or below the word. These symbols are known as ‘diacritics’. However, these diacritics are often left off written Urdu, so you can’t always tell how a word should be pronounced, unless it’s in context. There are similarities in English, with a word like ‘wind’ – ‘The wind blows’ and ‘Wind up the clock’.

The short vowels sound like:
The ‘a’ in the English word ‘about’
The ‘i’ in ‘bin’
The ‘u’ in ‘put’

Long vowels are written using the letters ا [alif], و [wao], ی[choti ye], ے [bari ye] combined with diacritics. Once again, the diacritics are often left out so you have to work out the pronunciation of the word based on its context.

The seven long vowels in Urdu sound similar to these English sounds:

The ‘a’ in ‘father’
The ‘ee’ in ‘seed’
The ‘oo’ in ‘boot’
The ‘o’ in ‘order’
The ‘au’ in ‘Australia’
The ‘e’ in ‘help’
The ‘a’ in ‘apple’

Getting used to reading words without diacritics can be a bit tricky at first, so most books for people learning Urdu or for children tend to include them. But most other forms of written Urdu, such as street signs and general publications don’t bother with diacritics.

The other thing to bear in mind is that two of the letters which represent vowels can also represent consonants.
و [wao] can also represent a ‘v’ sound or a ‘w’ sound
ی [choti ye] can also represent a ‘y’ sound

 A single dot makes a big difference

Dots play an important part in the Urdu alphabet. The placement of a dot can change one letter into a different letter. For example:

حـ [hey], becomes
خـ [khey], with a dot above it, and
جـ [jeem], with a dot below it.

The letter ب [bay], has its basic shape in common with three other letters, with only some dots to differentiate them:

ت [tey]
ث [say]
پ [pay]

One of the challenges for learners is to memorise the differences between these very similar-looking letters.

Email and website conventions

When saying web or email addresses, the words hyphen, slash,dot and at are all pronounced as in English.

Reference: BBC.UK

A Poem by Iqbal

Posted on 29. Sep, 2015 by in Uncategorized

A sketch of Allama Iqbal on

A sketch of Allama Iqbal on

Muhammad Iqbal, also known as Allama Iqbal, was a philosopher, poet and politician in British India who is widely regarded to have inspired the Pakistan Movement. He is considered one of the most important figures in Urdu literature, with literary work in both the Urdu and Persian languages. Iqbal is admired as a prominent classical poet by Pakistani, Indian and other international scholars of literature. Although most well known as a poet, he has also been acclaimed as a modern Muslim philosopher. Iqbal is known as Shair-e-Mushriq meaning Poet of the East. He is also called Muffakir-e-Pakistan “The Inceptor of Pakistan”, and Hakeem-ul-Ummat “The Sage of the Ummah”. Pakistan has officially recognized him as its “national poet”. In Iran and Afghanistan he is famous as Iqbal-e Lahori (Iqbal of Lahore), and he is most appreciated for his Persian work. His birthday is celebrated on November 9 and is a national holiday in Pakistan. Here is a famous poem called “I desire” by Iqbal and its English translation.

tere ishq kii intahaa chaahataa huun
I want to have the extremes of your Love

merii saadagii dekh kyaa chaahataa huun
See, how silly am I, wishing for unachievable

sitam ho ki ho vaadaa-e-behijaabii
I don’t care if you maltreat me or promise to unveil your beauty

ko_ii baat sabr-aazamaa chaahataa huun
I just want something unbearable to test my fortitude

ye jannat mubaarak rahe zaahidon ko
Let the God fearing people be dwelling in the paradise

ki main aap kaa saamanaa chaahataa huun
For, instead I want to be face to face with you

koi dam kaa mehamaan huun ai ahal-e-mahafil
O fellows, I am here for a few moments, as a gust

chiraag-e-sahar huun, bujhaa chaahataa huun
Like morning star I will fade and vanish in a few moments

bharii bazm main raaz kii baat kah dii
I disclosed the secret in public

badaa be-adab huun, sazaa chaahataa huun
I need to be punished for being so rude

Biryani – A Famous Pakistani Cuisine

Posted on 28. Sep, 2015 by in Uncategorized

Pakistani Biryani (picture from

Pakistani Biryani (picture from

Biryani is one the most famous Pakistani cuisines ever. It is one of my favorites and is enjoyed by millions of people not only from the Indo-Pak sub continent but also from people from the globe. The style of cooking that I’ll write about today is called the ‘Pakistani-Biryani’, where the chicken and the rice are cooked separately and then combined in the final step. There are a lot of different ways of making Biryani and here is one simple, easy and yet incredibly delicious recipe that is just ‘too good’ and I had to pass it on. Do not get intimidated by the number of ingredients or the steps…just follow along step-by-step and WOW your family and friends! Biryani can most certainly be enjoyed with Raita (mint-cilantro yogurt)

Chicken with bones – 2 lbs, cut
Basmati Rice – 2 cups
Water – 8 cups
Yogurt (Curd) – 1.5 cups
Potatoes – 1, large (cubed) – optional
Oil – 3 table spoons
Clarified Butter (Ghee) – 2 table spoons
Garlic – 2 table spoons (minced)
Ginger – 2 table spoons (minced)
Green Chili – to taste
Cinnamon Stick – 2″pc
Bay Leaves – 2
Black Cardamom – 1
Mace – 3 pcs
Green Cardamoms – 4
Cloves – 4
Whole Peppercorns – to taste
Golden Raisins – 1 table spoons
Cashews – 1 table spoons (heaped)
Salt – to taste
Black Cumin – 1 table spoons
Cumin Powder – 1 table spoons
Coriander Powder – 1 table spoons
Turmeric Powder – 1/4 table spoons
Red Chili Powder – to taste
Saffron (Kesar) – 1/4 table spoons
Mint Leaves – 2 handfuls (chopped)
Cilantro – 1/4 cup (chopped)
Fried Onions – 1 cup (divided)


1. Wash and soak the Rice for a minimum 1/2 hour.
2. In a pan, bring 8 cups of water to boil.
3. Once boiling, add Green Cardamoms (2), Bay Leaves (1), Salt and Oil (1table spoons).
4. Add in the washed Rice to boiling water.
5. Once the Water starts boiling again, time and cook for 5 minutes (the Rice needs to be 3/4 way done).
6. Drain the water from the Rice and keep aside.
7. In a separate bowl, mix Saffron and Water (1table spoons), keep aside and allow it to soak.
8. Heat a pan on medium heat; add in the Oil and the Clarified Butter.
9. Once hot, add in the Cashews and Golden Raisins, fry for a couple of minutes till the cashews get a light golden color.
10. Remove from the Pan. Make sure you drain all the Oil. Keep aside.
11. Add in the balance of whole spices – Cinnamon Stick, Mace, Bay Leaf, Black & Green Cardamom, Peppercorns & Cloves.
12. Fry for under a minute.
13. Add in Black Cumin (use regular Cumin if Black is not available).
14. Allow them to sizzle.
15. Add in Ginger & Garlic, fry for another minute. Keep stirring.
16. Add in the washed, cleaned pieces of Chicken. Mix well.
17. Once the Chicken looks sealed, add in the following while stirring constantly – Yogurt, Fried Onion (1/2 cup), Cilantro (save some for garnish), Mint, Green Chili, Potatoes and the dry spices – Coriander, Cumin, Turmeric, Red Chili & Salt.
18. Mix very well. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes (the chicken should be 3/4 of the way done).
19. Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (approx 121 degrees C).
20. Coat an oven-proof dish with a little oil.
21. Start by layering the Chicken at the bottom of the dish along with a few pieces of Potatoes (saving the gravy for top layer).
22. Fluff up the Rice and add a layer of it on top of the Chicken with half of the Rice.
23. Layer the balance of the potatoes and all the gravy on the rice layer.
24. Next spread the balance of the Rice.
25. Layer the Cashews, Raisins, Fried Onions, Cilantro and Saffron.
26. Drizzle a little bit of Oil.
27. Cover with an air-tight lid or a foil and bake for 1 hour or till the potatoes are cooked.
28. Once out of the oven, take a ladle and mix it gently but well.
29. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes and serve with ‘Cilantro & Mint Raita’
30. This recipe and proportions serves around 8 people.

1. Chicken with bones works best for this recipe, but if you prefer boneless, then you will need to cook the chicken a little less.
2. Fresh Mint is sometimes not easily available. Substitute for dried, crushed Mint, available at any Pakistani-Indian grocery stores.
3. You can also add in full boiled eggs along with the gravy…looks good and tastes very good.
4. For a stronger orange color to the biryani, add the Saffron before the Cashews and Raisins.
5. If you feel that the Biryani is overcooked, use the handle-end of the ladle to mix in without mashing up any more.