Among the list of Padma awardees announced yesterday, there are definitely a few personalities whose achievements weren’t highlighted in the mainstream media. One of them was A Zakia, a prominent journalist and writer and from the southern Mizoram town of Siaha.
A Zakia is the first Padma awardee from the proud Mara tribe. With approximately 70,000 Maras inhabiting India and the other 42,000 living across the south-eastern part of Myanmar, the Mara language falls under the Kukish branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
He was awarded the Padma Shri for his remarkable contribution to Mara literature and journalism at a time when the language is on the verge of extinction due to the growing influence of surrounding ethnic tribes with their different dialects, and English.
Born in 1930 at Lorrain Ville in Saikho village, Zaika studied at a government school and went onto become a primary school teacher for 44 years.
During his illustrious life, Zakia also worked as a news editor for a range of publications, besides authoring over ten books in Mara, including Mara Grammar and Children’s Bible.
“His contribution towards the growth and development of the Mara language and literature were valuable for the Mara community. The Mara language, having merely 50,000 speaking population is categorised as an endangered language by ISL International,” states the Morung Express.
It’s heartening to see the government felicitate someone for preserving an entire culture.
“When a language dies, a way of life dies, a way of thinking disappears, a connection between word and world is lost,” prominent sociologist Shiv Visvanathan says in this column for The Hindu.
Languages are more than a means of communication. There is too much of us invested in them, and this is precisely why the work of A Zakia in preserving the Mara language should be celebrated.