That said, if Punjabis prefer to call themselves al-Bunjabis there is not much need for hand-wringing.
Losing your native culture (or elements of it) is not that bad if substituted by something of equal (or greater) value. In this case it is the language of Gods (Arabic) supplanting the language of poets (Urdu). Or in the eyes of the Taliban pure words replacing impure ones.
This can (may) trigger an identity crisis amongst the older generation, in India the worry is that the youth are becoming Americanized (as seen in the emergence of Hinglish). Even the Tamil-firsters admit that while they fought (and won) the battle against Hindi, they lost the war against English!!! The pull of a more powerful culture will not be denied regardless of how much ever heart-break it inflicts.
Columnist, analyst, journalist and culture critic Raza Rumi’s take
is: “Nothing is more telling than the literal identity shift of Pakistan
taking place in Punjab. Number plates with Al Bakistan amounts to
changing the name of the country. I would suffer from an identity crisis
if I were to be called Rada instead of Raza. Intriguing how the
administrative apparatus in charge of issuing number plates and
registration is complicit in the Arabisation process. I also saw a much
higher number of camels during the last Eidul Azha (please note it is
not Adha for most of us but will be soon called that). Allah Hafiz.”
these the first few signs Pakistan is moving towards Arabisation? Is
the land of five rivers slowly giving way to sand dunes, camels and date
trees? Well, maybe not.
“I had gone to Dubai a few years ago
where I saw similar number plates that I liked. They somehow looked
cool. On my return I thought why not get one for my car, but with a
twist. A few months after I got my car’s number plate designed with some
Arabic, I saw a lot of vehicles bearing the same design. I felt good to
be a trendsetter of sorts,” Abuzar Butt, a young car showroom owner,
Hafiz Muhammad Ali, a bike owner, who also had the same
kind of number plate, said: “I saw so many cars with these fascinating
new number plates. I clicked a photo of one, took it to a plate maker
and got one made for my bike too.”
The number plate makers can’t
be blamed for this for they are merely doing their job. “I’m just a
regular plate maker. I will make a plate according to any design you
provide me. And this is also the case with these Arabic ones. I get the
designs and I make them,” said Niaz, a number plate maker on Jail Road.
everyone is amused by vehicles becoming ‘Arabised’. Rizwan Saleemi, a
businessman, says: “Most of the people who are doing this belong to
upper-middle class Punjabi families based mostly in Lahore and other
cities of Punjab. They are going through some kind of a paradox. They
want to enjoy everything modern consumerism has to offer; a good car,
preferably modified, mind/ear blowing sound system, giving their
girlfriends a spin in their brand new Corollas and Civics every now and
then. But wait a second, what about the fancy Altima they had when they
used to roam around Riyadh, Dubai or Qatar? They had a nice Arabic plate
on that elegant ride; let’s get made one for my car here in Pakistan.”
The second reason, he says, is the “ridiculous amount of romanticism of Punjabi middle classes with their presumed Arab roots”.
plates, sadly, look fancy to the majority, but I personally despise
them. This is surely one of the signs we are adopting Arabic culture,
and we have seen many already. Basically, culture thrives on middle
classes, and Punjabi middle classes are no more there for their culture
and language. So more Arab culture to see in the coming days,” the angry
young man speaks his heart out. Hold on … how do you say “angry young
man” in Arabic.