I’ll write a short note since my name has been taken in vain repeatedly in the past few days (I only believe we should take Muhammad the Pedophile’s name in vain).
Our resident hero, Kabir, writes:
The demand for Persianization/Arabization is not coming from Pakistanis but mainly from outsiders on this blog. I fail to understand the logic of trying to change a country’s national identity when there is no grassroots demand for it.
Addendum: What have Pakistanis accomplished or achieved in the English language? I can only think of Kamila Shamsie, who won an award for Home Fire. Decolonisation must begin with the gradual displacement of English from prestige to merely technical.
What I find so disingenuous about this comment is that Kabir himself is an American and benefits deeply from the current status quo.
I also find the whole autochthonous question to be somewhat ridiculous since we all navigate multiple identities at any one time, especially on a blog like Brown Pundits (which is diaspora borne).
I could visit Pakistan but I simply can’t muster enough interest to do so because to my mind it’s a basket-case. A decade ago I had intense connections to the country, a decade on I have intense connections to India because like any good Kafirstani I sensed Pakistan is no longer a safe place for our kind.
At no point did I suggest that Persian replace Urdu but simply (and gradually) replace English. He is simply getting histrionic because he is eliding the basic fact of all South Asian societies.
English is EPEC – the language of the Elite – Polish – Education – Class
Macaulay has succeeded in making a single line of English weigh heavier than the entire corpus of all South Asian literature. We endlessly discuss Brown issues in English and even last night at our Guftagu-Gupshup; where there were South Asians of every hue & region, we all easily conversed in English endlessly.
Kabir, with his American English, is immediately catapulted to the top of Pakistani society and can instead “play local” to his heart’s delight (to be fair it’s a certain type of convent inflected English that ranks higher than the Diaspora twangs but it all sounds the same to the aspirational middle classes).
This is exactly what I encountered a decade ago when I met Ali Sethi, who was Harvard educated, but spoke in this ludicrously rustic English accent and was busy commenting on the death of Hindustani music. I have a very heightened bullshit detector and I just could say that Ali was “playing local”.
I have a spotify play list and Tajdar-e-Haram is one of my favorite songs. It has 237mm views; below I’ve linked to Ali’s local music, which was 270k views.
I have nothing against Ali Sethi but he is a scion of the Anglicised elite that is trying to push out Urdu product. It simply won’t work since all the best “Urdu” work is in fact done by “locals of the Indus”.
Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan, Atif Aslam, Qurrat al Baloch, Rahat Fateh, Farhan Saeed, Farida Khanum; I don’t spot a single Muhajir in this list. They are all from Punjabi or other backgrounds and were raised in chaste Urdu speaking households. I’m not suggesting we interfere in the ongoing cultural dynamic (Urdu has a stratospherically high prestige compared to any local language with the exception of maybe Pashto since the Pathans are stubborn but even they succumb).
I had written an analysis of the Pakistani social elite (the 1,000 families or rather the Patricians of Pakistan; almost all of whom have Muhajir origins/connections) but I decided to post it to my private blog.
Incidentally it was one of the scions of those families who first told me about Sab-ki-Hind (the Persian of India) and wished that Pakistan had instead revived it. He planted the seed in my mind, which has flowered into full bloom.
One could now argue that since I’m half Persian and have basic conversational Farsi that I’m simply trying to cement my own status. However English does happen to be my first language so I benefit from the same “South Asian English premium” and “Persian privilege” exists anyway (Persian in Pakistan, Parsi in India; it’s really sky-high).
I’m simply trying to correct the Macaulayisation of Pakistan & the related Indian Muslim elite and giving them a constructive suggestion in how to go about it.
Furthermore the quandary with the Pakistani elites is that they are Westoxicated but are not willing to absorb the more enlightened values of the West. So they are in a paradoxical situation whereby they are consuming and mediating Western culture to the rest of Pakistan but at the same time yearning and pining for the Middle East like the rest of Pak. It would enhance their credibility if they actually burnished those links and made an effort to revive our heritage (their grandparents probably spoke and understood Persian).
How stupid is it that the Pak elite only knows Iqbal or Ghalib through their lesser-known Urdu poems rather than actually taking the time to listen and understand their Persian verses (Ghalib wrote in Persian-Urdu 7-1). Also just as Arabic poetry impacted (and maybe even created Persian poetry); Persian poetry has had a similar effect on Urdu. All Pakistanis have deeply familiar with the Quran; they should start doing the same with Rumi, Hafez and Sa’adi in their own language.
I have enough familiarity with certain societies (Iran, Pakistan & now India) to issue commentary on them not only because of my mixed origins but because I happened to marry across national lines.
So when I see Indians, who have never been to Pakistan and have no idea what the country is like, spout analysis about Pakistan; I would first suggest to them to get to actually know the country because otherwise they are simply repeating their own biases and it looks funny & foolish.
If you can’t write what you know at least know what you write.