The luxury of hindsight… CGL IX19
knicq posted in Comments Gone Lengthy, Knicqisms on April 26th, 2006
I happened upon a couple of lovely blogs written by a teenaged Muslim who writes with more wisdom than most people of not only her own age but much older than her. You will see her blogs linked to your right. In her post entitled Al-Lughah Al-Arabiyah, she has hit upon a discussion that was once initiated in knicqland by brother Maranello - a discussion that had wondered what might our nation have been like, had Arabic been made the official language of Pakistan. Below is a comment gone lengthy on that post, which I shamelessly put up here as an update, partly because it is pertinent to the discssuion left incomplete here in the past (in that it was left without my exalted inputs), and partly because this place could do with an update.
“Fact of the matter is Urdu always has been the official language of Pakistan. It was the local language in which most Islamic literature was available, and in which more of it was being written. It was the language of those Muslims who were instrumental in the demand for and the creation of Pakistan, the educated lot which hailed mostly from present day India. The areas that constituted Pakistan were amongst the most backward areas in sub-continent with some of the lowest literacy rates.
Urdu was also the language which the elite of the sub-continent had favored sine the times of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar who was himself a distinguished Urdu poet, counted amongst the ‘asatza’ poets. It made sense then to designate Urdu as the National Language. It did not make sense, however, to also make it the National Language of East Pakistan which was several thousand miles to the East with a language of its own, which had a rasm-ul-khat of its own, and a literary history that boasted of the likes of Nobel prize Winner Rabinder Nath Tagore. Why should the Bengalis have liked Urdu better than their Bangla bhasa? Just because the Muslims of West and North favored it? So was sown the seed of discontent and partition.
On the other hand, since Urdu and Hindi, despite their separate alphabet and rasm-ul-khat, are similar enough to the extent where the speakers of either language can hold a conversation between them, all the while talking in their own languages, it was imperative that their cultural history, achievements as well as aspirations have over-lapping areas in Music, and Media.
Of course this could not have been fore-seen then…! The people then did not have the benefit of hindsight that we enjoy today. Who would have thought that the Muslims of Pakistan who created a separate homeland for themselves so they could live their lives according to Islam would usher in bollywood into their drawing rooms and living rooms with such open arms. Who could have predicted the ridiculous care-takers of culture, those ‘artists’ who rush to ignore the vast fundamental cultural differences between the two languages and hence the cultures just so they can emphasize the fact that ‘thumri’ binds the people of India-Pakistan together in cultural bonds!
However, if people had had some more wisdom about them, and if some had considered the very valid points you have made here in support of Arabic, we could perhaps have avoided the East Pakistan debacle. After all the Bangladeshis are Muslims as devout as we like to think we are, and they would have quite likely not objected to Arabic being made their National Language, especially since it could not have been perceived as a language of the big brother.
At the same time, Arabic would have bound us to the Muslim world, and when looking for influences in our ‘art and culture’ we would have had to delve into the Muslim tradition rather than the non-Muslim influences from across the border. You have already covered that ground extremely well – the part about the benefits of learning Arabic. Most importantly, in the last five decades we as a nation could have distanced ourselves from the mushrikana practices that pervade our way of live today, or at least there was a better chance of that happening.
Looking at the possible down-side, however, given our penchant for making the wrong choices, one shudders to think what we would have then ended up adopting from the Arab ‘culture’? The Nahid Siddiquis would probably have taken up belly-dancing instead of bharatnatyam for expression of their ‘art’!
I do seem to be putting ‘art’ and ‘culture’ in inverted commas more and more often…! ”
I have edited above for some spelling errors, and at a place or two to help make it coherent. I strongly recommend, however, that one read the original post to make sense of what I am rambling on about…
I also realize that I might have given the impression that I am one of those India-bashing fanatics, whose Pakistanism is a function of Anti-Indianism. I despise those people just as much as I do those Indians whose Indianism is not complete without Anti-Pakistanism. I am a strong believer in the Two-Nation Thory, however, and do believe that the cultures of Pakistan and India are vastly (and fundamentally) different despite the apparent similarities. I think I had made that point somewhere else also, let me see if I can find where. Here it is.