Scandal: Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf recently told the Supreme Court: “Mujh par vishvas karen”. By “vishvas” he meant ‘trust’; he wanted the Court to trust his sincerity.
TV channels immediately reacted. Intellectually-challenged actor Shaan spent time making fun of the prime minister who used the Hindi word. Others followed suit. An article titled “A silent invasion” appeared in The News (September 3) lamenting Indian culture’s invasion to destroy Pakistan’s ideology. The word ‘vishvas’ was the missile that would do the trick.
It went on: “Raja’s choice of Hindi vocabulary… is symptomatic of a creeping cultural penetration of Pakistan by our eastern neighbour. This silent invasion is taking place mainly through the opening of Pakistan to cheap Bollywood movies, Indian TV entertainment, DVDs and videos of Indian films and, most insidious of all, the home-screening of popular children’s programmes, especially cartoons, dubbed in Hindi.”
Naively, the article refers to France not encouraging the use of English words but it forgets France, when it recommends a ban on all TV and cinema plus DVD home projections of this ‘cultural invasion’. The intelligence agencies, fired by their perceptions of Indian danger, have always said what the article discussed. Somehow, the cultural invasion by America through cinema, TV and restaurants does not affect our spooks.
America’s soft power has bothered many but no one curtails freedom as a weapon to thwart it. Now Indian soft power irks Pakistan, although it does not disturb Central Asia and Africa where this ‘slow invasion’ is also proceeding apace. Shall we curtail our freedom through police action to secure the country against Indian culture?
Pakistan doesn’t know how to respond to challenges based on culture. A number of things have happened over the past years because of this refusal or inability to understand culture as a value in human life. The people have been forced to look for entertainment on their own because the concept of entertainment cannot be discussed in Pakistan without inviting the restrictive maximalism of the clergy.
After 1947, culture was what joined Pakistan with India. Pakistan has killed culture to face India more effectively in the battlefield. Two contaminations are to be fought. The first is the local accretions that Islam suffered when the Muslims were ruling India; the second is the entertainment that comes across the border in all manner of ways.
When Pakistani singers, musicians, actors, cricketers, commentators and some writers go to India, the Indians pay them good money for Pakistan’s ‘slow invasion’. Nor are they upset by the dominance of Persianised Urdu in Bollywood songs. Indians, in fact, buy glossaries to make sense of Urdu words in them. Instead of using this as Pakistan’s ‘soft power’, some writers want the door in Pakistan shut to regional culture. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are strangely not bothered about India’s ‘slow invasion’.
‘Vishvas’ in my Monnier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary literally means “breathing freely” (trust). It gets abbreviated as ‘svas’ and appears in Hindi as ‘svast’ (healthy). Another more familiar derivation is swastika (auspicious). Punjabi has its abbreviation from ‘vishvas’: ‘vasah’. The above article in The News would accept ‘bharosa’ for trust, not knowing that ‘bharosa’ is actually ‘bharvasah’, directly taken from ‘vishvasah’. ‘Vishv’ (full) and ‘bhar’ (full) mark the transition here.
Maulvi Muhammad Hussain Azad in his Sukhandan-e-Fars twins Persian and Sanskrit as sister languages. Iran, too, has its soft power over Pakistan, but with India, the linguistic co-extension bothers the Pakistani ideologue, who sees survival of the state only as a steadily self-curtailing entity, already being nibbled away by the culture-hating Taliban.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2012.