Sunday, January 23, 2011

Naming Names: Abads, Purs, Nagars, Pinds and More

By Pervaiz Munir Alvi

The way a society names its cities and places says a lot about its cultural history and social values. Pakistan is no exception to this either.

The cultural history of Pakistan could be traced from its naming practice. The names of its ancient cities like Peshawar, Lahore and Multan have no resemblance to the names of the newer cities like Islamabad and Faisalabad. Similarly the name of the newer Qasim Port has no resemblance to the name of its sister Karachi Port or for that matter Gwadar Port. In the field of naming names Pakistani society has come a long way since the days of ancient Indus Valley Civilization of Harrapa and Moen-jo-Dero. Even the days of the names like Taxila and Ghandhara are long gone.

Yes, the naming practice of the society has changed. Now the names like AabPara, ShakarPara, Seem-maab and Gulberg are in vogue. One may find a Lala Zar Colony even in a desert town but will not see a new Chak Lala anywhere. The most one could expect is Chak Lala I, II, or may be III but there are just no new Chaks anymore; not even a Chak Wal-I. Don’t come around expecting a new Chak Lala Airport for Islamabad either. Since names like Quaid-e-Azam Airport and Allama Iqbal Airport are already taken, the nation may be hard pressed to find a suitable name for the upcoming new airport for the capital city but fear not; the naming authorities of Pakistan are hard at work.

Mughals had no problem in giving names. They just simply kept all the naming rights to themselves. Go around Pakistan and you will find places like Shaikhu Pura, Shah Dara, and Jahangira, even a Sera-e-Alamgir. If the Shah was generous enough he will allow a Vazir Abad or a Begum Pura here and there. But that’s about it. No nasty practice of naming places after the common folks.

British on the other hand were very sensible people. During their rule of one hundred years they did not offend the natives by naming cities like Abbotsburg or Jacobville. They kept it local like Abbot Abad and Jacob Abad. They did make some mistakes though by naming cities like Montgomery, Lyallpur or Campbellpur. Pakistan naming police in order to save the souls of the citizens had no choice but to change the names of these cities to Sahiwal, Faisalabad and Attock respectively. Now there is nothing wrong with purs; there are plenty of purs around like Hari Pur, Rasal Pur, and Shikar Pur etc. etc. It is that some of these names are not Pakistani enough like Ali Pur, Mir Pur or Bahawal Pur. It is not the pur; it’s the person the pur is named after that may not be desirable.

But even though the new names are in vogue now, there are still plenty of those old names that stubbornly linger on. For instance Pakistan has a good supply of Wals. Other than Chak Wal, there is a Malak Wal and a Sahi Wal too. There are also some variations to the postfix Wal in the form of Wala and Wali. Now a Wali may not necessarily be smaller than a Wala. Mian Wali is not smaller than Arif Wala. But Gujran Wala and Bure Wala are definitely larger than Rah Wali and Mansoor Wali.

Also there is no need of new Nagars either. No sir, no Ayub Nagar wanted here; just Ayubia like Persia or Arabia will be fine. No need of new Kots like Sial Kot or Shore Kot; no new Pinds like Pind Dadan Khan; not even a Dera like Dera Ismail Khan or Dera Ghazi Khan. Like Pakistan Zindabad, Hyderabad, Liaqatabad, and Qadarabad will do just fine. Pakistanis will take their Abads any day before they would take those old fashion Nagars, Kots and Pinds; definitely not Pinds.

Just like every pot has a lid, every circle has a center. Except in case of Pakistan there are more centers than circles. Center in Pakistani Urdu language translates as Markaz or Garh. There are plenty of centers everywhere like computer center, tuition center even shopping center. Also there may be an Urdu Makaz or Alaj Markaz but not too many Garh except may be an old MazaffarGarh. If you are looking for Towns, there is a brand new Johar Town for you. If you want a Colony, Pakistan has a Defence Colony in every part of the country. But do not ask for new Nagars, Purs or Kots. Perhaps that is so passé.

About the author:

Pervaiz Munir Alvi was born and raised in Pakistan. After graduating from Government College, Lahore (now Government College University) with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree he proceeded to the USA for further studies. He received his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Civil Engineering and Master of Science (M.S.) in GeoTechnical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mr. Alvi resides and works in the USA as a consulting GeoTechnical Engineer. He has compiled his essays, short stories and poetry which provide an in-depth insight of his mindset, aspirations and concerns.


A very good & a very informative post!

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