Background to Pen Name "Patras"

by Syed Ayaz Bokhari

Ahmed Shah Bokhari first started using a pen name “Peter”, in respect of his teacher Peter Watkins, when he wrote in English. In his Urdu writings he used the pen name “Patras”.

According to Khaled Ahmed, in his article “The House of Patras” which appeared in The Friday Times, Lahore, on May 13, 1999, Patras is “a Persian adaptation of an Arabic rendering of 'Peter'.”

An extract from Z.A. Bokhari's autobiography about the orientation of ASB’s pen-name is :

“My brother’s full name was Pir Syed Ahmed Shah Bokhari.  Our headmaster (in Peshawar) Mr. Watkins addressed him by his first name ‘Pir’ but pronounced it as ‘Pierre’ as if it was a French word.  Pierre in French stands for Peter, which is Patras in Greek….As a result of this similarity, my brother took up ‘Patras’ as his pen-name.”

Ahmed Shah Bokhari was well read in Greek Philosophy and had a deep understanding of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. He wrote an article “Ancient Greek Rulers and Their Thinking” which was published in March 1919 in the “Kehkashan”, Lahore. He was 21 years old at the time.

There is a historic Greek city called “Patras”, for which evidence suggests it existed as far back as the 3rd century BC. It is the third largest city of Greece, and also the capital of the Achaea region of Greece. Patra, or Patras, is located in the southwest part of Greece in Peloponnesos. It is also the capital of the Region of West Greece. The ancient city of Patras was originally formed by the unification of three Mycenaean villages: Aroe, Antheia and Mesatis. After the Dorian invasion a group of Achaeans from Laconia, led by Patreas, established a colony and the city took its name from their leader.

It therefore cannot be ruled out that Ahmed Shah Bokhari may have been inspired to adopt this city’s name as his pen name.

Some persons refer to PATRAS Bokhari as “PITRAS Bokhari”. There is no evidence to suggest that “PITRAS” is the correct pronunciation. In fact there is sufficient evidence to conclude that “PATRAS” is the correct pronunciation.

Without any need to conjecture or hypothesize, the following quotation from an interview of Ahmed Shah Bokhari, published by The New Yorker on September 18, 1954 in its editorial captioned “Be Gentle” should clarify the matter as to what is the correct pronunciation of his pen-name “…….Someday, when I am wise enough, maybe Patras will write about America.”

The choice of a pen-name, and its pronunciation is the choice of the person who adopted it. Sometimes it happens that over time, due to various reasons, pronunciations of words change, resulting in a complete change from the original. The purpose of this note is to attempt to record the correct pronunciation of “PATRAS” with the hope that it will continue to be referred to as was intended by Late Professor Ahmed Shah Bokhari.