LAHORE had an early Eid this time around with a youth-inspired mela from where a Guinness world records adjudicator escaped with only a few records unbroken.
He saw the longest national flag unfurled and heard the loudest national anthem sung.
Had the Guinness guy chosen to stay longer he would have most certainly run into the man who can juggle 18 hats or more simultaneously. Wonder if he noticed that at least one old record found a new voice during the festival here — the voice belonging to none other than the chief minister of the province.
It is such a relief to have all these politicians singing in Pakistan. We have had Gen Pervez Musharraf crooning to his heart’s content, even if his detractors in the PML-N consider his notes no match for those of the old popular practitioner Mian Nawaz Sharif.
MQM Quaid Altaf Hussain is not averse to occasionally saying something in a tune of his own, while the PTI offers famous professionals such as Abrar ul Haq to inspire impromptu and planned concerts for its fans.
As a self-acclaimed custod-ian of the country’s culture, the PPP’s contribution to the cause of melody and music leaves a lot to be desired. The bands which would once travel around with Ms Benazir Bhutto are nowhere to be seen.
One music tradition is in danger as motivational, devotional songs created in various languages hailing various feats by the Bhuttos are no more to be found in shops, at least not in the ones in Lahore.
But all said and done, the PPP’s Sharmila Farooqi does participate in this ongoing all-politicians’ music conference when she overcomes her shyness and eventually concedes to actor Shaan’s request to hum a number from his film during a recent television show of his.
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has done his reputation as a sincere pursuer of tasks no harm by taking his singing more seriously than most other politicians.
In aid of everyone’s effort to pull Pakistani politics out of the polarised, ugly 1990s, at the recent youth festival he took befitting recourse to his younger days.
Habib Jalib he put on hold for the time being and in place of his usual Main nahin maanta, he entertained the audience with Pervez Malik’s romance from the 1960s that paired together Sohail Rana and Masroor Anwar, Zeba and Waheed Murad and Ahmed Rushdi and Mala. His rendition of the famous Akele naa jaana was timely in the context of his prolonged no-nonsense and often grim presence of late.
The chief minister could have of course chosen another, happier, song — or explained what situation had compelled him to warn someone against going alone, or solo, somewhere.
As old reviewers would insist, the song must fit the situation. For example, when elder brother and more known leading singer in the family Mian Nawaz Sharif was asked to comment on Pakistani Christians some years ago, he broke into Tu Hindu banega naa Musalmaan banega, Insaan ki aulaad hay insaan banega.
Actually, this is a fit-all song — a tribute to Yash Chopra, who had come up with a good account of his Lahori makeup by including Tu Hindu bane gaa… in his 1959 venture, a somewhat awkwardly titled Dhool ka Phool.
Considering that it is easier here to celebrate an individual from another faith than an ideology that appears in the slightest to be against our pure manifesto on life, Mr Chopra’s recently rediscovered Lahore connection makes it convenient for everyone here to lend their voices to his …insaan ki aulad hay insaan banega.
Mr Chopra — who left this world on the same day the news of Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s latest singing exploit was printed in the papers — was one fellow Lahori who had opted for a more creative way of selling people dreams, following, of course, in the footsteps of his elder brother.
In time he surpassed his elder brother, B.R. Chopra, just as Mr Shahbaz Sharif had surprised Mian Nawaz Sharif when he first rendered Jalib’s Main nahin maanta at a public meeting a few years ago.
At the youth festival populated by school and college students, the Punjab chief minister may have found his immediate audience too innocent to be taken on the tortuous Jalibian path. The great awami poet was always at loggerheads with whoever was in power at whatever time.
A gentleman who went to school with one of Jalib’s sons recalls how the boy would be scolded by a teacher, with a stiff reprimand: “Why is your father always in the opposition?”
The teacher knew that there was a time for everything, and this same could be the reason why the chief minister chose not to preach disobedience among young minds at a fun and games fair held under the aegis of his own government.
It was one pre-Eid release that could also be used to indulge in the usual filmy comparisons that some of us are so fond of attempting when seeking refuge from non-stop crude politics. For instance, whose speech is inspired by which film icon, who takes his dress sense from which famous name from the cinema. These details can and do make for some happy offbeat holiday reading. But trust that ultimate spoiler of all good things to strike his customary discordant note and spoil this too.
Rehman Malik, a just revealed connoisseur of poetry from the great Allama Iqbal’s neighbourhood, had to locate political meaning in Mr Shahbaz Sharif’s extempore Akele naa jana — cruelly attaching the song to the Sharif family’s departure into forced exile more than a decade ago.
That was a grave mistake on Mr Malik’s part, if reconciliation is not a sham and the intent is to come out of the 1990s and revive the 1960s. As the minder of Pakistan’s interior he should know that one way of preventing the 1990s is to have the politicians on the stage and have them talk anything but politics. That would be music to the ears, truly.
The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.