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The largest human flag – photo by Arif Ali

The second-half of 2012 lived to witness eleven Guinness world records which permanently bent a portion of Pakistan’s history and emerged as a pleasant surprise for many. With most martial art kicks in three minutes, heaviest vehicle pulled by the beard, fastest time to wire a plug, fastest time to make three chapattis, fastest time to arrange a chess set, most consecutive football headers, fastest time to change into cricket whites, and most jumps in 30 seconds, the Punjab Youth Festival birthed a series of truly eventful moments, exceeded only by three further (team) records: world’s largest mosaic, at least 70,000 Pakistanis singing the national anthem together, and 24,200 students making the largest flag in just ten minutes.

But Pakistan was not the only one toasting to new-found fame: in various other parts of the globe, the world continued to dive into records like ‘most Tweets sent during a live interview’ (co-created by — you won’t believe — Justin Bieber), ‘most questions asked during a drive-through visit’, ‘tallest shaving cream wig built in one minute’ and ‘longest time smiling’.

There’s more: 2,510 students from the UK are apparently the most in the world to be dressed up as the Smurfs — leaving you wondering how the tiny blue fictional characters ended up with such a huge fan following. Then there is Ashrita Furman, the man who rolled an orange with his nose for almost a mile in just 29 minutes. If this doesn’t seem frivolous enough, keep reading: the same Ashrita has also crushed 80 eggs with his head in one minute, with 298 other records under his ludicrous belt — another remarkable, yet completely unnecessary feat. In much the same spirit dwell the records of the world’s longest human fingernails (think feet) and the longest wedding dress (now think kilometres) — all of which bamboozle the imagination with their shockingly asinine hilarity.

The point exactly? It is but a joy to see creative, enthusiastic individuals fight for a spot in history, toiling hard to push their dream into the realm of reality.

On the other hand, one can say that it all serves no purpose; it is myopic, cerebrally primitive and shallow.

The youth, as we see today, is much more than just a group of mobile-tapping, self-obsessed layabouts — those who get off the couch either to riot or to ask for more curry. Rather, it has become our safest bet for social, moral and intellectual change — a vehicle of timeless energy. Indeed, if hundreds of American students can passionately strive for African-American voting rights in the seemingly-ancient 1950s, imagine what this ball of fire — which now constitutes a major fraction of every nationality — can do in this age and time.

Half of the world’s population is under 25 years old, and thus heir to life’s most prolific years. As the UNFPA states, young people have ‘what it takes to improve their own lives and those of their peers. However, their success will largely depend on their ability to take advantage of the educational and economic opportunities’.

Then, why would this potential ‘ball of fire’ emerge as the largest paper hat-wearing faction at a festival? Or meticulously assemble together as most people at one time doing a Hawaiian dance? Or most people whistling at one time? Or most people partaking in a speed-dating event? Most bananas in one’s trousers? Or — ironically enough — most people singing the national anthem?

It is here where we pause for contemplation: interestingly enough, the aforementioned record first belonged to India, then Pakistan, then India, then Pakistan again (yes, what a rinse and repeat), leaving one wondering if the deed was, in reality, an absurd culmination of ‘competition’ between the two countries. Think about it: there was a time when Pakistan would take pride in producing the personalities that it did; a time when ‘achievements’ were bred purely from stories of brilliance, selfless honour and courage; when people could separate the white from the grey; the life-enhancing contribution from the shallow, instant shot at publicity.

It is rather bitter but worth a thought: in a country where a meagre two per cent of the budget is allotted for departments of health and education, where illicit weaponry has become nearly as accessible as ice-cream, where the population of street children continues to grow and where intensive corruption, religious extremism and a haggard leadership make every passing day more unpredictable than the previous, creating the world’s largest mosaic (the Shahi Qila) really doesn’t help the common man or any of his generations.

If world record be the condition, one that ameliorates the circumstances of the country, or affects lives in any way possible, is guaranteed to sit proudly for centuries to come. The real antidote to misery, thus, lies not in cranking out short-term pathways to success, but channelling the same energy towards feats, and dreams, that matter. Instead of setting a record for fastest chapaati-making, how about making one for ‘most people fed’? In a country where a large population is compelled to consume solvents to stave off hunger, this, by far, is the least we can do.

And it’s not that hard to inspire! Take a cue from Maddie and Ashley McFeeley, two diabetic teenage sisters, who have not just raised more than $57,000 to help fight juvenile diabetes but who continue to encourage people to sign up for ‘Walk for a Cure’. In some other part of the world, fire-fighters explain to masses how they can safely exit a building on fire, giving one hope of avoiding horrendous death tolls in the future. Financial, drug and sex education —whose absence in a society makes it sick and ravenous — are being made part of the curriculum elsewhere. And it is youth initiative that is making it happen. ‘Give a Spit About Cancer’ is one such campaign run by, where young people are asked to run cheek swab drives around their colleges to increase the number of potential donors (people have the right to agree, defer or deny donation after that). City-wide collection of recyclable aluminium cans is yet another brainchild of the youth-driven organisation, which launches a new national campaign almost every other week, and is unique because ‘neither of its drives requires money, an adult or a car’.

From creating educational websites to conducting online English classes for the students of Gujarat, all is accomplished using a lone computer — and bags and bags of youthful devotion — as the United Nations Volunteers have shown. We can do it, too. Be it walkathons, advocacy seminars, fundraisers for hospitals, government schools and parks, beach cleanups or ‘unwanted wall-art’ removal, impact is literally just a thought away. Pakistan’s Amal Team, amongst various other independent youth efforts, is one such exemplary model, where dreams are made and fulfilled on a regular basis. The Citizens Foundation, Dar-ul-Sukoon, Team Youth Revolution and the Kuch Karo movement, to name a few, make the nation just as proud by operating selflessly at the edge of their capacity. But guess what? We still need more hands, more governmental support, more foresight, and a much larger scale of impact.

Bet the 70,000+ individuals who worked day and night to make entries in the big green book of Guinness could have helped.

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Comments (22) Closed

asif Nov 19, 2012 03:38am
Why not make chapatis really fast and in abundant quantities (two separate prizes) that can be given to the poor who don't have any chapatis?
umesh bhagwat Nov 20, 2012 03:50am
The world belongs to the brave and the daring !
haniah khan Nov 18, 2012 03:48pm
my energy more than a gun . as im young ill work for pakistan when inshallah ill become elder i will help pakistan! my life pakistan for ever , long live pakistan INSHALLAH
Cyrus Howell Nov 19, 2012 04:35pm
This is what normal people do.
Cyrus Howell Nov 19, 2012 04:34pm
Sue Sturgess Nov 20, 2012 05:43pm
In UK, everyone is educated. Who do you want to to drive the buses - illiterates who cannot read the street signs or understand the traffic rules? Driving a bus is a very reputable occupation. Not everyone can be a doctor or lawyer.
Ihtesham Kayani Nov 18, 2012 02:41pm
This means, we can do it. Well-done.
Cyrus Howell Nov 19, 2012 04:10pm
Such as provide clean water and electricity?
Cyrus Howell Nov 19, 2012 04:08pm
It requires money that Pakistan does not have.
Cyrus Howell Nov 19, 2012 04:05pm
Sharia is the theory that the common Muslim knows what he wants, and he deserves to get it good and hard.
Cyrus Howell Nov 19, 2012 04:13pm
Little by Little.
khan Nov 19, 2012 01:55pm
what is the point making the largest flag. instead we should try to bring up our prestige.....
Imran Nov 19, 2012 01:13pm
Nice one, inspiring!
akhter husain Nov 19, 2012 12:29pm
Channelizing youth's energies has been a task of elders,if they are there.Educationist, political leadership and media are diverting the energies of youth to some thing other than research,discoveries and inventions because it requires money,time and patience that we do not want to spare to develop off-springs of others.As long as we keep on neglecting our duties toward youth,they will go for such frivolous record breaking events.
mohammad Nov 19, 2012 04:38am
very much encouraging and thought provoking. really great. subhaanallah
Mr.T Nov 18, 2012 05:53pm
yeh qoum minutes mai world record bana sakti hai tu badalnay mai kitni dair lagai gee ? well done punjab once again you are leading province and those who participate, all salute to them...
akbar bajwa Nov 18, 2012 12:48pm
Food for thought, kudos Huma
Morad 786 Nov 19, 2012 07:11am
the emphasis should be on creating viable and lasting youth opportunities and activities
Mahan Nov 19, 2012 12:25am
Congratulations!! This is what the youth shoud be engaged in.
Yawar Nov 20, 2012 01:50am
Good article. Makes you ponder and think about where we are and where we are headed. I remember a conversation I had with an English bus driver on a visit to the UK. I enjoyed discussing with him a variety of topics including English politics and immigration. But what impressed me most was that even though he appeared to be well educated, his full-time job was to drive a bus. In contrast, in Pakistan, an educated person could not even think of accepting such a career. Civilizations are not made up of a few good educated people but rather of millions upon millions of educated people performing all sorts of functions and jobs in society. I pray to Allah that our youth and others show the same kind of zeal and determination in the area of education as they did in setting the world records mentioned above.
Anwar Amjad Nov 18, 2012 11:24pm
Whatever normal people do in this world is important. Educating children is important, feeding the poor is important and so is making large mosaic or gathering up to sing national anthem. What is really unimportant is sitting up in a cozy room and advising others what to do. By the way how many children did you teach today or this week or this month? None, I am sure.
Imran Nov 19, 2012 07:46am
Much more needs to be done in Pakistan to silence the gun.