Now that the fireworks have fizzled out, the full-throated shouts wound down, the pressing of horns and the death-defying wheelies subsided, the patriotic songs drawn to a close, the flags folded away, the face paint washed off, the sales finished, the green-and-white clothing tucked away, the hashtags done and dusted, it is time to ask the relevant question. What does Pakistan at 70 signify to you?
With age comes wisdom and maturity. Common sense, critical thinking, gravitas. Do you possess these faculties or is it Greek to you? Has Pakistan become that aged relative you wheel out for
photo ops on relevant days, say August 14 and March 23, and then consign to the attic for the rest of the year?
There are ways of showing our patriotism as a nation which we fail to see
No, you protest, foaming at the mouth, spittle forming on the edge of your lips, so great is your shock: “We love our homeland! Were we not the first ones to welcome the ban on the disgusting Indian films at Nueplex? Did you not see our Facebook status? Or our outrage when the ban was lifted? Why, we refuse to go see Salman and Shah Rukh Khan’s films! How’s that for willpower, eh?
“What’s more, we demonstrate our patriotism by seeing Pakistani films even if we cannot understand the convoluted plot, the incomprehensible script, and the sudden eruption of songs at any given moment. Be Pakistani, watch Pakistani films, no matter how ludicrous! Except for Sahir Lodhi, of course.
“And anyway, how can you expect excellence when everywhere there is mediocrity, hain ji?”
One must laud your patriotism, but are you not the same people who turn a blind eye to the garbage and filth piled high in your lanes before you turn into the sanctuary of your mansions? You may tut-tut at the revolting sight outside, but would you ever consider cleaning up your surroundings? What kind of love is this then for your homeland which is confined to what is inside your fortified gates?
Community initiatives, anyone?
“It’s better left to Edhi and Dr Ruth Pfau, may they rest in peace. It’s not something our nerves can take. In Ramazan we give zakat to their organisations, isn’t that enough?”
You stand against discrimination because that’s why Pakistan came into being. But why is it that while you may not be able to tolerate the humidity and heat of the summer without your split-level air conditioners, yet you quibble at buying a pedestal fan for your sweaty staff in their airless rooms?
“It’s not less than 3,000 rupees! And let’s not forget that we do not want them getting too comfortable. Who will do all the work if they start lolling around?”
You may be running a premier beauty parlour in Defence where women of all ages come to get their hair blow-dried, or to get manicures, pumiced, aroma-massaged, deep-cleansed and made-up for interminable parties and you are laughing all the way to the bank; but when yet another client asks for a Kareena Kapoor makeover why is your mood spoiled?
We love our homeland! Were we not the first ones to welcome the ban on the disgusting Indian films at Nueplex? Did you not see our Facebook status? Or our outrage when the ban was lifted? Why, we refuse to go see Salman and Shah Rukh Khan’s films! How’s that for willpower, eh?
You moan, “Arrey she comes from Buffer Zone! I don’t want such people in my parlour.”
But if she’s paying you, why should you mind providing your services to her?
“Because she can’t even speak English, yaar. She’s different from us.”
“But she can still aspire to look good, can’t she?”
“No she can’t. She should just stay in her area.”
Then you busy yourself in offering Independence Day discounts and painting flags on your clients’ cute little daughters who hail from the right area.
If imitation is the best form of flattery, let us by all means look to our icons. The foremost should be Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the man who gave us Pakistan. The leader who exemplified dedication, an iron will, tolerance, respect, punctuality, a genteel wit and charisma. He may feature in our textbooks as a bland personality but what would the great man have made of the pygmies worshipped today whose footsteps you want to follow in?
The very same men who called Jinnah kaafir and ridiculed the idea of Pakistan have today taken over the reins of the country and you know whose sides they are kicking and whipping as they sit cross-legged on the front seat? Yours. You are the donkeys they have harnessed for their own ends.
Sadat Hasan Manto may have said presciently, “The pity of Partition is that human beings are still slaves to bigotry” but does it hold true even today 70 years later? What then have we gained if we are at the same place where we set out?
Published in Dawn, EOS, August 20th, 2017