Kids hold up national flags at the Quaid’s mausoleum during more normal times in this file photo.—White Star
Kids hold up national flags at the Quaid’s mausoleum during more normal times in this file photo.—White Star

KARACHI: There was a 21-gun salute early in the morning. There must have been because they said so in the news. That was one of the day’s main highlights because there was no traditional March 23 parade to watch on TV though there were plenty of reminders about social distancing and staying at home other than the awareness messages about the coronavirus, its symptoms and how it spreads from showbiz and sports celebrities and politicians.

That’s how the 80th Pakistan Day was celebrated in the city on Monday.

As expected, the roads on a cloudy and breezy day were deserted during the lockdown. There were fallen leaves on roadsides wherever there are shady trees with no one to sweep them. On some buildings, the Pakistan flag fluttered gracefully, while the K-Electric head office in the DHA was covered with the biggest of them all.

The FM radio in the car blared away with the RJs reminding about the day’s significance and how on March 23, 1940, the Muslims of India gathered in Lahore for the Lahore Resolution, which eventually led to the creation of Pakistan in August 1947.

With nothing new to say, most radio stations and television channels were giving the same stories accumulating over the past few days with new twists here or there. At the most, they were rehashing news while adding their own opinions. Of course, Pakistan Day wouldn’t have been complete without the messages of patriotism by politicians.

Several channels, meanwhile, also concentrated on feel-good stories featuring good Samaritans. There were people who may have come up with an innovative and cheaper solution for something or organisations coming forward to help the lesser fortunate and distributing food or ration bags among them.

There was leading flag-maker Sheikh Nisar Ahmed Parchumwala, who, instead of making the printed Pakistan flags his company VIP Flags is so known for, this time decided to make use of all their manpower and machines to stitch protective masks or surgical overalls and caps. He was making 10,000 to 25,000 masks a day and selling them for as low as Rs10 each, while also supplying to non-governmental organisations to distribute free.

For youth, bored out of their minds, there wasn’t even the option of ordering takeaway. Some still, rather irresponsibly, and thanks to the irresponsibility of their elders at home, were out on streets playing cricket. Others were either surfing the internet, watching videos on YouTube or taking advantage of the many online Pakistan Day shopping deals. There as well, when and if noticed by their elders, they were promptly reminded to not buy anything unnecessary as banks were also closed. But where there was confusion about the banks being closed or open, or where there was the luxury of access to a credit card, there was nothing stopping them.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2020

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