I AM not at all embarrassed to admit that apparently like so many who populate the mainstream of my beloved homeland, I have been guilty of trying to drown my Covid-19-generated fears in the local formula made up of easy-on-the-conscience films and cricket.
The heroes the side stories throw up are too heart-wrenching. Best ignored are incidents involving daily-life characters such as the valiant doctors and other members of their teams who have been trying to take the wild virus by the horns. Best forgotten are the tragic-ending stories of young graduates from a sufficiently remote socially, politically, economically, distant province who could have been hero material in the hands of those responsible for crafting responsible valuable citizens before they went astray and went down in a hail of bullets. They do catch attention but only fleetingly when the intent is finding relief in ‘serious stuff’.
Every phase generates its own justifications. These distractions are there ever so briefly before they are allowed to escape, eagerly swapped with a desire to live. These are stressful times. An individual can take so much and no more. People have to live and let live, or let die, if, unfortunately, it comes to that.
People have to live and let live, or let die, if, unfortunately, it comes to that.
But what antidote can cure those who are bent upon creating serious stuff out of nothing? It looks as if they quite enjoy living in their fatalistic worlds and are prepared to expose themselves to the ever-newer dangers.
Social media is full of shocking passage of famous heroes otherwise known for their timing. It is so, or maybe the encompassing makes it look so, that the instance of reporting death and illnesses on these social media platforms has increased in the wake of the virus — or maybe they were always there but you have just noticed them now because of the extended time you spend following info on these forums.
Some of the current topics on social media are most reflective of how edgy people are and how keen to lay bare some of the ghosts of the past. However, the relief-seeking souls such as you know who would have rather wanted this debate to be put off to calmer times, thinking that there will never ever be the ‘right atmosphere’.
This debate about two sets of heroes: the virtuous invaders of Sindh on one side and the sons of the soil who tried to thwart the foreigners’ advance on the other. Any number of people are willing to take part in the discussion at any forum, but has the Covid-19 pandemic in any way emboldened the arguments? It’s difficult to say but the tone is definitely at its most harsh and if it was ever needed, this reconfirms our lack of training to hold a dialogue without flaunting our inclination to violently trample upon territory we cannot win in a sober state.
A friend says it is advisable to stay away from social media forums in these troubled times. Instead, your company — read the children you have raised to their present natural socially distanced state — casually advises you to go binge watch some Turkish series on television. Cannot even pronounce the name of the series the best efforts of Mian Shahbaz Sharif and others before and after him to bring the two countries closer. Consequently have to stick to the classic and most efficient Rishi Kapoor, the very unique and incomparable Irrfan Khan and of course one’s first love, our opium cricket.
God will never forgive those who are bent upon snatching our cricketing idols from us. Yet it seems that some kind of a campaign is under way yet again to discredit and vilify the most brilliant of our cricketers. That man, Salim Malik, a longtime personal favourite who appeared on the streets of Lahore some five decades ago, bat in hand and wrists that could give things the most sinister twist, is back again. He is out to cause grave damage to national cricket. What do they call it? Ready to rat on his old friends behind his innocent exterior.
This is against the run of play. Some of Malik’s peers had been filling in nicely as the audience craved cricket news in the barren Covid-19 period. His under-19 captain, Ramiz Raja, was on the forefront of the morally correct as he loudly demanded bans for those found guilty of match-fixing.
Not just that, it seemed that Ramiz had taken the promise of the removal of the two-yard-distance restriction post Covid-19 rather too literally. He suggested that as things returned to normal, the distance of the cricket pitch could be cut by two yards to facilitate the bowlers. What he forgot to add was that we will need a Wasim Hasan Raja at the wicket to deal with the ensuing situation.
Ramiz Raja’s revolutionary suggestion to reduce the length of the cricket pitch was in response to the catastrophic scenario which said that in future the bowlers will not be allowed to use spit on the ball to shine it. Everyone believed that this would reduce some of the best fast bowlers to ineffective imposters and medium pacers to mere trundles. Hence the ingenuous proposal by Ramiz Raja, which has unluckily for him not found too many catchers so far.
The world is more receptive to voices emanating from Pakistan that speak of the involvement of our giants in fixing. The Malik appeal which has been interpreted as an apology to authorities by some raises a basic question. One fundamental issue is whether he was given as fair a deal as the others or was he the fall guy while the rest, in Pakistani slang, dunya ko thook laga gaye? (Though the expression may be untranslatable into English, it’s generally about hoodwinking people). Let’s try and rehabilitate Malik folks if that’s what it takes. Cannot afford to lose these heroes in these dire times.
The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2020