“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently — they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
We could do with a few of those round pegs around here these days. It is odd, the state of affairs in Pakistan. Rickshaws rattle, billowing smoke; cars glide by, their tinted windows gleaming. Electricity comes in gulps and gasps; water is scarce. Disillusionment is rife. There are countries where people complain of feeling like cogs in the system; in Pakistan, there are times when there seems to be no system.
Surely, this is fodder for some sort of revolution. At the very least, the situation ought to prove to be a hotbed for 'heroes', those troublemakers, those round pegs that refuse to be crammed into square holes. Dare I say that this hasn't really been the case?
Let us begin at the very beginning. What makes heroes?
“Marvel Comics and Colgate,” quips Madeeha Ansari, then adds quickly “Kidding. It's situations that make heroes—generally, bad ones. They present the opportunity to tap latent qualities that may surprise the 'heroes' themselves.”
Trying times. Check. So who may be classified as a hero?
“Someone who decides to take a stand, who defies to some extent the current system,” muses Sama. “An individual with something valuable to offer to the wider community, the one who holds high ideals—and puts them into action. For me personally, Imran Khan. I admire his courage and his idealism.”
Madeeha agrees with the description “Two things that distinguish the 'hero' from others in the same position may just be idealism and initiative—the ability to translate ideals into action.”
Adds Aamna Zuberi “Someone who is able to bring change and do better for the people around him or her. It doesn't have to be something extravagant. Sometimes, small gestures have a more profound effect. For me, my mother is my hero.”
Bisma Sarfaraz states “Might sound clichÃ©d, but in Pakistan the hero is the hardworking, sincere, common man fighting the odds—who's seen hanging onto overcrowded buses trying to keep it all together. That's the real deal.”
The line between resilience and apathy can at times be tenuous, blurry. The man who plasters on his car's rear windscreen a sticker that proclaims 'No bijli, no pani—phir bhi dil hai Pakistani'—is he a long-suffering patriot or an individual jaded to the extent where all he can do is make light of the situation? In Pakistan today, has indifference become a means of resilience? This apathy—and by extension, the much-talked of 'identity crisis'—to what extent can this be attributed to the fact that we have scarcely any public figures that we can look up to and proudly claim as our own?
This lack of mutually agreed-upon 'superstars' is in itself, according to Madeeha, a manifestation of the identity crisis “We're caught in a time of antithesis Talibanisation and the reaction to it, old-school values and westernisation. Such conflicts combined with cynicism about sincerity don't leave many figures on a public pedestal.”
Sama's outlook is slightly different. “I think an identity crisis arises amongst individuals; it is not a national characteristic. The differences present within us—ethnic, religious, political—should be celebrated, not feared. To replace these with a single, monolithic identity will not solve this country's problems.”
Bisma counters wearily “I don't think we lack an identity; the problem is that we don't flaunt it like other nations do. And as far as heroes are concerned, I think we need to fall out of love with this notion of heroes. Everyone is flawed, to whatever extent, and using flowery language to describe people who have it easy just doesn't cut it.”
Bisma's words are reminiscent of Shakespeare's Cassius's. The fault, dear people of Pakistan, might lie not in our stars but in ourselves that we feel like underlings.
Of course, should we wish to be more plebeian in our references, we can always turn to Mariah Carey. What she croons is perhaps true that a hero lies, not in some aloof, anointed being worthy of collective adulation but, rather, in you.
Dear visitor, the comments section is undergoing an overhaul and will return soon.