But when it comes to stopping others from having fun, they are full of ideas. From friendly advice to turn a ghazal concert into na’at recital to patrolling the streets on occasions like Valentines Day and New Years Eve, breaking parties and beating couples for holding hands, they’ll go to any limits to establish that if it is fun, it must be un-Islamic, un-Pakistani and un-something or the other.
A brand New Year is upon us, and with it comes the question of what to do with it: To party or to attack a party? Here are three reasons why Pakistanis must choose the former, even if they don’t know how to, and end up running naked in the fields or swimming in sewage channels as some communities are known to do on New Years Eve. If you ask them, even a clumsy and apparently messy attempt at revelry is a lot of fun for both participants and spectators.
Reason 1: Just do it
Years don’t come and go, we do. And we have invented years to measure the time while we live in it. Years mean nothing, months and days even less. December 31 and January 1 are just as ordinary days and the night between them just as usual as any other day and night, in any year.
This is also not the night when light showers from the sky; a full moon brightens the earth; or a moonless, starless night casts a spell of darkness. No celestial activity to mark the occasion. If you only banish news media from your home you cannot tell one wintry, foggy night from another, and one balmy, sunny day from another. And yet January 1 is a symbol of hope and the night of 31st December the mother of all parties, for people around the world, regardless of their religion, social status and ethnic origin.
The New Year means nothing except an excuse to party, to meet up with friends and family and cheer each other. An occasion to reminisce and reflect; a chance to pick up the pieces and start all over again; to celebrate the good things one got and change the things one is not comfortable with. In this sense, the New Year serves a purpose, regardless of the date and time it is observed on, and regardless of the manner in which it is celebrated.
Even if the occasion is used only to party all night – to sing, dance and laugh one’s way out of one unit of time and into another – it is a healthy and productive activity. It is especially so in a terminally sick country like Pakistan. The harsher the curbs on public display of amusement the more important it is to put up a display. Joining strangers in revelry and venting some of the pent-up frustrations is therapeutic if nothing else, and our only chance to preserve sanity.
Reason 2: Because the end is postponed
The world was supposed to end on 21st December. For those of us who have been hardened by false apocalyptic alarms in the past like Y2K and Skylab, the Mayan prediction didn’t mean much because we have created dozens of calendars just to dodge fate at a crucial juncture like this: At the end of the Gregorian year 2012 we are only in the second month of the Islamic year 1434 and the 8th month of the Bengali year 1419. In the Hindu calendar we are in the mid of year 5121 and this is year 101 or 4649 in the Chinese calendar. Punjabis following the Nanakshahi Calendar and will celebrate New Year as usual on March 14, a few days around Nouruz in Iran and Afghanistan.
No two nations and peoples agree on what date it is today; no wonder the Mayans are demanding a recount. But the fact of the matter is, the end of the world passed us by without harming us and without announcing a later date for visitation. That is reason enough to celebrate.
Reason 3: We can do better than ants
Every time you put your foot on the ground or a vehicle’s tyre rolls, ants get killed. That does not make ants fear the boot or the tyre, or they wouldn’t be known for their industry. They have giant boots and tyres flying above them all the time, each of which has the potential to kill a whole family, or a whole colony, but they ignore them completely and go about their business of running around and carrying things. They look ahead with a sense of purpose, and not above with fear.
We, too, have giant boots and other dangers flying above us all the time. Natural calamities and epidemics continue to surprise us with their timing and ferocity. Man-made disasters are growing ever more frequent and vicious. Deadly weapons are being used in ever-increasing number to settle cultural and religious differences. Traffic accidents and certain medical conditions eradicated from the rest of the world, continue to afflict Pakistanis. Each one of these factors can and does kill one or many of us, in an instant, wherever we are and whoever we are.
We find ourselves helpless against them. Unlike the ants, we have technology, and rocket science, and knowledge, and skills and power, but we are no better at protecting ourselves. The difference between the possibility of an ant being run over and that of a human perishing instantly, is only of proportion. In this country, certainty is equal for both.
And the choice is between living to die and dying to live. Choose to live and eventually die, or keep staring at the boots above, shiver in fear, and die every minute of your life. The ant says a boot or a tyre will crush me when it does, but I am not killing myself of fear before then. Pakistanis need to do the same: Work and party like there’s no boot coming down on us.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.