Monday, January 23, 2012

Pakistan: No change without spare change

Pakistan: No change without spare change
As I landed in my home country somewhere around the end of 2009 after a few years, I had not realized that this was not the same Pakistan I had left only a few years ago.

Friends poked fun at me, and nowadays the ones who return after a similar gap share the same observations I had been making then - that Pakistan has changed, somewhat.

But it is very hard to determine what has changed. Allow me to share some random observations.

When I left Pakistan, female models' faces in billboards (in Lahore) had been melanined with paint by Jamiat walas. Rewinding a bit farther in the same era during Benazir Bhutto's stint at running the country, the South Asian fusion band Junoon got banned for 7 years for writing a song called Ehtesab which poked fun at corrupt politicians who shrugged off accountability (ehtesab).

By contrast, today I see way more female flesh in advertisements (warning: inner maulvi/aunty speaking!) and well, I'm sure everyone has seen Veena Malik's FHM photo online, even if the actual magazine cover had been sprawled over by black markers.

Owls: Wise in your language, but otherwise in ours.

You must've heard Shehzad Roy's new single - Apney Ulloo? I mean, wow. He goes through the ENTIRE history of Pakistan and charges Pakistan with worshipping the US (apney ulloo - goray goray!) throughout the song. And he is nowhere close to being banned - Salman Ahmed must feel awful for being muted when he tried to raise awareness on the same lines, having to resort to more subtle and subliminal techniques back then...

Things have certainly changed.

When I think Pakistani TV, my mind still thinks of PTV, STN, Geo and ARY. Back then, Musharraf was closing TV stations at will (after giving them the independence they still enjoy today) and things were, well, more conservative. There was no Mathira taking obnoxious calls, live on air, I tell you!

For one reason or another, but mostly because I'm a new media person who believes in freedom of choice, I have not watched television here in Pakistan. (I believe I am a smart human being who doesn't need TV programming to determine what I should watch; when to watch it.)

However, I have caught glimpses at work or at relatives' places and I was disturbed to see shows like Big Boss, though enthused to see shows like Hasb-e-haal that try to educate people, somewhat (minus that ever-present hyena in the show - no offence to her personally). But once I was at a florist's shop in DHA Karachi, and they couldn't stop laughing at this guy being beaten by a civilian woman, just to tell her later she was on candid camera! I mean, this is the kind of fart comedy culture that has stupefied the American population (among others) for years, and distracted talented people from pursuing content that supercharges intellect.

But yesterday I discovered that at least some things haven't changed in Pakistan all these years: the aunties. If you haven't seen this video already, I embed it here for it is a must watch:

Samaa TV's Subah Saweray Maya Kay Sath airs Mondays through Saturdays, 9 am to 11 am (repeats on Sundays at 10 am). My wife doesn't allow me to have any thoughts on this Gheirat Brigade by aunties because I tend to get sexist but here I quote Nimra, an environmentalist in Pakistan. She says:
Why arent these upper-class pseudo-liberal aunties (otherwise known as the real mullahs) going to the cafes in Zamzama to track down their daughters and thier friends? Why arent they going to five-star hotels where rich men bring thier mistresses? Apparently, dating, among other things is moral and liberal if you are rich but if you go to a park you are to be chased and humiliated? The greatest oppressor of women in Pakistan is other Pakistani women.
People ask me why I carry a copy of my Nikah-Nama (marriage certificate) in my wallet. With aunties like that chasing dating women (while wearing those shuttlecock burqas, I tell you!) and Police like this, I feel a lot safer with my Nikah-Nama in my pocket. But I have never had to take it out, so far.

When you come to Pakistan, you should know that self-righteousness knows no bounds here. We hide our inner hypocrisies well, and most of the time, our Inshallah's, Mashallah's, and Allahu's are cover-ups induced by our inner-but-overriding, holier-than-thou ego.

(Also we are {in} a hopeless state so it is more comforting for most of us to think there is an All-Seeing Superbeing out there - even if deep down inside we don't really think Anyone's watching us.)


Author's note: Samaa has already taken their video down. We found a replacement link, and will try to continually do so.


Anonymous said...

can you please delete the maya khan thingy from your blog?

Anonymous said...

qadianis are not happy with this maya khan thingy