Thursday, August 20, 2009

The 14th of August

The 14th of August, Pakistan's Indepence Day, was approaching, and I, as a blogger, was ducking under pressure. What do I write? What do I say? My country hasn't exactly been doing well off late. I was looking for a reason to celebrate, beyond military governments, terrorist groups, joblessness, poverty - just one reason, but I couldn't think of any. So I found myself retreating.

But then I realised, it isn't always important to celebrate the day, here and now. There is room to think of glorius days gone by (there have been many) and hope for better days to come.

There is so much that Pakistan has achieved in its 60-odd years. Of course, we seem to be taking two steps behind every now and then, but we're fighting it. Most of us continue to be happy-go-lucky people, in the face of threats to life and property brought on by the war on terrorism. But we persevere. We go on vacations. We take our children out to parks. We eat out. We frequent the movies. We speak our minds and some of us, lose their lives in the process. We are a hospitable people. We go head-over-heels entertaining our neighbours or any foreigner for that matter, from the moment they set foot on our turf.

Of course, we have a weak state and have been plagued by rogue governments every so often. And it seems, we never really trust or like our democratically elected governments either. But then, who is happy with their leaders. Look what the Americans had to put up with for 8 years prior to Obama. And a lot of them still seem disappointed with the lack of 'change'. India claims to be the biggest democracy, and just see what Jaswant Singh's published thoughts have stirred there. A man who spoke his mind has been fired from his political party and his book, banned in Modi's Gujarat. Aisha Siddiqa, with her Military Inc. too faced the music in Pakistan. So what's the difference? Everybody creates reason to celebrate anyhow. As must we.

It makes one a nice moment to think that Ayesha Jalal, a Pakistani, had the balls to say what she thought about Jinnah and we teach her work in our universities as a must. We even discuss the pros of United India in our classrooms. So we, as a nation, are anything but apologetic and certainly not whimsical. I think that calls for celebration. We are a creative people. We can manage to conquer new heights in media and the arts, despite the lack of freedom of speech that plagues most developing nations. Our news people have been able to defy fears of the rod, in effect, executing several turning points in history. Our actors and musicians have managed both national and international fame and fortune, without compromising on values. Heck, we can pull off quality entertainment without the support of semi-naked women.

If that doesn't convince, there is always hope. When so many of our youth - despite joblessness, despite lack of opportunity, despite their securities under threat - choose to stay in the country, persevere and serve, there is hope. And if I may dare, we seem to be standing stronger than how we were, a year or two years ago. We have exposed our brittle enemies in Swat, we have upgraded our stock market ratings and we feel pride in our framed religion, Islam. No regrets. No apologies. 

To end with a bitter (and necessary) dose of realism and humility, our erratic cricket team managed to crash and burn in an away series immediately after winning the Twenty20 worldcup. And then, the labourer who shirks, the deadlines that are not honoured, the work that doesn't get done without a generous donation or two, the scheduled power outage that won't let me rant much further...

Long way to go!