"In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. Its an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating but theres no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writers sensibility on the readers most private space."
Joan Didion, Why I Write.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Do Deshon Ki Aik Awaaz!"

While it might have sounded like the most touching line we heard on TV in the past few months, let me just try and remind you, they were talking about none other than India and Pakistan.

I’m not an Indian media fan, but their music is my weakness. Though it wasn’t Star Plus or Sony this time, it was our very own Jang Group, responsible for this very convincing line, ‘Do Deshon Ki Aik Awaaz’, as a part of their project, ‘Aman Ki Asha,’ in collaboration with The Times of India. Now that was interesting.

For those who don’t know, I’m talking about ‘Chhote Ustaad’. It was a music competition for children under fourteen and was screened on both Geo Television and Star Plus. It was a team competition, each team comprised of one Pakistani Singer, and one Indian Singer, thereby presenting an example of unity between the two nations. It had two judges. The famous Sonu Nigham, from India, and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, who has conquered Indian Film Music within a blink of an eye, represented Pakistan. I couldn’t watch all the episodes, but I had a favorite team, and that team won the competition too. So kudos to me!

During the shows, Sonu and Rahat expressed their deep wishes, several times, about how much they wanted to stand on the opposite borders and sing for their respective countries. Very touching indeed! Once on the set, tanks were placed on stage on which guitars replaced the barrels. Again, very touching!

While I might sound sarcastic, “peace” is a good thing. If that is the only objective! Who doesn’t want peace? But I want you to see more than that.

The show projected one thought several times, that the lifestyle of the people of both the countries are ‘the same’, and everyone was so awed all the time, and seemed so surprised about why there was even a need of partition. They never failed to make me feel how dumb our heroes were.

On a show telecast on 14th August, a formal congratulations was said to Rahat Fateh Ali, by Asha Bhosle, who was a guest that day. And the show went on like normal, while there was a special ‘Azaadi Show’ on 15th August. It was elimination day, but there was no elimination because it was ‘Azaadi ka Din’. Shows kept going on, till it was Eid. It was the elimination day again, and how surely I knew there was not going to be any elimination, because it was ‘Eid ka Din’… Alas! I was wrong.

On one occasion, Asha Bhosle took a promise from a Pakistani female participant, to come back to India every year to perform the “Rakhi” ritual, for her male Indian counterpart. Many times you will find Pakistani participants, touching the feet of judges and guests, a Hindu tradition.

A proud father of a Pakistani participant was asked to express his feelings with regards to the proceedings of the show so far, and his stay in India. He addressed the guest, Asha Bhosle, and said, ‘Coming all the way from across the border, and seeing you, is equivalent to my performing the Hajj.’ Even if he was that ignorant, I wish Geo Television had had the foresight to censor it. Just the way they had censored the gifting of a little idol by an Indian participant to Asha, while her Pakistani counterpart was singing the song.

It was the grand finale now. An Indian kid won the ‘Sound of the Subcontinent’ award. He said that he had enjoyed his time with Pakistani kids, and would cherish their friendships for years to come. It was all well, until he said that he didn’t understand why they had to pay the price for the ‘mistake’ of partition that took place sixty years ago! I wonder how a ten-year old can come up with such a ‘deep’ thought.

These are just a few examples from the few programmes I watched. I’m sure there must be many more.

I don’t mind what Indian media has to say, but since Chhote Ustaad was a collaborative project, I am concerned. We need to be more responsible about certain things. We should know where to draw the line. We cannot say or let say anything just for the sake of saying. Don’t we realize how many times we killed the purpose of Two-Nation theory via the words uttered in this particular programme? We want peace, but not at the cost of our ideology. And specially, in a programme involving children, where the target audience will include children for sure, what on earth are we trying to inculcate in their minds?

Yes, I hope for peace! But I want to make sure we don’t forget that we got this country because we believed that Islam and Hinduism are not only two religions, but also two social orders. Despite living together for more than a thousand years, we continued to develop different cultures and traditions. And in case we have forgotten, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan began the period of Muslim self-awakening, Allama Iqbal provided the philosophical explanation, and Quaid-i-Azam translated it into a political reality.. with the help of countless sacrifices made by our forefathers.

It’s my humble request to Jang Group, to be careful in future, and make sure nothing is said or done, that attacks the ‘reason’ we are ‘Pakistan’. We need to resist any attempts by Indians to absorb our individuality, as much today, as we did sixty-three years ago, maybe more.

Let’s not make a mockery of ourselves. Let’s not let anyone do that!