I was at a strings concert a few days ago…you know one of them fancy sit down affairs with hideous white sofas and people taking selfies of each other to put up on social media in the next 5 mins when it happened. Bilal maqsood started singing “nindia” and the lcd screens behind him played an old video…a very old video circa 1990’s and it hit me. Suddenly I wasn’t there nodding and smiling politely to the music but in arts council screaming as the crème de la crème of the urban rock phenomena in Pakistan belted out their numbers.
Yes there was such a time in this city and as the sick realization hit me on that kind of era being gone, I started thinking on why this was so. I mean think about it…its not like the 90’s were a period of any sort of peace in this city, there was always ethnic strife, shia sunni fasadat and small proxy wars going on in Karachi’s ghettos back then as well. What was keeping it all at bay?
Is it because that was the time when Pakistan’s fledgeling music industry realized its potential and was on its way up? Or perhaps they had sponsorships which are hard to find now? Or maybe people at that time appreciated music more? I think none of these are true, with the music scene in Pakistan at a more mature stage and sponsorships being available not just locally but opportunities in our neighboring country being ever present it cannot be a money issue. It cannot also be an issue of talent suddenly dissipating from our society because one hearing of any episode of coke studio will tell ya that we have that in spades. Obviously the phenomenal success of this very program and some 20 odd FM channels tells us also that pakistanis love music in every shape and form and I am not just speaking of the more endowed strata of society either.
So what the hell has brought us to this position? I think its because our tolerance level as a society has gone berserk and you see this everywhere you go. Whether it is in the liberal pooh poohing a woman wearing a hijab, or a hijaban looking down upon someone wearing sleeveless shirts, or the road rage and fights you see break out, or the incessant honking of horns when you delay your blastoff from a just opened traffic signal. KArachi has an underlying seething rage now at anything which is even slightly different from what certain groups of people consider a normal way of life.
Art and music in particular needs an outlet and this intolerant society is not ready to open their ears and listen anymore. We have in short as a people forgotten how to enjoy ourselves at all. That coupled with the fact that more and more kids are interested in their ipads and cyber existence more than getting together to have some fun and we have a situation tailor made for implosion. An implosion of the worst kind. That in which a society gets so radical that it castrates anything different and folds on itself till it becomes tiny islands of self aggrandizing fetid loathing.
The only way out as I see it is to start with our immediate surroundings and actually speak to people, listen to what they have to say rather than imposing our own opinions and then try to understand rather than condemn. Its not that hard once you start with the baseline that whether religious or ethnic, taste or habit the barriers exist more in our minds then in real life. Once we start its pretty much a certainty that you will find areas of common interest and then from then on get along.
Thats all we need to do to get those fun engines started again…get along. I for one would love to see my kids enjoy the full spectrum of life that Karachi has to offer rather than these claustrophobic environments which limit their own selves rather then be conducive to social & healthy life.
So dont hate, tolerate!