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14th August – Why Must I Celebrate?


My home, my country is 65 years old today. Come August and we start gearing up to celebrate Pakistan’s birthday, if we can call it that.  The emotional patriot that I am, the whole “green” thing works for me. It is my time to re-visit the qaumi taraanaas (patriotic songs) and hoist a flag on my roof and go all teary when I see Quaid e Azam on the tv screen. In August, basically, I am having a crash course in patriotism. Like a 2nd or 8th or 16th honeymoon of a couple who over the years have forgotten what they mean to each other. So they take a trip down memory lane and sit and watch their shaadee movie and leave the kids with the grandparents and take a trip together to rekindle what’s left.

In most cases, this stuff works. As in the case of me and Pakistan.

But one minor issue. Let’s go back to the weird example about the couple. So imagine this. They have a great “re-kindle the romance” tryst at a far-eastern island resort, have spent a week together, and love is in the air. But then reality sets in once they return. The honeymoon fever starts subsiding. They slide back into the old pattern. The wife nags, the husband is indifferent and insensitive. She’s obsessed with her clothes and her family, he is a workaholic who gives her no time. Honeymoon goes down the drain.

That might be, sadly, the problem with how we look at 14th August, or any ritual in any relationship for that matter, whether it is our relationship with a person, a country, an idea or even God. When we indulge into something without thinking and without reflection and introspection, all that remains is hollow and outward expressions of a love that is shallow.

In a love that is deeper and more real (and most of us claim to love Pakistan), we must give back in return. The truest relationships are those that stand the tests of time. Relationships in which you feel an urge to do for your beloved anything that makes him/her happy. What can I do that would make Pakistan happy, I wonder?

For sure, Pakistan LOOKS happy today. Celebration’s in the air. Fireworks marked the grand entry of the 65th birthday of my homeland at midnight. Everyone will be dressed in green (yes, me too, I confess!). Flags, songs, chants, slogans of hope, of better tomorrow. Why, even google is all dressed a la Pakistan!

So yeah, sure, Pakistan looks all happy. Just like that couple looks happy in the 2nd honeymoon pix they posted on FB. But are they, really? And is Pakistan happy? Really?

A REGISTERED 23% (almost) living below the poverty line, a dismal literacy rate, a non-existent state emphasis on health and education when compared to what we spend on defence, ethnic prejudice and violence, killing in the name of caste and creed, extremism, huge economic disparity, an increasing tendency of polarization in society….a society divided between liberal extremists and religious extremists, persecution of minorities…..the list is endless. Poverty in the land of the pure forces people to commit suicide. Women are raped and silenced. Our government’s corruption has assumed legendary proportions. While minorities are persecuted, we, the Muslim majority (with all due respect) is essentially clueless about the true nature of Islam….we have not yet met Islam one on one, most of us. A reflection of us not knowing Islam is evident in tiny things like breaking the traffic signal and littering and losing tempers in Ramadan and also in bigger things like killing the Shia Hazaras.

In a nutshell, Pakistan is not happy, really.

Like a cynical but forthright friend’s tweet said, “I am not a proud Pakistani. With this mess I can’t be. Seriously. But I promise to work towards it.”

Yet, I still DO celebrate the 14th of August. Not just because I am an emotionally labile person who reaches out for her tissue to wipe tears when she hears “Khayal Rakhna” by Alamgir and the Benjamin Sisters. Not just because I am in the 14tn August honeymoon zone. No. I have given it careful thought.

And the reason lies in the last part of my friend’s tweet:”….I promise to work towards it”.

With all the mess that it is in, when I look at that white-haired old man called Dr Adeeb Rizvi serving at SIUT, and I see people believing in him, I know there is something worth celebrating. When I look at the work Imran Khan has done at Shaukat Khanum and the work Edhi has done, I know there is hope. And not just the very known heroes. At grass root level, I meet a woman in Heera Mandi Lahore, running a school for literacy of children of commercial sex workers. In the dangerous Lyari, a man is teaching children peace-skills in his school. My nephew is working with his group of friends as a small initiative to spread literacy among under-privileged children. At an even smaller level, my mother always would teach the children of domestic staff to read and write. She was a member of the National Women’s Guard in the years around independence, a fierce patriot, who still in spite of her dementia sings patriotic songs and tells stories of how she saw Quaid e Azam. History repeats itself when my daughter teaches an underprivileged child in her summer holidays. I land at Jinnah International and with all the negatives, the positive is that the chivalrous men of my nation will still help me with my luggage, and the poor fruit vendor may give me an extra banana free of charge. We still cherish good values. We are a poor nation (not talking about the ruling elite right now!) but one of the most charitable nations in the world. We have been through hell and Pakistan is a dangerous country to live in, but we are resilient, and all this “mess” is bringing out the best in us in art, literature, and very importantly in humour – yes, Pakistanis know how to have a good laugh at themselves.

Deep down, somewhere, Pakistan is happy.

But the emotionally charged paragraph I have written above still does not fully justify why I celebrate 14th of August. For me, the reason is multi-fold. Patriotism, unless misfounded and leading to anger and an “us versus them” psyche, can be and is a positive force if used correctly. It re-kindles the spirit of volunteerism, a sense of responsibility towards one’s country and one’s nation. If coupled with a bit of reflection and awareness, it can remind us of important lessons long-forgotten. A small example would be that if we take a careful look at the flag of Pakistan, the white reminds us of the presence of minorities as equal citizens of the state. Disrespecting or persecuting innocent minorities is tantamount to disrespecting the basic ideology on which this nation was formed. Celebrating this day, as my daughter has made me understand, is important to her generation who have sadly grown up in a time where most of what they hear about their country is negative, skeptic and disillusioned. The new generation must thrive on a sense of hope and a sense of pride.

So let’s give a careful thought today, each one of us, to what we are doing to make Pakistan happy. If we are positive contributors to the well-being of this nation, we have every right to celebrate the 14th of August, sing the national anthem and say Pakistan Zindabad.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta go iron my green dress for today :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDYvxkpMLNY&feature=youtu.be

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About FarahnazZahidi

Journalist, writer, blogger & activist. Currently working for The Express Tribune. Focus on human rights, health, gender, peace & Islam. Idealist. Wannabe photographer. Chaai, traveling, reading, friends and motherhood.

18 responses »

  1. Written straight from the heart, and so well too! Pakistan Zindabad!!

    Reply
    • Me, I will give my blood as I have been always ready to lay my life for it. I came near and remained far but always cherished this dream. Pakistan Zindabad. Thank you Farah for this post

      Reply
  2. Farah, as always, a pertinent blog post. You ask of each of your readers what is it they must do to make Pakistan happy? If I am allowed to say that I don’t need to fulfill all the so-called prerequisites like flag hoisting on my house or wearing a green dress on the occasion to display my patriotism, as long as my honeymoon days and years continue with the same spirit and zeal of wanting to make this marriage work at all levels; with a deep and sincere love for my life partner. Yes i love to watch the fireworks and post song and music videos of national songs, but my marriage with this country hardly needs a renewal of vows in another land, on another island…I did not enter into a marriage with Pakistan in my youth. I was born into it, and this is my destiny. I have to make it happy because that is going to make me happy in return, and we are all selfish. We want to be happy, want this marriage to last…

    Reply
  3. Farah , you touch my heart.
    Throughout our childhood, my father never stopped reminding us,”Thank God, You were born free.We were born slaves( of the British). ”
    Pakistan is indeed a very special gift to us by Allah. We should each one of us, treasure it and do our maximum best for it. Each of us in our own way, selflessly and persistently.
    Pakistan, we owe you……

    Reply
  4. Revisiting qaumi taraanaas, hoisting a flag on our roof, and going all teary emotional when seeing Quaid on TV and most of all having a crash course in patriotism, just defines us all!! For me we are all marketers who love the bells and whistles, the flags ,the marches, the events that take place every year on independence day, and they keep going better and bigger! As an individual I am politically naive, (not saying that I am proud of this fact, but this is who I am) if someone questions me about an event in the history of Pakistan I might not be able to define it properly ,I may not be aware of the current issues. But marketing my Country well and establishing a good will for us the Pakistani is for what I will promote the Green on my social networks and text messages!
    We are all Pakistani’s and celebrating it with full fever , zeal and enthusiasm is the way to go, because not celebrating this day, will only prove that we are a dead nation, which we are not, several killings, bombings and other terrible incidents, does not bring our spirits down and will not kill this nation!! Long live Pakistan!

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  5. as always, beautifully articulated the feelings of so many caught between the good the bad and the ugly, attempting to erase the latter two. And we will work towards it… all the time, inshallah!

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  6. Tarannum Zahidi Ahmed

    Great blog, definitely touched my heart. I enjoyed your comparison between a couple, few years into their marriage and the love for Pakistan. I feel this land has given us so much ,has been taken for granted long enough. Its ” Pay back” time now and we must move from the receiving to the giving end. LONG LIVE PAKISTAN.

    Reply
  7. A Very well written and an emotional piece. Pakistan is our home and now is the time that we all pay back what Pakistan has given to us all these years. Pakistan Zindabad

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  8. This is an awesome read and a pretty challenging question that has been asked in the end. For me, I am sure that if I can bring people in the government through my vote who lead the country towards change for the better, I will surely be taking comfort in the thought that I have earned my right to celebrate the Jashan-e-Azadi.

    Reply
  9. Bohot achchay! You are right to concentrate on practicalities, not just the pomp and ceremony. Each individual can make small differences which when combined with the efforts of others can add up to a big change. If people make even one small change per month in their behaviour or action then the momentum will grow. I wonder what change we could make for this month?

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  10. Pakistan Zindabad

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  11. Loved it. Very intricately written. The best thing is that, I’m sure, every Pakistani can relate to it. The way you have written and summed up & answered so many thoughts(that must be in the heads of many Pakistanis on this Independence day). And loved the analogy with couple that you have drawn :)

    “When we indulge into something without thinking and without reflection and introspection, all that remains is hollow and outward expressions of a love that is shallow”
    has made me think about one more aspect.
    Besides old couples and honeymoon analogy, i was also thinking about those youngsters who have newly & passionately fallen in love and are in the stage of qasmain-khana/ik dujay k liay marna/jaan denaay ki batain krna etc. You know laila majnu’s misinterpreted shallow josh jab hota hai. And guys generally say such things(just a generalization) and girls are many times in a state “no no. i don’t need your life or blood. just work, fight n struggle for love please instead of dying.”
    On independence day, as i heard everyday around and in songs as well, statements like denotations of “Jaan qurbaan mulk par!” It’s undeniable to see just “how many” people proclaim so! It left me in amazement as well as made me think about could it be like that laila-majnu’s misinterpreted josh-of-ishq jo shuru shuru k dinon main hota hai. jis main marnay aur jaan denay ki qasmain khayi jati hain instead of doing something constructive by rationally working for love?
    I love Amanat A Khan’s song’s verse too: mere mehboob wattan tujh pe agar jaan ho nisaar, main yeh samjhun ga thikanay laga sarmaya-e-tann.

    But now a days…just a thought…perhaps people are taking it too non-seriously and in shallow manner. Jaan de dain gay mulk k liay, par jaan laga kr, soch samajh kr, kuch mehnat kr k, apne hissay ki shamma jala kr kuch faida aur bhalla krnay ka kamm hi sochain gay… :S


    Regards

    Reply
  12. Brilliant post again that came from the heart, I wanted to write one about milli naghmy but missed chance due to aitkaf… may be next year.
    But reading this made me think as if what I had to write has been written already :)

    Reply
  13. I agree Farah…. somehow happiness oozes from the depth of our hearts when we celebrate Independence Day. We can not forsake Pakistan inspite of its numerous problems… just as a mother suffering with cancer (or any othe rdeadly disease) can not be abandoned! As long as there are a handful of people who really care there is hope! In sha Allah change for the better is bound to come…. this is my firm belief! But when, O when and will I live to see that day? The question hangs heavy in the air!!!

    Reply

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