Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Basant night unfolds despite Long March

Lahore has sadly been put under siege by the so-called saviors of democracy. All entry points to the city have been cordoned off to prevent any of the lawyers from reaching Lahore. According to its original schedule, Long March is to continue from Lahore to Islamabad on Sunday. In a ridiculous move, the current Punjab Government has officially announced Lahore’s most celebrated event; Basant to be held on Sunday too.

Reports are that despite all the chaos around, people in Lahore are celebrating Basant Night tonight. Get-togethers, parties and kite-flying competitions have been arranged on very short notice in Old Lahore as well as other parts of the city. And we even hear that two people have already died, thanks to deadly wire-strings that some people use to fly kites.

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I don’t even know whether we are too indifferent or is it really not important to miss an opportunity to have fun with family and friends. On the other hand, we have history’s most shameful events uncovering as hard-core crackdown on lawyers, political activists and members of the civil society continues. More serious news is coming from blogger updates warning that the government might be blocking all mobile phone services and fuel supply as well as closing down all acadmeic institutions to thwart Long March’s progression. (Please note that these updates are not confirmed yet).

How much must we lose?

The Long March is imminent now; this country knows no peace in any sector. But never will we stop celebrating, will we?

 

I live in a neighborhood that apparently has a lot of people who have these programmes to celebrate every single festival on earth. Plus, they make sure that every house for miles around will hear every singer they put on their stages. No matter what time it is; if these people have a mind to do so, they will not let us sleep till the wee hours of the morning, and will not let us study during the day. No escaping their music or their qawwali, not a chance. And right now, what I’m listening to is someone shouting at the top of his lungs into a microphone ‘Basant Mubarak! Welcome Basant!’, while I’m sitting in my own house.

 

What’s wrong with us? I ponder on his thought every day, and I get so many answers it disturbs me even more. What is sickening us so much that we just don’t care about anything but our own frivolous, impermanent, and dangerous fun?

 

The boards on the Liberty roundabout are not even partially old yet. They still strike a pang to our hearts and we still crane our necks to see the pictures of the men that died in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team.

The story of the death of one particular guard on that day is still fresh in my mind. He was lying on the road, trying to make the gunmen think that he was dead, and when they were just leaving, he raised his head. And then they came back especially to kill him. How can someone be so cruel and so hard so as to kill a person who never did him any harm? How can someone come back especially to kill that person?

 

But then, how can a government be so cruel as to allow Basant to take place; an event that kills so many innocent children every year? How can they condone the death of so many people in such a horrible manner; by having strings dipped in powdered glass cut them on the neck?

Forget the government. Why do people do it? Why is there no pressure to stop this event?

We cannot deny that hundreds die on Basant every year. No one can deny that people will use powdered glass and even wires to fly their kites.

 

Most of all, we cannot deny that the frivolous pleasure that people get from it is so blatantly disrespectful of the events in this country, in this very city. Bomb blasts. Price hikes. Unemployment. Attacks on the cricket team. The death of seven young security guards who were only doing the best job they could.

 

One last thing. Has anyone noticed the decency displayed by the Sri Lankan cricketers?

I shudder to think what would have happened if (God forbid) an American cricket team had deigned to come to Pakistan for a tour, and the same thing happened. If some eyebrows are raised at the mention of America playing cricket, it may be well to mention here that the States were very interested in cricket at the time of the last World Cup. So it might have been a possibility. But if what the Sri Lankan cricketers went through had been experienced by most other cricket teams of the world, the result would have been much more disastrous in its impact on Pakistan in general.

Take India, for example. I hate doing this, because I’ve got some very close Indian friends of my own, but the way we are being treated by India now, there probably wouldn’t have been a shred of the decency that Sri Lankans have shown about this incident. For India, we’re the ultimate bombers. They have no terrorists of their own; at least not according to the mass media hype we hear and read about. At the least, I speculate that the airspace restrictions would have been put on again. And if any Americans were there, well, a few more drones, perhaps?

It’s not to say that what has happened is not such a huge deal after all; not to say that it is an incident that should be tolerated, but I merely point out the real gentlemen in the game here. Maybe we’re just not used to be treated politely anymore, but I was extremely surprised to hear that the bus driver who survived the attack has been called by the Sri Lankans for a tour with his family. Additionally, as soon as the cricketers landed and were interviewed in their home country, many of the first comments I read were praising the driver who saved their lives. Not one of them uttered a disparaging comment on the security provided, even though they had every right to do so. On the televised interviews, even though the reporters were trying to squeeze such comments out of them, the most these men would do would be to excuse themselves with a polite ‘thank you’.

 

Decency, people. Just simple decency. Something that we call in Urdu sharafat. That’s what is there in these cricketers who suffered so much at the hands of our country, and still do not say anything. Maybe they respect the deaths of the people who were protecting them. Maybe they’re just decent people overall, which comes to the same thing.

 

One thing I know; they’re showing more decency than our own people. For everyone here, a soon as something like Basant rolls around, nothing matters anymore. Not killing someone. Not feeling guilt for what our guests went through when they tried to save one of our biggest sports. Not mourning the mindless deaths of the countrymen who tried to protect them

All that matters, at the end of the day, is flying kites. But I’m going to skip the sarcastic ending for now and I’m going to plead with you. Anyone who is reading this; out of respect, out of decency, out of your own humanity, do not celebrate Basant. We have no excuse for celebrating anything; if we want to cheer ourselves up and not feel anything about what has been happening recently, we have means other than those which kill even more people. Try to convince your families and friends that such a celebration will be disgraceful behavior, to say the least. We owe our guests and our own people at least that much.

Critical Mass Lahore

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The last Sunday of the month is approaching. You know this means it’s time for Critical Mass.
Join us at 10am this Sunday 22 February for Lahore’s 3rd Critical Mass cycling event.

Cyclists in China coined the term Critical Mass to describe the phenomenon that takes place when cyclists can take over streets and traffic dominated by automobiles. Critical Mass now takes place in over 200 cities around the world.
Critical Mass is not an organization. It is an idea. Critical Mass is about having clean cities that provide mobility and accessibility. Critical Mass is about clean transport.
Critical Mass is about showing a man on a cycle is the same as a man in a ten lac car. Critical Mass is about democracy. Critical Mass is about having the right to mobility.
Everyone in Lahore knows how bad the traffic is. Critical Mass Lahore is the first step in taking our streets back.
Critical Mass is an idea. Make it yours.

What do I need to participate in a Critical Mass Event?
Nothing but a road-worthy cycle and an sense of fun.

Where and how else to Critical Mass Events take place?
Critical Mass events are typically held on the last Friday of each month in cities all over the world. Get more information at www.critical-mass.info. For information about Critical Mass Lahore, some to Zakir Tikka at 10am on Sunday 22 February 2009.

‘The Other Pakistan’ on display at LUMS

A group of amateur photographers with a passion for their homeland have set out to project an image of Pakistan that is totally opposite to the one most popular with international media. Pakistan, today, is in headline news for all the wrong reasons and the world has forgotten that this land still has culture, colors, music, festivals, hopes and aspirations to a brighter future built on a rich past.

Members of the Pakistani Photographers Group at Flickr have arranged a collection display of about forty photographs related to “The Other Pakistan” theme. Submitted by amateur members of the group, these amazing captures range from portraits, landscapes, and architecture to everyday life spanning over entire Pakistan including Lahore, the Northern Areas, Cholistan, Skardu and Uch Sharif.

After its first successful day (Feb.18), the exhibition will contiue on February 19 at the Students’ Lounge, Lahore University of Management Sciences. The exhibition, sponsored and supported by Bank Alfalah, is to later visit smaller cities of Pakistan as well.

Note: Pictures in this post are shared with permission from Mr. Yasir Nasir, photographer and organizer of  the exhibition at LUMS and are property of their respective photographers.

Churail in Lahore

Ramla Akhtar discovered and wrote this about Churail in the Village.

The lives of the residents of this village changed 15 years when a German art teacher took up her student Amjad’s invite and visited his village: Thatta Ghulam da Dheroka.

An enterprising spirit, she asked the villagers about their craft. The women showed her hand-made rag dolls. The art teacher, Senta Siller, (and Dr. Norbert Pintsch)  told the villagers she could teach them to make refined hand-made dolls.

Thus spun off a social enterprise in this 200-house strong village that has changed the way of life and living here. Women have a school. The village has a road. They experimented with alternative energy very early on, and now are undertaking community energy & food projects.

The women from this conservative village now go on study tours with the Germans. The villagers have learned about sanitation, childcare, and eco-friendly living. Cleanliness is rewarded here.

Above all, these changes were brought within the system, without breaking down the structure violently.

Best thing is that that “Churail” has come to Lahore now. You can visit them at Thatta Kedona, 11/7 — Allaud Din Road, Lahore Cantt, Pakistan.

Terrorism Part 1

Terrorism sweeps the country, the city, the lives and the dreams. We flee the country, those of us who can; we slander the city; we condemn our lives and we are afraid of our dreams. And we are so busy doing all these things to escape terrorism that, poor us, we don’t even stop to think what we are running away from.

There’s a brand-new hype around town now…more hyped than it ever was before. Terrorism seems to vastly affect our ‘cultural’ shows in Lahore now, whether they be the Rafi Peer Theater World Performing Arts Festival, or the cultural complex or whatever. Yes, these groups, which are just patriotically producing the necessities or our nation (o should that be in inverted commas too?), are being directly threatened by those extremely sick people who wear beards. At least, those are the people that are arrested if they dare to show their faces.

To clarify, the necessities mentioned above are:

1) Dance shows

2) Music shows

3) Tacky stage shows

But let me tell you what happened, what is happening and in all probability, would happen again.

Firecrackers.

That’s what happened. Outside the cultural complex, outside the Rafi Peer Theater Festival, and well, goodness knows where else. Intense terrorism, my friends, intense. And fully dramatized on that blasted channel Geo.

Forget the girls being raped and murdered every day. Forget the fact that America is bombing us every day. Forget the fact that the new black (but thinks, looks and speaks white) American President is silent on such issues being resolved. Forget that if we don’t know of Shakespeare we are ignorant but if we don’t know of Al-Ghazali it’s not too bad. For the cultural, spiritual, degrading colonization we’re living in. Forget the world outside our bubble. Look! Some people who get offended by the scantily-clad dancers on the LCD screen in the World Performing Arts Festival actually have the audacity to put firecrackers outside!

These people have gotten so much sympathy, so much coverage…because they deserve it! After all the odds, they went back and performed, and will perform again! Because their art is so much more important than lives in Waziristan y’ know. That’s why Geo dramatizes this and not that.

The lives of the non-elite, the non-monied don’t matter, of course. Your countrymen die by the million and all the elite, the newspapers, and the universities think about is how and when and where and what is that amazing new musical called Chicago? How brave of them to perform in smaller and smaller clothes and how nice of them to come to Lahore! After all, firecrackers are no small thing, because they have started hurting the dancers and singers now. Never the mind the generations of children killed by firecrackers in the past, not even to mention the jugular veins cut by the strings of Basant. No. We must celebrate our life, because we have the money and we have the channels. Why represent the poor? We have our tacky stage shows to perform. We are the brave ones to perform at such a time, and then flee the country as soon as we get a third-rate citizenship anywhere. We have to present the faithful dog-image to America so that it will give us citizenship. Poor, brave elite. Eight people injured by firecrackers versus a hundred thousand dead by the American bombings.

Bravo, Chicago, bravo…go, Chicago, go…you’re what we need, you’re it, you’re the man (or the two leading women)…our saviors the elite….save us…save us….

How we are Losing our Cultural Identity

Yesterday, I went through an appeal for donations in Dawn by Hassan Zaidi, the founder of KaraFilm. Mr. Zaidi has been instrumental in bringing international spotlight and global taste to Karachi in the form of Pakistan’s largest film festival which grew bigger and better each year until two years back. The security situation in Karachi had resulted in postponement of the event for two consecutive years while 2009 brought with it the worst of economic recessions to blame.

KaraFilm is not alone here; in Lahore, Peer Festivals’ much celebrated World Performing Arts Festival was blatantly sabotaged in 2008 when suspected blasts occurred at the venue of the event.

But the question is, is the security situation or availability of corporate sponsorships to be blamed alone? Isn’t our love for arts, culture, literature and our own aesthetic identity fading away. What was the last time you went out alone, or with your friends or family to an art exhibition, a lok virsa show or to any of the Alhamra concerts on ethnic music?

If we look around our immediate surroundings, and closely observe our collective pshyche, it would not be worng to say that we are rapidly loosing the artistic thought, the softer brain and the very essence of cultural identity. Today, the only entertainment considered entertainment is a Bollywood movie screening (at cinema or at home), a ‘western’ rock concert or in majority of the public’s case; cheap and vulgar theatre.

We may not realize this now, but in due time this realization will come and hit us hard when the damage to our unique cultural identity and the youth’s attitude towards it will be irreparable. And that would happen even without the help of extremist ideologies whether they be from the mullahs or the government.

We’ll lose it and never know when it happened unless our common perspective towards arts and culture changes; unless parents don’t feel undermined of their investment in children who opt for arts; unless we change our attitudes towards everything local and unless we do not support the only catalysts of revival i.e. our local artistes, the lok-musicians, the artisans and the craftsmen of our rich cultural heritage that spans over more than a couple of thousand years as well as welcoming and embracing international flavors in contemporary arts, theatre, music and film.

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