"Congrats to India for winning the World Cup after 28 years! A well deserved victory!"
— Pakistan (via pakistani)
By Foqia Sadiq Khan
The lasting image of the Pakistan-India semi-final imprinted on my mind is that of a group of youngsters, dressed in cricket team uniforms, sitting in a row in front of a place selling kabab rolls at midnight, discussing Pakistan’s loss. There were processions of victory after the first innings but after Pakistan lost, there was aerial firing which killed one person in Peshawar and caused quite a few injuries.
Why did the Pakistani nation get so worked up about cricket?Sensationalist media hype was created much before the semi-final. Half-literate and jingoistic TV anchors were drumming the victory beat with never-ending live talk shows. Not only did the Pakistani prime minister, his cabinet and political leadership fly to India, but the entire country closed shop and watched the game. This obsessive behaviour perhaps indicates that there is a void in our society, that many Pakistanis seem to be deprived of the ‘feel-good factor’ and that is perhaps why they responded the way they did to a cricket match.
How many among our youth know Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Pablo Neruda and Indu Mitha?
Why are music, art, poetry and books not our source of pleasure and pride?
How many of us know the works of Sadequain, Gulgee, Nagori and Bashir Mirza? How many of us feel proud about Ayesha Jalal being the only Pakistani MacArthur Fellow or Asim Ijaz Khwaja being the first Pakistani tenured professor at Harvard?
How can we make tailors, drivers, guards and farmers take pride in Roshan Ara Begum and Pathanay Khan? Why do we not want to produce more Zia Mohyeddins? How can an overwhelming number of our youth compete with the Indian youth in their mastery over Ghalib? Why can’t the Pakistani youth compete with the Indian youth in sarangi, bansuri, tabla, sitar and harmonium? Why can’t we compete with Indians in the reading of books like War and Peace, Lolita, Capital and Hamlet?
We have to make knowledge, music, art and poetry more accessible to people.
Music band Laal, is one such admirable effort. There is a need for hundreds of thousands of such efforts! The government and donors need to earmark money and make serious programmes to give priority to art and knowledge, and make books popular with the youth and the nation as a whole. Art should not be limited to the symbolism of an annual artisans’ mela in Shakarparian in Islamabad. It has to be a lived reality in schools (particularly government schools), newspapers and electronic media. Art and knowledge have to be made as popular as cricket. Otherwise, the crisis-ridden and volatile Pakistani state and society will not be able to counter retrogressive right-wing mobilisation.