August 14, 2010

When we were kids, I remember looking forward to independence day with much the same fervor as we looked forward to Eid and other such occasions. On August 13th, every year my father would bundle my mother, brother and I into the car and we'd go around the city looking at the lights. Karachi truly deserved its moniker then, it really was the city of lights. Green and white patterned lights vied with giant flags for attention on almost every house. Our house was no exception, my brother and I used to find a big-big flag and then let it fly on our rooftop for days before the 14th.

Fast forward a few years and I remember how every year we used to have a celebration in school. Abandoning uniforms, we wore white shalwar kameez with green dupattas. There was a special flag hoisting, and we sang the national anthem. From year to year the schedule changed a little, but the ceremony with a little parade, and national songs was a solemn affirmation of our association with the motherland. After that, we went out for nashta (usually halwa-puri), then maybe to seaview, before going home and catching up on much needed sleep.

Today, I look back and I wonder how it's all changed so drastically. S and I went out for dinner last night. On our way we encountered many boys-on-bikes out for a lark a'la independence, but we chose to go far away from the boisterous crowd to a relatively isolated Tiramisu, where we ate and spoke about how different it all used to be. He was - rather sheepishly - wearing an independence-day badge on his T-shirt, I had a small flag I bought-on-impulse from a roadside vendor still sitting in my purse. Those were perhaps the only tokens we had to celebrate a day that seemed to have lost its importance. This morning, we took advantage of our holiday and went grocery shopping. No flag hoisting for us, no national anthem, no processions, no reaffirmation of our identity as a Pakistani. The day seems oddly meaningless somehow.

How can we celebrate independence, I wonder, when we've done nothing to deserve it? How can we rejoice in the motherland when she lies before us ravaged and broken? How can we pat ourselves on the back when we're anything but proud Pakistanis? How can we go watch the lights when all around us there seems to be nothing but darkness? How can we sing songs and be merry, when we live every moment in fear of the next disaster?


kay-without a tee! said...

a while back, i saw faisal qureshi(the journalist) on a morning show asking everyone to wear the small flag-badge at all times(he does).he said, ker ke dekhein, bohat acha mehsus kerain gay. he sounded convincing. phir, the latest ufone shukriya pakistan ad shows the man wearing the badge too and im seriously contemplating following suit. But I know, that some ppl are going to snicker and ask me why i wear it? If u can help me think a really witty retort, preferably in urdu mixed with punjabi, i'd be more confident in prancing around with the flag!

Thoth said...

There are a-plenty things to do love.
My excuse is sloth.

Xeb said...

k(sans-t): I saw that show too :) And what I wonder is why you'd be embarrassed about wearing the badge in the first place. I didn't celebrate independence day because I felt like we have little left to celebrate. That said, there should be no need for any of us to justify why we love the motherland, at the end of the day she's who made us who we are, and for that one should be grateful. No?

T: It's not sloth with me, but I can understand that. :)

Anonymous said...

To me, more important than wearing the badge is being a proud Pakistani through my actions and words. I am sick and tired of people saying negative things about the country. It's not the country's fault. If there's anything wrong it's each and every individual citizen's responsibility.

Happy Independence Day (belated) to all Pakistanis. Also Happy Independence Day to all the Indians. Hope this year brings more peace to both nations and the world at large.

kay-without a tee! said...

its not that im embarassed at showing love for Pakistan. Its just that people who think its an OTT act need to be shown their rightful place.
I think we still have a lot of reasons to celebrate independence. 2 yrs in london on a pitiful student visa atleast taught me that.
its about being proud of who i am and where i come from, and not having to reassure ppl of your innocence while showing your green passport.

What say, shud we start a campaign encouraging ppl to wear the flag the whole 365 days?

P.S. your post about a thousand splendid suns made me start re-reading the book,even though i read it only a while back. beautifully depressive!

Xeb said...

Anon: I agree. Here's to your wish coming true! :)

k(sans-t): I'm all for wearing the flag 365 days a year. Anything we can do to bolster national morale right now would be a step in the right direction.

That book was partially responsible (I think) for how sad I've been all week. I don't know if after finishing it once I'd ever have the courage to read it again. It's a little too depressing.