Independence Day celebrations

  • About time eight things were realised


The 72nd anniversary of Pakistan’s Independence Day was celebrated with customary fervour and excitement. Customary fervour is a great thing of course, but it has been observed that after all these decades many people are still struggling to wrap their heads around some pretty basic things about celebrating historic days. An exhaustive list of those would take some compiling, but the more obvious ones are listed below. This scribe had pinned his hopes on the magical number 72, in vain for the most part. Will the coming anniversaries prove to be any different? The mind says: ‘Are you crazy?’ The heart, as is its wont, hopes.

1.   Paper bunting is better than the plastic one. While it’s a safe bet that Pakistan won’t prosper (nor Kashmir liberated) by the mere act of you decorating your house or car with paper bunting any more than if you had opted for the plastic variety; the paper one is biodegradable and will be that much less damaging to the environment and the sewerage system – got to think of the 15th of August and beyond too.

Social scientists have conducted elaborate research over the years and have concluded that there’s something called overkill; and that if one is guilty of it, the results that ensue are quite opposite from those intended

2.   You don’t need to have the biggest possible flag on your house. A smaller one will probably do just as well, if not better. It’s safe to say that the flag and the accompanying pole don’t belong with those matters of life where size matters. If anything, the smaller flags – needing very little wind to flutter – generally fare better than the bigger ones, especially on days that are not very breezy, when the latter droop, sending a very undesirable signal. There was a time up to the early nineties when the use of the king-size flag was meaningful because the accompanying pole was invariably made available by temporarily dismantling the TV antenna. This meant that a display of national ardour then entailed great sacrifice in the form of a blurred and noisy Doordarshan for a week or so. In the cable era the bigger flag has obviously lost that significance.

3.   Even daredevils must use their brains occasionally. The silencer-less-motorbike daredevils (lovingly referred to as manchalay) often complain about policemen, who they feel are bad sports not to humour one night of celebration. They need to understand that the policemen arguably have a more valid reason to complain, for thanks to the daredevils they are obliged to be on their toes all night long. Their urge to beat the stuffing out of any daredevil that they can lay their hands on then, even if it’s a little disproportionate, is certainly not incomprehensible. Daredevils: understand your opponent’s problem. It will benefit you, your opponent, and the innocent bystander alike.

4.   Beware of the overkill. This one is for the media. Social scientists have conducted elaborate research over the years and have concluded that there’s something called overkill; and that if one is guilty of it, the results that ensue are quite opposite from those intended. (This shouldn’t have required so much parade of science, but you know what social scientists are like.) The expression of patriotism is best when it’s sincere, spontaneous and not overdone. Like so many spheres of life, subtlety is the key here. For example, children barely yet out of knickerbockers delivering impassioned speeches on the philosophy of freedom are anything but subtle.

5.   Jeremy Bentham had a point. Buildings bathed in coloured lights and brightly illuminated cities are great sights, anniversaries of historic days or not. That said, if the same must come at the cost of load-shedding later, then most rational souls would rather opt out. The government needs to consider the greatest happiness of the greatest number here.

6.   There’s no correlation between patriotism and being a public nuisance. Traffic jams and patriotism don’t mix well as far as the silent majority is concerned. This scribe has had the forgettable experience of travelling twenty kilometres in three hours on a 14th of August in the capital, a journey that should have taken fifteen minutes (max) if it wasn’t for the traffic jam caused by men dancing on the roads with car audios blaring out patriotic songs at full volume. The matter being an urgent one, the scribe can assure you that the thoughts stirred up in his bosom were more criminal than patriotic. For those of a more academic disposition, there’s zero evidence of any founding father ever expressing his patriotism by dancing on the roads.

7.   Aesthetics are important. There’s a very good reason why dancing has been called the poetry of the foot. Those who attempt it while sitting on automobile windowsills, often end up scarring for life sensitive souls’ memories of the song in question – got to spare a thought for the aesthetically sensitive.

Zeal is a poor substitute for sincerity. (This should arguably have been the only point.) Often, zeal and sincerity to a cause are inversely proportional to one another. Those who understand this are likely to be a much greater help to Pakistan’s cause – to any cause for that matter – than those who don’t.