- And not one moment too soon
Few would dispute that 2020 is right up there in the list of forgettable years. (The more forgettable they are, the harder they are to forget.) It was, of course, dominated across the world by Covid-19. The virus struck just when humanists and science enthusiasts had enthusiastically started suggesting the death of death and an amortal (even if not immortal) existence for human beings by 2050. The virus was a reality check and a grim reminder that in the delicate balance that we call life, it is humility, not arrogance that is called for.
Although Pakistan fared better than many countries of the world in terms of casualties and number of infections, the loss to economy was immense; and who knows how damaging the on-going second wave, and any subsequent waves could be. But life has a way of moving on, coronavirus or not. Move on it did, in some ways better than before. Online education, for example, made many realise that the crazy school-time traffic jams were not inalterable facts of life to be accepted with philosophic resignation. Also, people stopped insisting on shaking one’s hand and hugging one once every few hours. One should be thankful for small mercies.
In what was another positive of the year, Talal Chaudhry solved a perennial problem for reporters, editors and laymen who need to recount certain activities of men and women for which the Urdu language had long failed to provide expressions fit for polite company. At three in the morning Chaudhry was found inside premises where he had no business being. With his arm fractured and mobile phone missing things looked bad when the police arrived. A lesser man would have crumbled. Not Chaudhry, who chose that hour to fill the aforestated void in language by calmly explaining that his reason for being there was tanzeem-saazi (organising). Such was Chaudhry’s brilliance that fellow Faislabadi Rana Sanaullah’s referring to Sharif family’s infamous TTs as ‘tax management’ (a certain winner any other year) can only be relegated to the ‘also-ran’ category. Many had written Chaudhry off as a spent force when he was disqualified. How wrong they were. You just cannot keep a good man down.
Although Pakistan fared better than many countries of the world in terms of casualties and number of infections, the loss to economy was immense; and who knows how damaging the on-going second wave, and any subsequent waves could be.
In summer, Diamond Supreme Foam introduced ‘Saha’, the first Islamic mattress of the country. According to the company’s website, the mattress has ‘scientifically been developed and balanced for every body type based on Islamic principles’. Kudos to the manufacturer; after Islamic honey and Islamic nuts an Islamic mattress was sorely being missed by the public.
On the cultural front it was Ertugrul all the way. It is amazing how one show could simultaneously be the source of such unbearable pain for so many groups: The desi liberals, our jealous artistes, the ultra-pious brigade, and the Saudis. The whole arrangement was quite delicious. Of course, no conversation on landmark television is complete without Dr Shahid Masood. One such moment was realised when for a discussion on Sino-Indian Ladakh skirmishes he had on live TV none other than the legendary Javed Miandad. Whatever was felt missing on the intellectual front was more than made up for by unchecked flow of raw emotion.
There were other happenings that can be categorised as the bad or the curious. Ishaq Dar’s interview to BBC’s Stephen Sackur, for example, was without doubt the cringeworthy moment of the year. So pathetic was Dar’s discomfiture, and so visibly shaken and out of his depth he appeared that it embarrassed the viewer regardless of his political alignment. Dar was convinced that he had done a mighty good job: he later claimed that Sackur was frustrated by his wit and presence of mind. This indicates the kind of delusion these individuals operate under. This is the man who singlehandedly managed the country’s finances and headed two-dozen odd committees for years! Any wonder Pakistan is in the mess that it finds itself in?
Coronavirus had provided people with an unassailable excuse to save up on expensive (and frankly stupid) pomp and show in weddings but most of them heroically refused to avail of the opportunity. This included those with limited resources (the demographic that happens to constitute the majority). Making use of the opportunity would apparently have been akin to fleeing the battlefield, a cowardly act. Of course, the filthy rich do not have to overcome such temptations. The ceremony that caused a sensation on the media by its splendour and opulence put Maulana Tariq Jameel in a spot of bother when it was falsely reported that he had charged a million to deliver his keynote at a wedding. The maulana was quick to deny the charge: he pointed out that there was no question of demanding money considering his friendship with both the families. (The maulana has this habit of being friends with the rich and the famous everywhere.) The theme of the sermon – Hazrat Umar’s austerity – could not have been more appropriate considering the occasion.
Last but not the least, 2020 will be remembered by posterity as the year in which Nawaz Sharif turned ideologue for a record eleventh (and probably the last) time in his life.