Beggar at Ghazi Chowk


Before These Crowded Streets.

11 Jun 2010

Life in the war; Its fine.

You know, meeting friends, driving around, avoiding traffic policemen and their chalaan (ticket) books. Life goes.

A few things have either changed or have just hit me now.

For some reason India-Pakistan cultural exchange is at an all time high. This observation is only limited to my TV screen at this point however. Bollywood men and women are interviewed regularly by morning and evening show hosts (may I add here morning shows are now a notorious part of Pakistani television, if ever there was something you either loved or hated). Pakistani musicians must/willingly/proudly travel across the border to record Bollywood soundtracks or do shows, both of which they are currently unable to do this side of the border. Some musicians’ claim to fame remains that they managed to make it big across the border, and then they make it big everywhere, or so it seems.

Indian films, which were once taboo at cinemas and theaters all over the country, are no longer so. Indian music on the radio has been big for quite some time, but now it seems heavily accented radio stations (and here you’ll find both the uber-American accents, and the ultra desi accents, we do love our extremes) have found some sort of balance with English, Indian and Pakistani music. (Note here also that while Indian and Pakistani music, which can usually be clumped in the same language category are separated by nationality, English music is a general term for everything else, even music that is not in English but also not in any Sub Continental language.) While Pakistanis have never claimed Bollywood music as their own, over the past few years people have grown more comfortable with it, listening to it as music and not as music from India (and here India is the arch-enemy India, not just another country).

My apologies for this shameless use of parentheses.

On a more serious note:

The first day I was here, I went around the city with some friends, running errands I’m not sure why we agreed to run for one of us. Anyway. We went to Hafeez Centre, which is a bustling tech complex in the heart of new urban Lahore. It’s the hub for pirated software, computer parts, mobile phones and anything with an on/off button that needs repair, no exaggeration. While everything inside is roughly the same, just outside the plaza, where you’d usually see illegal parking and street vendors, is now a dark colored 8 foot metal fence, and some illegal parking. The security guards, which I guess have been there even before the fence, are now entrusted with the duty of patting down all men for suicide jackets, or so it seemed since he seemed to have no interest in what I had in my pockets.

This sort of checking is second nature for most, as it’s bound to become once it has been there for a while.

At my old high school, which is adjacent to a government research office, the road is blocked twenty feet either way of the entrance. I’m not sure whether the school or the office is more the reason for not letting cars through (which if it is not obvious, is another security measure), but both can legitimately say they are under threat.

The news is depressing as ever, but satirical news is also as popular as ever. Making fun of ourselves is a talent many cherish, and it is very alive at the moment. A few conversations will tell you though, so is the talent of saying that we deserved all of this damage. Some say because we failed in our duties to God, others because we manage to find worse governments every election (or non-election) and others because we’re just plain hypocritical. And in the grand spirit of it all, everybody makes fun of everybody. It is so much fun.