Thursday, 2 July 2009

After insomnia

The big 1st July post didn’t happen! Mainly because I was not here; and I’ve been too busy, (or is that lazy?) to get the home internet connection repaired. Perhaps in hindsight if I’d written it, I’d have got all that pain and emotion off my chest, but I didn’t; Instead, got horribly sick the night before and took way too much morphine, slept like a log and attended Amena’s jinaza in a bewildered state of drugged up nothingness. My heart still aches when I contemplate what that family are going through. I came home feeling dark and dejected, only to learn that my best friend has swine flu, and that another close friend and spiritual guide of mine was critically ill in hospital!! The last few days have been so dark that I often wonder if I should actually pick up the phone or not. Because of my contact with aforementioned friend, I too had to be checked over, so I spent the afternoon holding my head in my hands and moaning with pain while I stood in line in a packed, hot waiting room to have swabs taken. It struck me that if one did not have the virus before entering such an environment, they sure as hell would have it when they left! Any way, the good news is that I am all clear (for now!), but I’ve been told I must report to hospital as soon as any dodgy symptoms show themselves; (what symptoms do they mean? Since the tumour, I am rarely on top form health wise!). Should I call them when I’ve a headache, when I’m sick? Or when I get dizzy and faint, or when I am short of breath, …, the list goes on! Any way, the 1st of July came and went, long, hot and painful, but without event, without a phone call, I got excited when I noted the object of my desires had posted an article on his blog that day, but was gutted to read it was only a rant about American patriotism! It was interesting though; I wonder if after a battle to secure citizenship for a particular nation you suddenly become patriotic, (or brain washed?), or is it that informing its self creates this; (Zaf Khan at the house of Lords seminar being a case in point!). Certainly, working in Pakistan made me the Scottish Nationalist I am today, but that nationalism manifests its self in a very different way from the unconditional allegiance most Americans pledge to their president and their country! It troubles me to see Muslims doing this; call me paranoid, but it makes me understand why Rubab talks so much about agency people!
The world is a crazy place, and this was affirmed during my 1st July insomnia! While flicking through TV channels and trying to find an insightful way to spend a sleepless night, I found myself watching allim online! Any one who knows me well knows I’ve never made a secret of my intense dislike of Ammar Liaqat Hussain and his bazaar MQM laced wahabi perspective on Islam, but last night he decided to strengthen this viewpoint by inviting pop star Ali Haider on to his show. Unknown to me at that juncture, Haider had been in the news talking about his decision to quit music and acting. This came as a huge shock to me; ever since I got in to Pakistani pop, Ali Haider has been a staple for me. His music is soft, melodious, innocent tunes about love, life, youth, dreams and humanity. His acting, while not up to much, reflected allot of him as a person, and as he grew in maturity, his music/TV appearances took on a new freshness; still youthful, but sharp and searching; a legend in the making, and an entertainer Pakistan ought to be proud of. Now though, for reasons best known to himself, he is quitting music, a decision he claims has been on his mind for almost 3 years now. After signing an Album deal with Aag, he handed over his new completed recordings and talked through new marketing strategies for his latest album; only to terminate the contract and withdraw the tracks days later. He says he always knew this would be his last album, but something inside ultimately told him it was time to quit, not least because in these troubled times, he wonders how any one can dance or sing (a point which touched me deeply!).

While you might dispute his reasons; (I for one feel great sadness at the reality that he will sing no more), what bothered me the most was Liaqat Hussain and his band of qur’an bashers, all of whom took it upon themselves for congratulating him for giving up music, and asked him when his first album of “religious songs” will be on the shelves!! This was the preferred tactic of Junaid Jamshed, who, after quitting vital signs and a multi million international music career went all religious!! In a matter of days his beard reached his knees and his salwar was safely above his ankles! He churns out religious albums, while running a successful brand of designer clothing outlets across Pakistan. Haider has neither a business lined up, nor a desire to enter religious selling, but I guess he did not bargain for the religious zealots who would jump on the non-musical band wagon! Ammar Liaqat and co seem to think this is a great victory, ‘mubaraks are abound, and apparently the mothers of the country are ecstatic about his decision! The same mothers who doubtless danced to Ali Haider at their own mehendis many years ago; either the menopause has drawn them towards noori and Ali Azmit, or pop stars turned priests are the new in! Call me a bad Muslim if you must, but there is something deeply troubling at this delight in musicians giving up their careers in this manner, not to mention the congrats of the nation that follow these dramatic TV departures! When I was in Pakistan, 75% of the youths I met had some interest or other in music, which varied from listening to it, to writing or performing it. They might study, pray, they might even recite qur’an, but to them, these various fascist of life’s journey were the soundtrack to their world; study was incomplete without a CD in the background, and in the depth of a Karachi night you’ll never fail to hear a beautifully painted truck trundling along the road to the gritty tones of an old Noor Jehan cassette. Pakistan runs on music; the chat, the roads, the indescribable beauty of the calls to prayer. Vulgarity may have crept in during recent years, but generally, Pakistani music stems from ancient Persian/Arabic traditions. Poetry based on love, religion, sacrifice, human growth/spirit and the journey of life, sentiments which live on even in the pop of today. For Pakistani youth, music is away to cleanse the soul, to elevate themselves above their sufferings and to instil hope in their hearts for a brighter tomorrow. When I returned from Karachi, broken, dejected and lost after the torment which led to my return home, I found respite only after my dear friend and renowned composer Salman Anwer (AKA Musicarian) wrote a song especially for me, drawing on the strength of my past and the lessons learned through pain which would serve as building blocks to my future. Music might distract and misguide, but it can also heel, elevate, educate and encourage others to aspire to perfection in all realms of their lives. To strip Pakistan of her musicians is to violate her dignity, her culture and uniqueness, and to celebrate in their disillusionment with the world or the music industry is to conspire with those who wish to bring the country down. Ammar Liaqat and others justify this ignorance in the name of religion; but in reality if all our leaders/imams have to do is whinge about a few young men playing guitar, then the country will continue on the spiral of destruction upon which it has embarked. My friend, Salman often used to talk of the death of Pakistani music; at the time I violently disagreed with him, stating that I saw a new era, a new blend of musicians rising up from the ashes to develop a new sound, bring a musical light to the dawn of a new day within sound, but if Ammar Liaqat and others like him have their way, this death may be sooner than we think. They call music vulgar, but they don’t realise that their own low expectations of artists mean that artists too have to stoop lower in order to become noticed, because that is the language and the intellect of the people today, fed to them like greying baby food by Liaqat and fundamentalists like him. Ali Haider has followed his heart or so he says, he has given up music and left his career behind, but does he really understand the can of worms his exit opens up? Moreover, will he be able to remain true to this decision in a few months/years when he sees how it has pigeonholed him? (watched out for a longer beard and a higher salwar!).

Ah the frailties of the heart! In his own words!
“dil ki baatay, dil he jaanay,
May kya jaanu
May kya jaanu!.”

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