The day sort-of crept up on me! I’ve been lost in the beauty of Ramadhan, fasting, praying, finding energy reserves I never knew existed before! Then, I had a wedding to attend last night, in which I was heavily involved! By the time we had the niqah, ate and did the clearing up, it was 2 AM! I came home, prayed, had sehri and was in bed by 4! As you might expect; I resurfaced very late on in the day, only to be greeted by national songs and Pakistani flags bursting out from every angle at me via the TV!! Of course: it was 14th August; and you know the drill; and wherever you are in the world, you can’t fail to be reminded of exactly what this date means! Yom-e-azadi!
I’ve written before on this blog about my relationship with Pakistan; and how this Independence day contains such mixed emotions for me: happiness as I celebrate with those far away, yet sadness that I am not with them. Despite my strange international connections, there is a portion of me that will be forever Pakistani! And that’s why some very different emotions filled my heart this morning as I surveyed the scenes of celebration! I wondered how the nation could find joy in this day that fell among strikes, sectarian violence, homelessness incurred by the flood damage and political turmoil! I wondered if it was really possible to smile, to sing, to forget, even for a day, just how much had been lost and how dangerous the road ahead still remained!
Yet as I watched the national commemorations presided over by Pakistan’s prime Minister, I saw something new in the faces of the participants. This year’s festivities were entirely devoted to the leaders of the future, and Subhan Allah! What leaders they are! The youth performed poetry, songs, naats and reflective spoken word items. Urdu was not the predominant language; instead the youth chose to perform in English, and that too, English speeches delivered with such eloquence you’d struggle to identify their mother language was something different!
Contrary to previous years, the poetry was not all about 1947, and was a welcome departure from the flowery rhetoric which carries little resonance with the situation on the ground! Instead, the participants spoke of the trauma around them, they wrote of the disasters and spoke of the trials before their generation. Yet through the difficulties, they clearly recognised the brotherhood which the floods had brought out! They talked of the spirit of sacrifice and what it has done, and continues to bring to their nation. Their lectures were powerful yet realistic, passionate, but not idealistic! Call me naive or out of touch, because I may well be! But this new generation is a new phenomenon; a brand of youth I did not have the pleasure of meeting during my time in the country! They are inwardly focused, yet outward looking! Significantly, they talked about the dangers of a brain drain on the country and stressed the importance of staying to develop the country to their peers! In their different tribes, languages and cultures, they represented diversity at its best; and this is something I can relate to; for how embracing is a nation of diversity when a troubled, Ethnically confused soul can find her home on its shores! The news headlines from Pakistan today reported 4 members of 1 family had been drugged, shot and left to fester in a locked house by the father of the family, and that yet more bombs had exploded in Balochistan! Yet through it all, a new generation has new plans, and a fresh, much-needed change, and they are ready to make it happen! While we can’t dream, can’t force them to run before they can walk, its impossible not to wonder if the sectarian, racist nature of parties such as the MQM, or the questionable motives of the big 3 might just find themselves outlawed in this new land of tomorrow’s leaders!
When all is said and done, Pakistan has the potential for a bright future, but it is up to us to make it so. Even if we are far away, only by supporting and nurturing the passion of days like this and of ambitions such as those displayed by the young people, can we ever hope to progress from the state we find ourselves in. There is always hope in the darkest of nights; one candle has the power to light thousands, but its up to us to take that step, to spread that light. Celebrate this day as you must, but never lose sight of what you can and should do, and never let go of those hands that are striving for a brighter day, an Independence day to be truly proud of.
To the land that I love, and the land I left behind. You may be far from sight, yet you live on in my heart, and whenever you seek light, I shall be there to decorate your skies with the moon and the stars to light the lanterns of your precious soil,