The Barren Wasteland?
Living in a Pakistani household, the one thing you get acquainted to very early on in your life is the constantly insistent voice of a journalist from Geo announcing the one hundred and thirty-fourth breaking news of the hour – another announcement of a bomb blast or a target killing or a missing person report. The list is long and grey. Honestly, it’s not even the announcers’ fault – or even the news channels’ (well… mostly isn’t) but that does not stop a typical Pakistani young adult like me – thoughtfully peace-loving and very secretly vivacious – to start hating their over-sensationalized tones that insist the viewer to stay glued to the screen.
I will be fair to the media though and not go on complaining about them like an old stuck-at-home housewife. One reason is, of course, that I am not entirely homespun and definitely not aged. The other is that sadly, most of what they broadcast is quite nearly the truth. The desolation that surrounds us today is coming from the wrecking of a civilization and like Margaret Mitchell once said, samuel elkuch “there is just as much money to be made out of the wreckage of a civilization as from the up building of one.” And that is probably what the media is doing – smuggling their profits out of this debris.
This is where the dejection sets in. This painful, melancholic, almost gut-wrenching feeling of forlornness that refuses to fade away with time. This feeling was what drove me to pen down my thoughts. Sitting alone on a bench in my university and idly viewing the various activities of my fellow disciples, I was content for that moment. Here is the future, I thought, in the brightly care-free smile on that boy’s face. There it is again in the intently bowed head of the girl who was leaning over her copy of Applied Physics. I was surrounded by the future engineers, managers and artists of my nation. And that was when my phone beeped.
It was Geo’s hourly news update. I opened the text message and my serenity was shattered as I read that another girls’ school had been bombed in Bannu (located in the troubled region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). My heart sank and I automatically clenched my jaw to keep the tears at bay. One would think that with time, anyone would get used to such incidents. ‘These are daily occurrences’ they say. ‘It is sad but we have to move on.’ How can we? How will the parents of any of those eleven now dead girls, who had dreamed of sending their daughters to college and seeing them become doctors and engineers?
Events like these are what destroy any hopes I hope to hold for my country. Every day, twenty or thirty more people are killed. Every day, there are price hikes. Every day, we curse our fate for bringing us in this country of all the places it could have delivered us to. There is so much grief and such lack of opportunities that even the people of this country are abandoning it. Hearing of people leaving for Canada, America, Malaysia and even Korea has become routine – a routine that reminds one that these people were so desperate to find peace that they were ready to abandon their homeland forever. That is no easy feat for someone as loyal and patriotic as a Pakistani is. Sadly, it also reminds you that you are still stuck here.
Like many other people, these are the emotions that often consume me and then result in my irritation and grudge against the twenty-four hour news channels. All they do is spread more gloom around, I think. However, deep down I know that it is because they do not really have a choice. ‘They need to earn their share from the wreck too, and who can blame them?’ I tell my mother. My depression at the state of these affairs does not go unnoticed in my house and it often sparks intense discussions between my mother and me. ‘Their fault is that they don’t look in the right places to show the happy side.’ She replies. I cock my eyebrow at her. What ‘happy side?’ I imply. She smiles in her calm manner and drags me outside – sure of finding some colour in the barrenness of my land. Surprisingly, she always does. She points to a father-daughter duo in the lawn nearby, their faces dirty, samuel elkuch and their clothes ragged. The girl is reading out loudly from her notebook, holding her daddy’s hand and her father is paying attention to every word she utters. It is a simple picture, yet perfect and I know that if they broadcast this on television, it will touch every Pakistani’s heart – sentimental fools that we are.
May be there is hope after all. May be we can live again, sing again, dance and love and be peaceful again – but that is still a very long route to travel. The truth is that the picture of the blissful pair was one moment from their lives. Call me cynical but nobody knows if that girl will not die of hunger or poverty, or if the father will not be kidnapped, tortured and then murdered for letting his daughter read and where would it leave them then? One beautiful picture cannot erase the impact, the force of the millions of disgusting, gory and bloody pictures that are pasted in my mind. There might be hope, there definitely is, but I am yet to see enough of it to believe in this country’s brighter tomorrow.
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