TEDx: stand up and sing
I had the good fortune of attending TEDx Karachi today. The men and women who spoke about ‘What Pakistan Needs Now’ exhausted me – they were engaging, innovative, thoughtful and above all, active. They put to shame all the drawing-room conversations and critiques of what plagues our cities, society and country.
The audience applauded at all the right moments – we gave nods of approval to small ideas that mushroomed into actions and organizations affecting the lives of hundreds, optimistic pronouncements about Pakistan and its strengths, affirmations that our nation can be corruption and bribery-free if we as individuals refuse to feed the beast and so on.
And then, Roshaneh Zafar of the micro-financing Kashf Foundation ended her talk by asking us to sing the national anthem with her.
As she launched into the anthem, there was an awkward shuffling in the audience and some voices joined her in singing. The girl sitting next to me said nervously, “Shouldn’t we stand up for this?” Some of us stood up. We summoned up memories of Independence Day celebrations at school or the half-hearted choir that heralded a movie at the cinema. A lot of us did not stand up. A lot of us did not sing.
The irony was painfully obvious – we are willing to engage in dialogue about what Pakistan lacks and sorely needs but too often, unwilling to walk the walk. Standing up for the national anthem is purely symbolic – a gesture that alludes to the love you feel for your nation. As a nation, we may feel fractured at the moment, ridden with problems that seem insurmountable. But stand up. It may be difficult to feel ‘love’ for a nation that resembles the various factions of an overgrown, boisterous family (pushy aunties, pulpit-pounding uncles, overfed and bratty nieces and nephews, the cousin with the inferiority complex, siblings that don’t share…) but the only way we can make any real progress is if we tap into a depleted reserve of patriotism.
Sanam Maher is Director Oral History Project & Special Projects at The Citizens Archive of Pakistan ([email protected])