The youth of Karachi are planning a huge Independence Day present for their compatriots this August when they will attempt to break the Guinness world record for the largest number of people singing a national anthem simultaneously.
The present record - which was set in Pune, India, on January 12, 2010 - featured 104,637 people singing 'Vande Mataram,' one of India's most popular national songs. However, some confusion exists about the 2010 record, because "Vande Mataram" is not the actual national anthem of India.
"We have contacted the Guinness World Records to rectify this record… We are waiting for their response and correct record details," said Abid Beli, an entrepreneur with the heart of a social worker and one of the focal persons organising the record challenge in Karachi.
Should that record be set aside, the previous one set by 5,000 plus people singing the Philippines' national anthem Lupang Hinirang would be recognised again. Either way Abid and his fellow organiser Waqas Pai say they and their volunteers will be prepared.
On August 14, they are hoping to attract a record crowd in Karachi's Bagh Ibn-e-Qasim to sing the national anthem and rewrite the record -- in Pakistan's name this time. Permission to use the ground has been sought from the city district government Karachi and other agencies and the organisers expect approval some time later this month.
Several of their well-wishers have suggested that the anthem-singing record be attempted in multiple locations such as Lahore, Islamabad and other cities and also simultaneously in the United States, the United Kingdom and other parts of the globe. This may sound like a good idea but Abid shoots it down, citing logistical headaches. "The event is not very far away, and we have to put a lot of things together," he says matter-of-factly.
Abid says it was Waqas, an IT wizard, who came up with the idea of a national anthem day. A little research helped the two men find a relevant record category on the Guinness World platform. "We have already opened a claim ticket with the Guinness World Records, mentioning our record bid," he pointed out. "They have acknowledged our record attempt and will take around four weeks to respond with their requirements and suggestions for the record."
Neither of them has ever sung before a crowd or attempted anything like this previously. Yet they and every single person present at the venue will have to sing the complete anthem loud and clear, as per the rules of the Guinness Book of World Records. "So everyone will be singing for themselves and for the crowd," he explained.
Their motivation for the event is drawn from the conditions prevailing in parts of the country that struggles to beat a terrorism stereotype. "No one is spared the turmoil in our country from the common [person] to an industrialist and from showbiz personalities to politicians. Everyone is affected," Abid explained.
To deflect some of the gloom and doom and lift the spirit of the people, the two men turned to the national anthem and drew strength from it. There was an outpouring of public support for them. "People are excited and enthusiastic about breaking the record," Abid said. "This event will send a strong message to the world that the people of Pakistan are standing tall for their country and are there for their country."
Initially, they invited their friends and colleagues on their Facebook event page. But then young university students and others spread the word and joined the initiative. Already, people have begun to register as volunteers for the event - which will be held in the fasting month of Ramazan. Nevertheless, people have promised to turn out in large numbers to break the record, organisers say. At this point they say they are looking for about 2,000 volunteers.
Abid recognises the need for sponsors and is in contact with some prospective firms. Sponsorship would be needed especially to invite the Guinness World Record judges to witness the event and award the certificate on the spot. The organisers would also have to raise funds for the judges' fees as well as hotel and travel expenses. In addition, Abid says, "We will require a lot of marketing and a lot of celebrity endorsements for this event". But it is well worth the effort because Pakistanis believe they are capable of crossing this and many other milestones.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2011.