Picture this: An early morning class. A bunch of sleepyheads sitting all around. And a teacher – a teacher talking about national identity. No it had nothing to do with identifying the various languages and the dress codes of the number of provinces we have now nor was it as cruel as it sounds. But, let me tell you what jolted me into wakefulness.
It was an ad. An advertisement that had Aamir Khan (the Indian actor) talking about how it’s necessary to take pride in being an Indian. The most amazing part? The advertisement wasn’t sponsored by the tourism industry. It was just something that an individual and a group of like-minded people had decided to do in order to take action and fix something that was wrong in their part of the world and that clearly got everyone thinking. For once, it served as an example of something we as Pakistanis can do to bring about a change. A practical example and not just talk.
And then, the inevitable happened. We as a class were asked to visualize or think of an ad that would best portray our national identity. That would portray something which will make people go like “Aha! Now that’s an average Pakistani!” And all the examples of ads that we had just seen a minute ago of countries from China to Australia, ads that spoke of having hard working people to ads that spoke of having breathtaking beaches vaporized into thin air. That wasn’t Pakistan. How the world sees the country is not Pakistan.
An average Pakistani is a person who has everything going wrong for him. From the school he goes to, to the health care he receives, from the traffic rules that are meant to be broken to the electricity that flickers every once in a while and yet, he makes it through the day. Every day. He survives till it’s not possible for him to. And the personal struggle of everyone in the country and how he makes it against all odds and difficulties is who an average Pakistani is.
But who wants this on an ad that wants to brand a nation? Who wants people surviving despite the chaos they have to face as a daily ritual on video about your country? Who wants their children to see the ad that looks at such a gloomy picture? The answer to this is who cares? Who cares if it’s not right for everyone else? The difficult part, the part where hardships abound, resources are few and chaos is rife is the part that unites all of us as Pakistanis.
If there’s no scenic beauty of the beach and swaying trees that unite us then let it be the struggle that brings us together. The rich or the poor. The Baloch or the Punjabis. The Muslims or the Non-Muslims. It is how everyone has come where they have come and how they are doing with whatever little they have. While it’s sad that living in Pakistan is a struggle, it’s the truth. And it’s time we not be ashamed of that. Or else, how are we going to move on to the part where we get to brag about all the awesomeness?