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Friday, November 16, 2007

Ghalib: Still creating controversy :-)

The two sessions on Ghalib at T2F had gone delightfully well. A true celebration of that genius, with anecdotes, humour, wit, and song that evoked the spirit of Mirza sahab perfectly. EGO, the boutique on ZamZama (a shopping area in Karachi), decided to join in the fun and commemorate the events with a new tee-shirt, displayed on a mannequin placed just after the entrance. The figure looked kinda irreverently funny, in a white underwear and turquoise tee.

All went well until a local TV channel decided to shoot a talk show series there. After the first couple of episodes were shot, I was surprised to walk into another day of shooting and see a pair of trousers being put on the mannequin. I thought they were just trying to be funny but was taken aback when I was told that their censor-advisor had said they could be contravening some broadcasting code by showing a man in just an underwear.
Man? He's an effing 'Manny', yaar. What's the matter with everyone in this country?

"Hello, world. Er-r ... we're an enlightened and moderate people who, er-r, just happened to get turned on by inanimate plastic figures." Guess if Alan Abel had perpetrated his hoax in Pakistan, he'd have gotten a huge following.

For those who haven't seen the tee, up close, here's what it says (and you can enlarge the thing to a poster-print, if you click on the image):

The tee-shirt passed muster with all who attended the two sessions - and that means a total of over 150 people, among them Ghalib aficionados and lovers, old and young. I'd say the crowd was evenly spread, age-wise, and included - at the extreme ends - a couple of high-school students, O-Level Math books in hand, and an 80-year old educationist who is also a Ghalib scholar.

However, last week, as I was settling my bill at the counter, a young man walked up and passed me a small neatly-folded slip of paper and rushed out, without waiting for me to read it, much less respond. I wish he'd stayed - for Sabeen's venture is all about conversation and dialogue. A point of view, however different from mine, would - therefore - have been wonderful to hear and discuss. Anyway, this is what he had written:

Now, of course, he has a right to his view ... and it is, indeed, heartening to see that his objection is to what
he considers 'disrespect' for Mirza Ghalib. Nothing could be further from the minds of those of us who wear the tees, those at T2F who chose to display & sell them, and those at EGO who designed and manufactured them. The 2 sessions - I am not sure if he was among the audience on either - paid Mirza Ghalib much loving respect and made him, as later reactions from many of the younger people indicated, more accessible to many.

The word 'hippie', to this young man, probably has the connotations that the establishment of the time had managed to imbue it with: a good-for-nothing, unkempt, drop-out. Skip Stone's The Way of the Hippie offers this:

"... let’s see what defines a hippie. Some say it’s the way people dress, and behave, a lifestyle. Others classify drug users and rock 'n' roll fans or those with certain radical political views as hippies. The dictionary defines a hippie as one who doesn’t conform to society’s standards and advocates a liberal attitude and lifestyle."
Ghalib was, by all reckoning, a non-conformist ... and as great an advocate of the liberal attitude as any. And so, dear young man, Mirza sahab is truly worthy of being called the original hippie (pre-dating , as he did, the 'movement' by over a century). And I - a very strong believer in the hippie philosophy, myself - am proud of having him linked to the movement that began in the 60s and continues to live - in various forms - even today.

If Ghalib were to hear of all this, he'd just smile and say:
Gar ke hae kis kis buraaee say, valay baa eeñ hamah
Zikr mayraa müjh say behtar hae keh, 'T2F' meñ hae!

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Blogger kinkminos said...

it boils down, as you say, to a matter of semantics. what the word hippie means to you (and i) is not what it means to the majority of pakistanis, even those who speak english fairly well. while i am "hip" to the message being communicated by the tee-shirt, most pakistanis will not be.

i do find it a tad sad that we have to resort to using the jargon of a partuclar clique in a foreign country to express modernistic concepts.

perhaps it's cos we haven't developed an indigenous modernistic idiom.

or perhaps cos it's just so kool to rattle off the kind of english which is idiomatic in kooler societies.

(though i'm a fine one to speak, using such jargon in my written and spoken expression all the time!!!) (oops, i prob sound like the worst kind of hypocrite.) (perhaps i am the worst kind!)

17 November, 2007 14:01

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sure sound like one in all your comments.

17 November, 2007 18:49

Blogger kinkminos said...

charmed, i'm sure.

: )

17 November, 2007 19:05

Anonymous BeanZ said...

Ugh. Personal attacks are so lame - especially when they're veiled in anonymity and have nothing to do with the post. Anyway ...

I should go away more often. Was thoroughly tickled to discover that the tv vaalas felt the need to clothe the mannequin. Heh! We undressed Ghalib today as someone from Lahore desperately wanted the "demo" t-shirt!

Amongst t2f's myriad, lofty ambitions is introducing young people to our rich cultural traditions. Over the years, people/groups who are rigid and inflexible in their approach and ideas have failed to engage with the young. We can't relate to "Ghalib Kee Yaad Mayn Aek Shaam" featuring stuffy old suits who lecture at us from behind a podium. Several dozen young people were introduced to the magic of Ghalib over two Sundays, many of whom have now expressed a desire to learn Urdu through poetry and prose. We will use strategies that resonate as long as they are ethical - and there is absolutely nothing wrong with using language and ideas that evoke curiosity, interest, and excitement. BTW, none of the not-so-young had a problem with Ghalib being referred to as "the original hippie".

Mojo Risin' had a message for some of us:

"Awake. Shake dreams from your hair, my pretty child, my sweet one. Choose the day and choose the sign of your day".

More power to those who dare to transform dreams into action and are out there doing what works rather than frittering away precious time trying to develop an indigenous modernistic idiom.

17 November, 2007 23:56

Blogger kinkminos said...


normally i wouldn't have responded, as i find clarifications tedious and i am, by nature, unbelievably lazy. nevertheless i do feel i want to clarify what i meant. (this time hopefully without my knee-jerk attempts at cynicism.)

in my comment above, i focussed on one aspect about which i feel strongly. my own (sporadic) writing is peppered with all manner of englishisms and americanisms. this is due, in the main, to my western-oriented upbringing, which has left me in the position of the proverbial washerman's dog. i have been trying (admittedly not very hard) to find an idiom which is relevant to our land of the puritanical. this is made more difficult by my mohajir status out here in this latter-day golconda aka city of gold.

no doubt you are a frequenter of t2f and seem to have benefitted from its cultural activities (of which i have only read). i want to say, at this stage, that i applaud the efforts of the people at t2f and others to spread the word, as it were. our cultural traditions are strong and vibrant, but are under attack from all sides. not least from all variety of new media, most of which have roots in cultures quite foreign to our own. our declining standard of education helps matters not in the least.

having said that, i disagree with your assertion that the development of a relevant idiom is a waste of time. quite the opposite i would say. one of the problems we face is the fact that while we gleefully adopt (at least in our cities) all manner of modern cultural manifestations -- fashion and film and i.t. and music, for example -- we have been unable as a society to update our traditional outlook to bring it in line with our modernistic practices. since we don't have a jargon to describe this change, we have to borrow words and phrases to describe these new concepts. this is understandable, since the new cultural concepts are largely imported.

i don't mean to imply that linguistics bees, slaving away in a hive of activity, should be busy churning out freshly-minted idiomatic phrases and formal, indigenous versions of cross-cultural coinages, like they've been doing in india and france. who knows... that might work in the long run, but i'm not in favour of it. the development of idiom, like language as a whole, is, and should remain, an organic process.

what i mean to say is that we should be open to new language which attempts to express these weird and wonderful new concepts in terms that aira, ghaira, and even nathhoo-khaira can accurately comprehend. i have no problem with, say, ghalib being called "the original hippie." i love the concept. and if the idea is just to convey that idea to present and former students of american universities and expensive english-medium schools and visitors to t2f theme nights (where the concept can be clarified, if need be), well and good.

if, however, this kind of wonderful message is to touch a wider audience (surely one of the needs of the hour), then i feel a more effective way of conveying this message is in order.

18 November, 2007 12:05

Blogger Astarte said...

@Zack, well you do say "irreverently funny" whereas the young man appears to have reverence for Ghalib, so the controversy is also being generated by us (apart from ghalib).

18 November, 2007 16:33

Anonymous BeanZ said...

@kinkminos: Will respond when my brain cells are better aligned. Meanwhile, just wanted to let you know that I am the Founder of PeaceNiche and The Second Floor (t2f) and sadly, have yet to benefit from its activities as I generally end up running around like a headless chicken making sure everything goes as planned ;)

Sustaining our efforts and reaching a wider audience is crucial. Let me know if you'd like to contribute to the cause in any way - we're a registered not-for-profit NGO. Translation: Funding Required!!

19 November, 2007 17:01

Blogger kinkminos said...

charmed, i AM sure.

not sure if i could contribute in any meaningful way.
definitely not in the funding dept (or the fundo dept for that matter). the streets of dubai may be paved with gold, but i have yet to stake a claim. (not that that's necessarily a bad thing.)

19 November, 2007 18:11

Anonymous the olive ream said...

I am so glad I visited T2F. I had a great time and I loved the place! Shame I never got to meet Sabeen this time.

The mannequin episode happened while I was there and I still find it hilarious that they had to dress up the dummy to avoid offending other dummies (part of the television audience).

I wore the Ghalib tshirt and I got a similar comment from someone here in Dubai. These are the same people who buy Che Guevara tshirts for 200 Dirhams and do not recognize the irony of their fashion statement.

20 November, 2007 00:50

Blogger kinkminos said...

omer, the difference is that the fashonistas you refer to have no clue who che guevara was (beyond being a poster boy for certain segments of western culture) (and hey... poster boy for Nigel and Bubba HAS to be kool for us, no?)

at least they know that ghalib was some lyrical old fart who used to live down bander road, that dada-jaan used to go into raptures over (for some unknown reason).

(and there, but for the grace of god, go i.)

20 November, 2007 11:05

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

Huay mar ke hum jo ruswa, huay kyoN na GHarq-e-dariya
Na kabhee janaaza uThataa, na kaheeN mazaar hota


27 November, 2007 16:26


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