Azhar Ali

Absence of pain is joy, is nowhere truer than in Pakistan. Unable to be happy with ourselves, we have condemned our spirits to a state of limbo. Courting catastrophe is a favourite sport. Brooding is a norm and it is pathetic to see that people blessed with so many good things in life are unable to feel fortunate. They are afraid to celebrate what they have and more and more inclined to lament what they don’t or shouldn’t have.

Parks in affluent areas after getting tired of waiting for visitors grow tall grass to welcome other forms of life. Even wedding ceremonies, akin to unreserved expression of human festive nature, fail to stir any jolly feelings. As laughter is vulgar and smiling coquetry, Eratones (the god of happiness) must be banished from the land of the pure to give wide berth to wantonness.

After observing well-to-do people closely, you may find that they don’t want to look vulnerable. They never let their guard down because succumbing to positive emotion would make them look weak. They would instantly jump into mouth frothing government and politicians’ bashing, whenever there is a chance. On the other hand they remain extremely reserved even if something very funny happens or is said. Forced out smile quickly disappears leaving no trace of unwelcome visitor behind on the eternally exasperated face. According to a UN survey report, Pakistanis are the least smiling people in the world, Swedes being the most.

There is hardly any difference in funeral and wedding assemblages. Absence of spontaneous expression of joy in affluent class has also something to do with the means they employ to get rich. Though it is a norm and not exception to amass wealth by hook or crook, still people remain deprived of pride which should come with success. However imperturbable they may try to seem outwardly, deep down they realize the falsehood of their situation. Nothing shuns the pleasure as firmly as pretending for long.

The poor in Pakistan are more resilient. They are not ready to give in yet. Their situation is no doubt lamentable, but they are still left with noticeable capacity to seize whatever pollen joy is at hand. I often see how readily their faces get lit up at the prospect, however slim, of fun. In slums (I happened to walk through one for six months, a shorter route to my place of duty) there is much gaiety to be seen. The young and old play cricket having back of a broken chair as wickets, football with tennis balls in a ground littered with as big stones, and fly plundered kites after patch working them. I also saw that couples enjoy each other’s confidence. Dressed in come-hither clothes the women chat coquettishly with their spouses without any fuss or fear. I have also witnessed groups of men playing at cards and boisterously egged on by their women to bet boldly.

I was of the view that the poor are always destitute and keep on compounding their situation by behaving wretchedly. They remain depressed most of the time,  their incessant quarrels are not always violence free and their capacity to enjoy is very limited. Some of it is quite true, but I was amazed to see how easily the poor embrace joy whenever and wherever it presents itself. Parks within the reach of masses are full on Sundays and public holidays. Shrines are thronged with people who are still keeping faith in themselves and the country. When I see them laughing heartily, I am reminded of a colourful quote, ‘At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.’