If not you, then who ?
by Shehzad Roy
Feb 3rd, 2008
ONCE while performing at a school in Islamabad on a Friday afternoon, I stopped the concert as the azaan began. A little girl came up to me and asked, “Shehzad bhai, why did you stop singing?” I smiled and said, “If I sing now, God will send me to hell.” She was spontaneous in her response, “Shehzad bhai. Please sing. You are not going to heaven anyway!”
That night for a long time I pondered over the remark made by the young child. I could not, for the life of me, understand why her parents would bring her to a place for musical entertainment if they believed that the likes of me were not entitled to a place in heaven or its offerings. I then realised that we as a nation lack the confidence to stand up for our beliefs.
The age-old belief that music is a sin and musicians the carriers of sin has sadly been transferred to the minds of these young ones by their parents and teachers, no doubt, wrapped and folded neatly under the covers of religion.
Funnily enough, I have also come across many more who give themselves the undue credit of accepting it as a sin whilst they enjoy the soothing effects of music in their lives! This was just a small example. We face the same mindset on a wider scale as well.
When it comes to bigger issues, ‘my plate is full’ is the answer we get from our friends who belong to the intelligentsia of our country when they are requested to roll up their sleeves, come forward, partner with the government and show some action to make things better for others.
Some say ‘we donate’, others ‘we are members of a social organisation’, and yet others that ‘we are on the board of a foundation’. And many young people aspiring to seek admission to top colleges (in Pakistan and abroad) proudly claim a number of hours completed in community service (more for the sake of getting admission into their choice of university than for the sake of community service).
Can we stop here for a moment and ask one simple question that I am sure has played on many intelligent minds every now and then? If all of us are doing our share of ‘community service’, why isn’t our country progressing the way it should? Why are most issues still considered problems without any solutions?
In my opinion, not only have we failed to identify our problems correctly, we also lack the collective and consolidated will (political and individual), and the drive to draw up plans and implement them.
Let us also ask another politically correct question: Why are the essentials missing when the country’s intelligentsia is there, supposedly playing the role of watchdog over everything ranging from the minor to the major? Are they not the ones that should have the solutions to our problems?
They are, and to give the devil its due, they do take a microscopic view of problems.
But let us not discuss the identification of problems or finding solutions, that are all there. For once, let us talk about the implementation of these solutions. How do we, as a nation, go over this hurdle? First things first.
They (the intelligentsia) need to get over the much-planned and at times deliberate selfishness, jealousy, ego, non-seriousness, laziness and sometimes a serious attack of verbal diarrhoea.
It’s very rare that their ‘plate is full’. Very few of them have the guts and honesty to admit that they give priority to their personal and professional lives over issues that their country is faced with.
When the US consulate in Karachi decided to move into the vicinity of Karachi Grammar School, those who claim to be the intelligentsia of the city got united and rightly made sure that the security of their children was not jeopardised by having any US facility near the school. Entirely conceivable is the thought that if the same people were to decide to get serious about health, education, water/sanitation and other grave problems that society faces, things could improve at the speed of light.
The problems are of such a grave nature that they call for emergency and gigantic efforts to tackle them. Fundraising fashion shows, coffee mornings and kitty parties will not do. Knowingly or unknowingly, many people are suffering from the tamasha syndrome. The need of the hour is for the intelligentsia to get on a collective platform to select a leader from among themselves. It requires a standard and hands-on approach to start working towards the betterment of education and other areas on a macro and holistic level.
This or that side of the world, east or west, the intelligentsia in any part of the globe are similar with regard to their job description.
It paid off when our counterparts in the West decided to put a man on the moon. How long will it take us to put our children into schools? When will we accept the fact that we are no different? When will we embrace the reality that we stand on the same ground with our intelligence, determination and will? It is not that we have failed, it is just that we have found a thousand different ways that don’t work.
We need an approach that will work this time. We are light years away from sending a man to the moon, but the optimist that I am, I believe that we will someday.
First, let us start with the basics. Saying that something as powerful as education can take a long time to show results is not a good enough excuse for not taking action. Mostly, changes can take place quicker than expected. The greatest sadness is not to try and fail but fail to try at all.
The writer, a pop singer, is president of Zindagi Trust, an organization working for child welfare and education.