Happy new year, even if you don’t think it’s a big deal! One can’t deny that the idea of a fresh start is quite appealing—the thought that you can leave the past behind a little and try to do things differently in the new year. Us People of the East don’t really believe in fresh starts or forgetting, so it’s tricky for us to just wildly fling ourselves onto new leaves and blank slates and other fresh hells, but you can’t blame some of us for trying.
Let’s try making some resolutions for this new year, as a collective. Let’s start with not calling each other and their aunt a kaafir. What’s up with how touchy everyone is? Mobs burn down places of worship just because they can? Someone says Merry Christmas and now there’s a fatwa on his head? Can we just leave everyone alone to figure out their relationship with God and do the same for ourselves, eat some barfi and tolerate each other? It’s turning into the Salem witch hunts here and doesn’t suit us descendants of Mohammad bin Qasim to act like nervous early-settler Americans.
Another resolution I’d really like to make is to regulate Desi Instagram. People around the world take photos of their nice food, their nice abs, their nice art and craft. Pakistanis take pictures of themselves at weddings. Then they plonk on some tiresome, unpoetic hashtag that sounds like a dog coughing and for the next month your feed is flooded with orange-and-red lighted mehndi photos of people wearing their entire jahez and pretending they’re just really happy for you and not just desperate to wear all those clothes even if they look like the bride. What happened to discretion and restraint? The glorious noughties when one wore either the big earrings or the big necklace, but never both together unless you were family (i.e allowed to go overboard in your sartorial expression of happiness)? Maybe they are figments of my grumpy old lady imagination, clouded by my jealousy at not having two-ton lehngas, or the abs to go with. Can’t we cultivate ourselves a little more and go beyond the clothes? Can’t we spend time and money on things that sometimes improve our minds and not always our vanity?
Another resolution is joyous support of all the young and clever entrepreneurial efforts popping up. Here’s to the cake-bakers, the soap-makers, the shoe-painters, the digital whizkids, the delivery dudes, the samosa-reinventers—even the endless clothes makers. Here’s to all of you being enterprising, using your creativity to make some money and make people happy. We need the artists and the dreamers, but we also need the do-ers. The entrepreneur of today can be both, and if this country is ever going to go anywhere good it’s going to be when we all get on our feet and use the education and resources we are lucky enough to possess to make a difference. All work can’t be philanthropic, granted. But when you create jobs, you’re giving back. When you become a positive example, you’re inspiring someone else to follow your lead. There’s so much to be done, and nobody else can do it but us. Time to seize the day, the opportunity and the giddy impulse to just go for it. Buy local, readers! Let’s show some love.
And while we’re on the subject of love, let’s get really, really serious about the children this year. Let’s lobby, let’s agitate, let’s fight for all of them—the little girls being beaten viciously by employers, the sad-eyed girls and boys enslaved at bhattas, the beggars, the children in your homes and the ones outside of them. We tiptoe around each other’s children because we’re afraid of offending, but this is not about judgmentally telling someone off for letting their child eat McDonald’s. All too often people feel perfectly brave being interfering and petty, but when it comes to something really serious everyone suddenly remembers their propriety. If you see something that you don’t feel comfortable with, you must speak up—whether it’s a driver at the school gate being a little too handsy or a parent screaming uncontrollably at a child in an upscale department store. Too much has happened to too many children in this country this past year and we are past pretending it isn’t our place to speak. If we don’t protect the other children, remember that yours are watching you, and they will learn that they aren’t important. That children are invisible and adults cannot be trusted to protect them. This year, listen to your children when they speak. Keep your eyes open for other children. And be brave, because there are too many children with nobody to speak for them. Refuse to be voiceless.
So there is it, happy readers. A manifesto to be kinder, braver, more tolerant and less superficial this year. Here’s to hope, to hard work and to self-determination this 2017. Pakistan zindabad, and Pakistanis zindabad!