Is Inzimam worthy of captaincy any longer? He has lost to the perennial enemy at home. I wonder out loud. I get half a response. Moving on swiftly. New topic, is to everyone’s liking, barring me. I chuckle, they loll’ed. They talk about a performance. I pretend I knew all about it, feeling like Joey Tribbiani from that Encyclopaedia episode. At times, I nod along, at times I just look away. We didn’t have cell phones to stare at in such awkward moments back then. My misery was lessened by the fact that this scene played out during school assembly. Our daily conditioning of enforced religiosity and nationalism, was a blessing in disguise for that period. I could look involved in the whole process to avoid conversation.

My school friends loved the Indian Idol. Reality TV format had dawned on the sub-continent. People couldn’t get enough of it. I was sceptical of all things Indian those days. General Musharaf, had said Sub se pehlay Pakistan. I took that literally with my musical preferences. Pakistan had a thriving music industry those days. Aadat, had changed the landscape. Nevertheless, peer pressure is a powerful thing.  Guilt ridden, I tuned in to Indian Idol. It was the initial selection stage. A candidate ambled in. The boy is shoddily dressed. It was probably his 1st time on a television set. Megastars are there to judge him. Audition begins. It was like a horrific Sound Cloud cover. One of the judge stops him midway. In that moment, I thought he would tell him to try his luck at something else. Alas, I was in for a rude awakening regarding Reality TV rules. The judge asked the boy to sing another song. Just that it was a much more difficult song with ebbs and flows. The boy tries. The same judge halts his performance in between. He asks him to repeat the high note. What the boy lacks in singing abilities, he fulfils with persistence. Not that it’s working though. Finally, after getting a shot for the program promo, one of the judges shows mercy to the boy and the listeners. What just happened? It felt bizarre. Are they looking for the next Kishor Kumar or Lata Jee or are they there to ridicule people? I thought why do people watch this? Selling humiliation for ratings. Next day, during the national anthem routine, my friends started repeating those high note lines, followed by laughter. I was bewildered. Did they enjoy the mockery? However, I had much bigger things to worry about like Maths theorems. So, I made peace with the fact that in this discussion my role would be to nod along.

General Musharaf is shown the door. Pakistan has been under attack. Thousands of civilians and armed men have lost their lives; social contract between state and its habitants is a thing of the past. The once thriving music industry was now shrinking at a rapid speed. Probably at a rate much faster than it grew. Music was to be download illegally and record labels didn’t bother paying the artists. So, money making exercises were limited to just concerts. With bombs going off across the country, concerts were a soft target. Or at least the authorities thought so. Bands were no longer mainstream. Coke Studio took centre stage. Popular artists crossed the border, while some took to acting. Various music channels that were launched in to cater to the demand, had introduced VJs. With industry taking its last breaths, music channels either shutdown or shifted their content focus. These VJs needed to rebrand themselves. Some went into acting, while others did morning shows. Safe, boring and predictable. But not Waqar Zaka . He took a different route. Living on the Edge was anything but predictable. It brought sponsors. TV channel saw a cash cow. Season 1, Season 2, Season as long as we get a sponsor. I lost track of the progress the show made.

Osama Bin Ladin is dead but I have greater things to worry about. It is Ramzan. That time of the roza between Asar and Magrib, in which your mom wants you to relentlessly work towards pursuit of Jannat but also help her with the Iftari preparation. You just want to sleep till you hear someone say those three wonderful words, roza khula gaya. My brother, made a deal with my mother. He would help her 15 minutes before iftar if he can watch Living on the Edge before that. Jannat can wait. Summer Ramzans brings middle class families closer; by bringing them in that one air-conditioned room in the house. Sit without air-conditioning or watch the show. It is now a full fledge Reality TV show. Open Auditions are being held. Waqar Zaka is the judge, jury and executioner. Participants are mortified. I cringe within one minute. Selling humiliation for ratings. Haven’t seen an episode of the show ever since.

Donald Trump is now disaster-in-chief. Television has slowly become irrelevant. As the world moved from mass to social media, so did Waqar Zaka . I did not know what channel he was on but he was the Xpozer! I knew, because it was on my timeline often. I do acknowledge that he has fans, but I also find a hell lot of hate watching. I don’t understand it. AIB said, if you don’t like something don’t watch it. Obviously, that has fallen to deaf ears. But who cares? I am at work, each minute looks like an hour. Suddenly I hear ‘Arey dekho Waqar Zaka ke dhulaie hogai’. The whole department is glued to one monitor. ‘Dekho woh keh raha hai uskay baal kutein gay or next tasver mai baal kutay hoey hain’ said one guy. ‘Abay ye to hona he tha’ said another. Why do I feel a sense of elation in my co-worker’s tones? I am bemused. More importantly. Why is Waqar Zaka not resisting? This merits a closer look Mr Meyers’ style. A gun barrel, in the background is visible as Waqar Zaka pleads ‘Boss maine apko bola kya hai’. It makes more sense now. Social Media is in melt down. Apparently Waqar Zaka ‘exposed’ someone’s ‘izat’ by mentioning a girl’s name and which city she lived in, hence payback. Unaware of the background, I dive in the wonderland called Facebook. One post asked what you would do if this such an incident took place involving a female in your family. I said I shall report to the cybercrime branch or ignore the troll. Taking law in to your own hands, can start a generational tribal ‘dushmani’. Humans are surely past it. Some people question my manhood. They tell me that they feel sympathy for ‘my’ women. I tell them I don’t own any woman so they shouldn’t worry about ‘my’ women. I am told that I am I a ball-less coward. I humbly request them not to engage with a coward. Someone asks if I have ever been to a police station to report an incident? I post a link where cybercrime complaints are taken online. Barrage of abuse follows. I feel that that my time in the wonderland is over. I shut off notifications for the post, end of.

Another day another Donald Trump headline. Stuff that will threaten human race’s existence later, Dang Memes 1st. Pakistani meme flavour for the day is Boss mene app ko bola kya hai? Waqar Zaka getting a taste of his own medicine? Waqar Zaka was the judge, jury and executioner. Mr. Junaid has reversed the roles. Only difference, Mr. Junaid has man (or men if you believe Waqar Zaka) with guns. A man is being beaten up defenceless on gunpoint. Pakistani social media is lit with memes mocking him. Selling humiliation for likes. That feeling of unease when watching a person being humiliated is back. I can’t point where it generates from but it is there for sure. Being a part of the social media meme factory, I know a few of who are running these meme machines. Mostly liberal, well meaning, empathic souls. But can’t they see what is happening?

There is a cruel joke. If you live in Karachi, you would have been robbed off your valuables at least once. Pretty sure there is room for another. At least once in your life every Karachite (barring the top 1% or so) has been rudely spoken to, abused, pushed, shoved, or beaten by private guards or security personal ‘protecting’ a select few. It hasn’t become a joke because it is easy to joke about a faceless small time thug on TV. While in our country questioning the 1% could land you in big trouble. Before you know it, boom blasphemy! But for reminder sake, can you recall when a guard ordered you not to park as it's Sahab’s area? Wasn’t that public space? Or the time you were driving around the speed limit and a ‘protocol’ of Sahab shows up, wildly ordering you to change your lane as they speed past you. Well, I don’t think they own the road. I can go on but you get the point I presume. Waqar Zaka talks about this. This makes sense but unlike his shows this doesn’t sell. He is a smart nut. He starts talking about mardarngi, and Illuminati. Ab maza aaeyga.

Russel Peters once said in an interview that people love when the comedian picks on any 1 person from the audience. Everyone in the front rows at least knows they could be next. But until then it’s a laugh riot for everybody except that 1 person. May be Waqar Zaka had this coming, I don’t know. May be his antics were overzealous in pursuit of rating and likes. Again, not in a position to make judgments. However, my feeling when a contestant was being ridiculed were quite similar when I saw Waqar Zaka being beaten up. The presence of a gun just inflated my sympathy with the self-proclaimed daredevil. At least the participants had the option to walk away from their misery. They knew what could potentially be. Reality TV is predictable. Predictability level of a young man in charge of an untrained armed gang (yes gang) is similar to that of Donald Trump. Social media has changed our world. You are just unaware of its power. The meme factory could have ridiculed the idea of moving with 10 guards but we choose to bash the victim. His past for the moment, in larger context irrelevant. We could have questioned this tribalism in one of the biggest urban centres of the world. The state has allowed this privatization of security. Are they off limited even from the wit of our meme warriors? I ask this of myself. I ask this of you, my friends. This time I don’t have other things to do.