With our collective conscience being battered incessantly by the influx of information, fleeting sensationalism is what it takes to stay relevant today. Stories that had been sown in to the fabric of our culture, now lie tattered beyond recognition at the bottom of the Indus.

An attempt to rescue them and piece together a narrative in this day and age, would play out rather grimly, and as follows.

Accompanied with a thunderous crescendo, a ticker will flash across TV on a local news channel as “Breaking News”; and the channel will claim to be the first to break the story of Sohni and her husband, Mahiwal:

“Sohni and Mahiwal, a husband and wife, who had been in the rickshaw-bus accident on the GT Road near Gujrat, succumbed to their injuries at a local hospital. Their deaths brought the toll of fatalities to 19. Authorities attributed the accident to the prevalence of fog.”

Similarly, a blurb might appear in the City section of a newspaper, stoically detailing facts of a local tragedy in Badin:

“A Badin counselor, Punnu and his wife Sussi along with their daughter Noori Jam Tamachi were among the 25 casualties when their boat capsized in Kinjhar Lake in Sindh. Authorities claimed that the boat was overcrowded and the tragedy could have been avoided if the tour operator had exercised caution, and not allowed more than 10 people on board.”

Not to be outdone, cyberspace and its most recent progeny - social media – will take to the airwaves, to lament the tragedy that befell an institute of studies in Nowshera;

“Waris Shah Institute of Studies released the names of its students who lost their lives in the recent train accident near Dera Ismail Khan, in which 4 boogies of the Quetta bound SaifulMalook Express veered off track. Adam Khan, Durakhnai, Yusuf Khan, Sherbano, Hani and Sheh Mureed were the latest additions to the death toll, which rose to 40.”

While Waris Shah is being eulogised; a competing media outlet’s blog is inundated with an outpouring of grief for the recent hotel fire in Karachi.

“The bodies from the fire at a local hotel, were identified as those of Omar, Marvi, Layla, Majnu – hotel guests who had arrived in the city to attend a conference on preserving folk heritage and tales. The hotel and authorities continue to trade barbs on where the blame lay, with no steps taken to address the grievances of the loved ones of the victims.”

Quite simply, stories and narratives – and not just epic tragedies have transformed to ephemeral moments in life and folktales which epitomised sacrifice, now hinge on the fickleness of commercialised technology, the graph of ratings and attention span of audiences. Many relevant and pertinent issues, have fallen on this contemporary sword – but one which is oft understated given its mistaken irrelevance is that of folk epics.

The existential losses as a result of this disappearing narrative are significant, from lost empathy and sensitisation for tragedy and death on one end to the fatal blow to folk heritage and culture, at the other. Countless young minds might grow up not understanding that Jhang, before it became the epicenter of religious unrest, was known as the place that Heer (from Heer Ranjha) hailed from. Romanticism apart, folktales served as the glue that tied communities together irrespective of caste, colour, religion or creed and as motive to persevere in profession or personal life – given the allegorical application of these tales.

When taking a walk down older parts of any Pakistani city, scouring the peculiarities that dot storefronts, a sadness descends. The names are now eponymous with the mundane elements of today’s businesses; from Sussi mithai to Ranjha mobile shops and from Mirza pan shops to Heer clothing outlets. The name is alive, yet the hollowness of the trinkets on offer at these shops leaves one reminiscing for simpler times – when a Sussi mithai shop owner recounted the tale of Sussi Punni with such bright eyed enthusiasm, that one would think them neighbours.

These anecdotal classics that were passed down as the proverbial baton from generation to generation, through the spoken word, now gather dust in cardboard bound covers in the back of an obscure book shop never to be found or stumbled upon. After a few years, the bookshop owner will hail the local “Raddi wala” (scrap collector), to collect the redundant books. The raddi wala in turn, will sell each of these tales for pennies on the dollar - yet when power outages come home, a candle lit paper titled Mirza Sahiban - sourced from the raddi wala, might actually keep the house bright and hope alive.