I knew that something is rotten in the state of Denmark but never had I expected to witness the misery of those who cannot see. It was yesterday, at the Flag Hoisting Ceremony at Hazoori Bagh that I got a chance to grasp the insights of such ceremonies.
We are a nation of late-comers. This goes for the leaders as well as the public. My fellows had committed to gather around the Town (Jinnah) Hall at 6.30 a.m. and then proceed towards the venue of the ceremony as mobile services were to remain suspended. We are an independent nation but this independence should not be confused with freedom to dishonour commitments and making others dependent to set their times according to your watches. The first person showed his face at 7 a.m. and it took approximately another thirty minutes for everyone to arrive. I rushed my car to the locale but only to encounter further disappointment. We were not the only late arrivals; there were many yet to come.
The concept of ushering was alien. We helped ourselves to a row of seats which we had to vacate later in order to accommodate high officials and government officers. We then found ourselves another empty row where we settled ourselves with conviction of not leaving these at any cost. While we were laughing at our tenacity, I caught attention of a bunch of blind students rehearsing different patriotic songs. My ire was overshadowed by the dolour caused by the sight of these students who had been instructed to keep standing and not to sit until allowed. It was hot and humid. A few pedestal fans were not sufficient for a crowd of hundreds. These students were already there and singing through the anthems when we had arrived; this simply indicated the compulsory attendances and roll calls that must have been taken early in the morning.
The Guest of Honour arrived with a delay of a half hour. But it is not as simple as it is sounding right now. This was preceded by the blowing of bugles and lining up of all government officials, while the arrival was followed by two ‘randomly-picked’, well-dressed-as-suited-for-the-occasion children presenting a bouquet to the Guest. He then sat in his car and was driven around the Hazoori Bagh to meet the citizens of Lahore and visit the grave of Allama Iqbal. It was only then that I noticed children emblazoned in boys scout’s uniform whose sole purpose was to clap in the honour of the guest. Let me remind you it was very humid and these children, too, had been standing and rehearsing for quite a lot of time. However, the story does not end here. One half of the Bagh had been surrounded by camps of different schools, the students of which waved flags and clapped for the guest. Even they had been profusely sweating for very long like others mentioned before.
It took the administrators and the guest another eighty minutes or so to complete their addresses to the assemblage, after which the blind students were finally asked to amuse our ears with their voices. I saw the khadim being served with the melodies of national songs as sung by these ‘special’ servants who had been standing while he sat in the middle chair placed on the stage. What we saw on television, the khadim standing with these special children and singing along, constituted only the last ten minutes of his stay… probably these six hundred seconds were worth standing for six hours!
The whole scene made me ask just one question on this Independence Day ... Who is the real khadim? For how long are we to be an audience for these well-rehearsed speeches? For how long are we to be the khadims? When will we be served?