Earlier this week, I heard that a music channel is searching for a VJ in Islamabad. The auditions were being held near my office, so needless to say, I jumped at this opportunity. Why? Do I want to be a VJ? Yes, why not. Is it my passion, my goal, my dream? Not at all. But it’s an experience and life is made up of experiences, new, different and unique. With the moral support of my best bud, and half a day off from work from a very supportive boss, I soon found myself in a queue, filling out forms and pasting stickers on myself. The experience was interesting, fun, enjoyable and yet disappointing. Okay, this is not about my audition, or the fact that I used the platform to laugh at myself and the world, and the entire exercise. Okay, it is not about me, myself, and I. Despite being my favourite subject in the world, I shall not tell you about ME. This is about the 100 something youngsters, who were all wearing their best. From neon green t-shirts, to plaid scarves, to skin tight jeans, the boys were a plenty. It was a sheer disappointment, that there were few girls. I counted five or six, all dressed in skin tight jeans and tops, full of make up looking pretty.
It hit me then, being a VJ is considered to be more about clothes and make up, than substance. The camera was rolling, the youngsters were asked by the channel to “pretend to be nervous”, in order to get a few laughs from the viewers, at the expense of the kiddies. The kiddies and myself complied obediently. I noticed the gestures, the body movements, the language – what it takes to be a VJ – and grimaced. Is this what we have become? Is this what is “IN” and what is “COOL”? Is this what it takes to be a VJ? Or, is this what the various music channels have told us that VJs need to be? Maybe. Coolness is your ticket to being a celebrity, to being on TV. Nothing else matters, or that was the view in the queue.
The same “cool” teenagers also went outside the location for a quick smoke and proudly tossed their cigarette in the green belt, causing a fire. Fire truck had to be called, the older men rushed with water to fight the fire …. All in the name of coolness, I admit. The girls I was sitting with (yes, the girls sat in the shade, while the boys smoked in the heat) kept staring at the boys disappointed with the “quality of boys”. How they are not what Islamabad is, that they are not from “good families”, and how embarrassed they were to be with them, sharing the stage with them, and how confident they were that these “paindoo boys” stood no chance.
At what point did we decide that a good family meant a family of wealth and connections, rather than morality, compassion and integrity? At what point the strength of a youth became it’s following of fashion and copying babbling celebrities rather than its potential to do good, to be worthy, to be the future of its country? And at what point did we decide that we as a nation are divided into two groups: the cool; and the uncool? How the cool judge the others to be inadequate, simply because the parents could not afford better (please read: English speaking) school for them? Is the future of our country in the hands of the children of the powerful, who look down upon the children of the powerless, simply as a birthright? Where is our youth heading and where is the leadership? Who are our next VJs going to be? What is their biggest strength? Yes, as I discovered, knowledge of the Pakistan music industry is important, but what of honesty, humility, courage, why aren’t these the trademarks of our people?
In the end, I returned with hope and disappointment. The kids all thought they had a chance; most of them are bound to be extremely disappointed. They will feel more dejected when the children of the rich get richer, as they humbly watch on. There goes another job, another future. All is not doomed. I may not be the youth, but I am still young. My friend who held my hand through the entire exercise, is perhaps the coolest person I shall ever know, her fashion sense is beyond superior, her intellect extraordinary, her family background shinier than the sun, and there she was giving thumbs up signs to the less cool, and sitting in the sun, eight days before her wedding, supporting her uncouth friend for a few good laughs. This same friend, along with other truly cool friends went to meet injured IDPs and troops with flowers and fruits and words of triumph. Irrespective of status, class and any air of superiority, they met the troops, who from truly humble backgrounds, fight so our youth may enjoy their freedom. Then, there is the Pakistan Youth Alliance, that is giving direction to the confused minds of our young ones.
There is still hope, people! There is a future. It’s not over yet because our children and the children of friends like mine, will indeed bring a change. There will always be people who truly define what Pakistan is all about. The country where an England returned Barrister, with impeccable style and English speaking abilities changed the plight of the poor and the future of this country. He put the poor and powerless before himself, he thought them worthy of his life. All is not over yet. We’re the children of Quaid and some of us may forget it, in the ecstasy of our youth, we will all return to find our one unified identity.