The last words that my eyes were accustomed to seeing on my notebook, were words like Realism, Liberalism, Democracy, human rights and national security. It was a delight, then, to see the words “Coke Studio” slip out of my pen this fine morning as I sat down to prepare a draft for this write-up.
Have you heard Nadiya? It is a duet by Jimmy Khan and Rahma Ali from the third episode of Coke Studio 7. I had the good fortune of being alone as I plugged in my earphones and hit Play. Without so much as the rustle of a leaf to disturb me, I had the most beautiful five minutes as the sound of instruments I cannot even name fell like honey on my ears. Add to that the refined voices of the two lead singers, and you have the perfect song to light you up anywhere, anytime.
Have you heard Nadiya?
Is it not strange how we can come up with songs like these, in times like these? You may think so but I wouldn’t agree. Times like these do not discourage artists. Quite the contrary, actually. They attempt to hem us in walls of darkness, only for us to tear them down and come out, brighter than ever. “Us”, here, could be all of us or the best of us, depending upon how well we, as a generation, fare in the Hero Trial.
Neil Howe and William Strauss in their internationally acclaimed and academically prized work on generational archetypes and turnings, propose a very interesting theory. According to them, there are four archetypes – Artists, Prophets, Nomads and Heroes. And these reach young adulthood in the four turnings – the High, the Awakening, the Unravelling and the Crisis, respectively.
What we are going through, is unarguably the Crisis. Not just because it sounds appropriate, but because the content of its definition fits the content of our condition. Consider Talcott Parsons’ definition of the Fourth Turning. He refers to it as an era in which the availability of social order is low, but the demand for such order is high. Does that sound familiar? It is exactly what is going on in Pakistan right now. There is greater awareness among the youth populace that the fault lies in individuals, not institutions. And whereas there are revisionist attempts to challenge the existing order, in essence, they are meant to purge it of rogue elements and build it de novo.
There is greater awareness among the youth populace that the fault lies in individuals, not institutions.
If our generation manages to translate this task into action, then we will have passed the Hero Trial.
But I digress.
It does not concern me whether or not we pass the Hero Trial – if it all that is what we are going through. I am not, after all, a sociologist and Sociology is not my subject. But the fact remains that amid all the turmoil that surrounds us today, we have decided to keep going. No matter how depressing the events that we wake up to every morning, we get up, dress up, and show up.
And every day, on the cultural level for one, we are faring well. Very, well. It was heartening to see the Azadi designer collections this August, and now it is Coke Studio again. Then there’s the refreshing attention-shift to the social sciences and arts – both fine and performing.
Out of every crisis in a people’s national life, emerge artists, writers, and poets. It is these people whom the hardships hit hardest – be they financial, social or psychological. The artists, we are already witnessing. The writers and poets, we will. I hope, I sincerely hope that by the time this is all over, we have volumes of literature coming out of print and web archives, and from the side tables and cupboards of this generation’s silent literary figures, testifying to the tears their pens so painfully shed, and the smiles they so hopefully spread.
In the preface to his book Chiraagh Talay, Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi writes: Lakri jal kr koyla bun jati hai aur koyla raakh. Lekin agar koylay k andar ke aag us ke bahir ke aag se taiz ho, toh wo koyla raakh nahi, heera bun jata hai. Roughly (poorly, rather!) translated, burned wood turns to coal. Burned coal, to ash. But if the intensity of the heat within exceeds the heat without, then the coal instead of devolving into ash, evolves into a diamond.
Burned wood turns to coal. Burned coal, to ash. But if the intensity of the heat within exceeds the heat without, then the coal instead of devolving into ash, evolves into a diamond.
Think of everything that is going on in Pakistan right now. Then when you are done, find a quiet corner, plug in your earphones and play Nadiya. Listen to the instruments that most of you, like me, cannot even name and the refined voices of the two lead singers, and answer this: has not the intensity of the heat within beat the heat without?