A group of 15 writing enthusiasts gathered in the basement of the main Liberty Bookstore on the afternoon of Saturday, April 02. Everyone was there for the Writers’ Guild Workshop: an attempt to promote love of reflective reading and writing amongst a cross-section of writing enthusiasts in Karachi. It was a combined effort by Liberty Books and AKU to enhance the learning and writing process for students and professionals. The participants were encouraged to then submit their own brief narratives consistent with the ‘Ordinary Encounters –Extraordinary Narratives’ theme of the workshop. Here’s an ordinary encounter shared by one of our workshop participant “Zoya Ziad”.
‘Bablu, tumhara sabun slow hai kya?’
I wouldn’t be exaggerating the sentiment if I admit how offended I stood after watching this Lifebuoy
advertisement. The way the children gathered together to laugh at the little boy in mockery of his
mother’s teachings, which was to wash hands for one whole minute, was abysmal. Frankly, the advice
was completely relevant given that I’m a medical student and we take washing hands very seriously.
Indeed we have seven proper steps for it which does require a minute of scrub and rinse.
Just to clear it up, I am not antagonizing the product nor challenging its effectiveness as a super-speedy
cleanser. I’m simply negating the narcissistic image these advertisements provoke in our sensitive
youngsters who have already internalized every corruptive and vile personality trait portrayed so
appealingly on media.
Whenever I flip through local cable television, alongside very amusingly sought entertainment I find such
obnoxious, eye-rolling, criminally cheesy and so outrageously depicted stories that I loose myself in the
wonderment of our nation’s mentality.
The worst kind of lie is the one you tell yourself.
Rummaging through local channels, I find myself lost midst layers and layers of tainted, superficially
remodeled garbage, struggling to exit through a relevant conduit. The news channels compete to deliver
the nastiest affair, the spiciest debate, casting aspersions on anyone publically hot in current matters.
The news is bursting with chaotic, traumatizing happenings that are dramatized so as to impact the
audience more acutely. All this cripples and transforms any optimistically sane person into a cynical
manic-depressive freak. The relevant, positive news rarely makes it to the screen and I’m left
speculating why that is.
I flick through more channels, coming across hopelessly blank performances on love, marriage and
complicated relationships and it makes me laugh and cry at the same time out of the idiocy of it.
This era is a combination of fools pretending to be intellectuals and intellectuals pretending to be fools.
Everyone is pretending because the reality of them is not powerful enough to break through the
imposed stereotypes that are absolved around them. Originality is overrated and rarely found. You can
talk to someone and easily classify them into a category. That’s what we’ve become, categorized
individuals who’re told how to dress, how to communicate and what to pursue. Life has become
predictable and this predictability is what plagues today’s benign mediocrity.
Unless it comes to terrorism. Then hooliya! Life’s full of nasty surprises.
Sighing exasperatingly, I flick through more channels…women being ridiculously theatrical, women
tragically crying, women objectified for advertisement, men posing for horrendous fashion line, men
roaring with guns blazing, men evicted of barbaric crimes, women dancing in obscene apparel and then
politicians screaming blasphemy!
I realize later that criticizing and pondering over television dramatics could really exhaust one out.
I try to discuss my pessimistic yet rightfully-deduced media analyses with my sisters and am surprised to
find that they possess a completely different mindset of everything I so fervently opposed.
A massive spiraling tornado is fashioned out of nothing when one fact is met with two passionate
interpretations. I realize how that’s the basic root in majority of arguments, fights and wars. Evaluating
and labeling any fact, thing or person in accordance with your own mentality and belief. I read a
beautifully powerful quotation by Matt Kahn, ‘Despite how open, peaceful, and loving you attempt to be,
people can only meet you, as deeply as they’ve met themselves.’
Television drama justifies as adequate entertainment because we tell ourselves it portrays life
realistically with just enough touch of fantasy to make us swoon. What I ardently search for in these
depictions is not just logic, but the driving force of those logics. I want to see why relationships fall apart,
why people are the way they are. The simple label of the good people/bad people is not enough. I want
the good people excised to reveal layers of their character that has the propensity to arch towards bad. I
want the bad people dissected enough to expose the ounce of good buried within them. I want people
dissected on-screen to show us what truly drives human soul. I want to see something that electrocutes
the audience to open their eyes.
I want the disclosure of secrets that define the human soul, but unfortunately our media only shows the
practical outcome of it.
Misunderstanding and miscommunication are at the core of obliterated relationships. And still people
are oblivious to what goes wrong.
Egotistical psyche and unreal expectations give roots to flawed relationships. And still people wonder
why they can’t find the One.
Immature stubborn parents raise confused, bullying children. And still people punish children and never
coach parental behavior.
The main problem is not that there are too many problems. No. We are humans. There are going to be
problems. The main problem is denial of the fact that there is a problem in us and we individually need
to deal with it.
If we lift off the curtain of denial, only then will we be able to address our problems realistically and then
What problems am I even referring too? How did I even get here from television dramatics? I don’t
know. I’ll leave it for you to reflect upon.
We bathe in sin, wearing attires of gold. We’re deaf to all the screams as we become accustomed to
blood-stained dreams. Our chests are hollow with a niche where a heart used to be.
Is this darkness in you too?
Are you ready to fight it?
– Zoya Ziad