Tour de UoK: Celebrating Independence Day In Style
A flurry of pompous and showy displays by leading student political groups marked early celebrations on the 13th of August, 2008 ahead of the 61st Independence Day here at the University of Karachi. Celebrations centered on at least three major points, one each for the three major political student groups at the university.
Perhaps the largest of these assembled at the all famous “AP Bench” at the Arts Lobby where members of the All Pakistan Muttaida Students Association cracked fireworks, danced to national songs and chanted party and national slogans amidst all sorts of muddled fanfare and screaming girls. The Arts Lobby, which had been imaginatively decorated in green and white prior to the event, resembled a gross hodgepodge of brown and green as the event drew towards its closing stages due to heavy downpours at the campus that brought its fare share of mud and grubby footprints. The rain, however, did not dampen the spirits at all. On the contrary, it inspired another round of bangra and disco from the men, this time in utterly drenched attires, with wet flags draped around their bodies, sending the already hyper excited female audience into complete hysteria.
More sober celebrations were ensued further down the Lobby adjacent to the Economics and Political Science Departments where The Jamiatut Taleba-e-Pakistan had arranged for a special 500 pound cake. Unfortunately, I couldn’t manage to take a picture of the cake, or even the cake cutting ceremony because the timings for this event coincided with another smaller one being conducted at my own department, but from the rush that was witnessed here shortly afterward, it is safe to assume that plenty of people showed up here as well.
Further down the road, adjacent to the main cafeterias, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party’s student wing the People’s Student Federation had set up their own tented area with a stage. This place was largely disserted when I came here around 10 in the morning, but by noon, when I came here again during the peak of the showers, it was alive with strident Jiye Bhutto and Pakistan Zindabad slogans in between national songs and impassioned speeches.
Smaller events were held separately in many of the Arts Faculty departments, where students performed Independence Day related skits, read poems and of course, sung yet more songs. I’m a big fan of milli naghme too, but man, with Shazia Khushk, Junaid Jamshed and Jamiat vocals all banged into my ears simultaneously via nothing less than loud speakers, at times I really did wonder if I was going to get out of university with my ear drums still intact. Fortunately, I did.
Independence Day celebrations, not just in Pakistan, but throughout the world, are marked by such festivities. Flag raising ceremonies, tributes to national heroes and fireworks, all these things make a big part of how we mark the day we secured our freedom, and I won’t stipulate that there’s anything wrong in having fun either. But somehow, I can’t help stop feeling that without the realization of what this freedom really means such celebrations are rendered merely symbolic, sometimes even superficial and hollow.
And as proof, I can point towards occasions where students were so engrossed in displaying their “emotions” that they kind of missed the whole point behind patriotism. Like when you’re so engrossed in cracking fireworks that you couldn’t care less about taking the adequate safety precautions. Or be so preoccupied with eating your piece of Independence Day cake or mithai that altogether forget to dispose of the empty plates in the trash can. Or easier still, be so overwhelmed by national pride whilst dancing to to Jazaba-e-Junoon that miss it all together how much dirt and mess you’ve created in the process of your dancing, with fliers, postcards and sometimes even flags dragged on a dirty dance floor glazed with fresh mud.
May God open our eyes and bless this country always. Happy Independence Day!
PS: I have lots of photos and videos of the events, but can’t seem to upload them anywhere right now because of hopelessly slow internet connection, as soon as I succeed, I will update this post with media.