AT THE CROSSROADS OF CULTURES — A DAY AT SARGODHA (PUNJAB, PAKISTAN)
23 OCTOBER, 2010
After, enjoying the sound sleep session of the chilly morning of Saturday, going through the newspaper and getting tense by the deepening divide between Islam and the West and the rapid growth of Islamophobia in the West, while having breakfast, I decide to go out for a drive. Leaving the neatly maintained road side lawns, negotiating the dragon teeth and other obstacles erected at the checkpoint, passing through the dusty road — littered by heavy traffic including animal carts that are devoid of even the slightest of road sense, headlights or horn, avoiding few close scratch encounters with CHINGCHEES filled with passengers, I reached a shopping mall, Al-Rehman Plaza. The mall is one of the few signs of Sargodha’s booming economy — fuelled by fertile lands, specially orange farms that produces one of the best and juiciest oranges in the world. A well furnished and brightly lit Mall, which can compete with any other shopping malls in the more developed cities or provincial capitals of Pakistan and hitherto, the only place where affluent people of Sargodha can shop to show their wealth and without getting through the horrors of GOL CHOK (Round), the centre of bazaar and probably the city, where one has to face the horrors of dust and smoke which do noit take a while to suffocate you. There is a Banquet Hall under ground, where usually marriage ceremonies take place. As I reached there, a marriage ceremony was about to get started, I just stopped on the balcony and started watching it, to get to know the culture of the area. The bridegroom, in an affluent SHERWANI and KULLA (sort of turban), looked terribly sedate and very confused, with a very flat face, devoid of expressions- probably was advised by somebody not to smile as one has to remain serious on his own wedding. The main attraction which forced me to become an onlooker, was indeed the DHOL, which was a bit different with more shrilling sound vis-à-vis the one used on our side (D.I.Khan and surroundings), which has a more thumping sound. There was an enthusiastic CHACHA (the word we normally used for an elderly man in a sign of respect to him) in his early fifties — getting wild to the beat of the DHOL and was in a state of euphoria — has added to the amazement of the crowd, he probably was making room for the lavish WALIMA and the poor chicken’s pieces awaiting him. Few other youngsters — dressed in a combination suit of really bright colours, wearing strange ties, the designing of which would have made even designers like ARMAIN and GUCCI proud — jumped into the fray in an attempt to overshadow the energetic CHACHA. They shook like they have been hit by a tremor of a magnitude as strong as 8 on the rector scale, and even Michael Jackson would have copied their moves, if he would have been alive and fortunate enough to watch them. There were no signs of ATTANR (the traditional Pashtun dance) or DREES (as we call it in Sarikee) or LUDDEE (Punjabi Dance), probably meant that Sargodha is lacking any kind of traditional dance or they might have abandoned it in the quest of modernity. Relatives donning in new suits, continuously combing their hairs, were posing in front of the continuous video coverage by two paid camera-men, and also giving WAILS (the five or ten rupee notes kept at the head of the person being WAILED and given to the persons beating the DHOLS, commonly known as MIRASEES, as a kind of SADKA for that individual — I am not aware of any English word for it because the English-speaking people might not practice this and are yet to devise something for this practice) at a time when the camera is focused on them, in order to make every penny worth and recorded in wedding movie.
One of the noticeable and worrying thing was the clear signs of encroaching Western as well as Extremist Culture that has engulfed our society. Western Culture is infused by the advent of modern fast communication means like internet and cable TV whereas Extremist Culture through our quest to lead Muslim Ummah and in the quest of Strategic Depth inspite of being a Nuclear State. Although Sargodha is situated in the central plains and is at the crossroads of Pashtun-Saraikee (a mix of both cultures prevalent in D.I.Khan and Mianwali) and Pujabi Cultures (it is a kind of mix of all these owing to its location) but as ill luck would have it, it is also getting plagued by both the Western as well as Extremist Cultures and is loosing its own peculiar identity. The dressing of the men and boys in the marriage ceremony was a clear reflection of the transformation of villagers into a more, so called, modern society of paint and tie, albeit the conversion was still at a very novice stage, the fact highlighted by the horrendous bright colours of their suits. May be it was a mix of new Punjabi and Western Culture and we may term it as Punj-West Culture.
On a Barber shop inside the mall, a notice in Urdu pasted saying, “DARHI BARHAO, MUNCHHAIN KATTAO- SORRY, YAHAN SHAVE NAHIN KARWAEE JATEE” (Grow beard and shave your moustaches, sorry, we do not offer shave services here). Albeit it is indeed the teachings of Islam and there is absolutely nothing wrong in it but notices like these are a reflection of growing extremism in our society at the hands of extremists- hell bent on coercing people to their strict interpretation of Islam. Although here the case was a bit different, the barber in the shop was himself having a beard so might not have been threatened by somebody to erect such kind of notice.
The moment the BARAT entered the wedding hall, I decided to leave and to avoid plunging again into boredom, decided to post today’s learning on my BLOG. Inhabitants of Sargodha might feel offended by some of it (I hope they will not) but it was just from an outsider’s eye, to whom the culture was kind of alien.
Originally published at kakhangandapur.blogspot.com on October 19, 2016.