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Opening Credits

March 11, 2010

But first, a word about copy-paste material.

it feels very weird leaving a blog – it’s like moving out of your childhood neighborhood.

it also feels very self-obsessed to write about my own blog, but then again self-obsession and blogs go hand in hand. it was precisely because of that recognition that i chose never to write about myself (or too much about myself) on copy-paste material. instead, what that blog (thankfully) provided for me was a chance to develop an alter-ego.

alter-egos are not necessarily healthy things, but i think as an artist, it is important to cultivate one, because i guess the culmination of the artistic process is the merging between your self, and your created self. the union between the creator and the created. (zing! first pretentious reference to stuff i admire without having the courage to experience, or challenge)

and it was important for me to have an alter-ego i liked.

i started blogging the day they released a picture of BB’s assassin. well, to be honest, that was the day i was truly intrigued by blogs. because the picture came from a journalist who had apparently found it on a blog. so i started discovering, and reading blogs – pakistani blogs.

what does this have to do with an alter-ego? its because i was a journalist at that point. a journalist comes on screen to tell you about something, why and how it happened, and then leaves you with either a direct or indirect idea of what he thinks should be done about it. fuck all the bullshit which claims journalism is about objectivity. its not that subjective journalists are lazy or sacrilegious – a journalist CAN NOT be anything but a preacher. you do a story on child labor, and you walk away with telling people about how its terrible and something should be done about it. or you do it on cancer victims, and walk away telling people how something should be done about it.

and at that point, the journalist lies back, content that he has done his service for humanity. and then at the next ‘mimi’ fun-bash, he/she goes on and on about how life should be lived and pakistan should be straightened out, the entire diatribe fed by the smug-self-congratulatory idea that the journalist knows all this because he/she is ‘out there’, ‘making a difference.’ the journalist is the alter-ego created by the person who works at that job. and almost all of these alter-egos, my own included, are shocking hypocrisies when compared to the person who dons them.

my favorite example of this was when the young boy who served tea to all the journos at our channel was banned from entering the main studio. the reason being that we were running a campaign against child labor, and having a child laborer pop up in the studio (visible through the glass doors behind the anchor) was just bad taste.

karachikhatmal allowed me to have an alter-ego i actually liked. it let me say things i believed in, and it allowed me to be critical, affording just enough distance for the ‘self-criticism’ to not feel too stinging. and for the two plus years i wrote there, it allowed me to develop my own style in terms of narration, my own set of ideas, and my own small group of people who thought it was great.

every time i wrote a post, i would obsessively check my e-mail, hoping for a new comment to show up. they would arrive very slowly, very rarely, and would often be complaints about how long the post was. yet perversely, i could later entertain fantasies about how i was so cutting-edge that the mainstream wasn’t yet able to accept me. kind of like being the band radiohead was into.

but most of all i was determined for it to be about pakistan, but NOT about pakistani politics.

too much everything within pakistani society is about politics. our most popular songs, our most engaging comedy, our sport(s), our culture, our religion.

which would have been fine, until you realise that the reason everything is so politicized is because pakistani politics itself is so detached, so beyond change that it has become some sort of dogma which dictates everything else. everything about pakistani politics is nauseatingly repetitive and un-surprising. so copy-paste material steered clear of discussing politics for their own sake.

it was harder to write about pakistan without mentioning politics though. the only language i could write and express intelligently in is english. i was educated at the best schools. (not at KGS though – thank the Lord) i lived in an area owned by the army. and as such, i was part of a class which either feels it knows what is good for the rest of the unwashed masses, or wishes that it could escape the unwashed masses. having experienced the former at LUMS, and having lost interest in the latter post-college, i was a bit unsure. but as karachikhatmal i knew what to do. i wanted to bring to light the pakistan that we experienced and existed in, but were too ashamed, confused, or in denial to articulate.

i could have said that i wanted to ‘create’ a vision of pakistan i agreed with, but that would be false. i tried to write what i felt was true.

to this day, more people from the US read copy-paste material than any other place. and the blog on burgers is the most widely read of all. it is nowhere near my best, but i think it says something very original.

No, you are not middle class. You are not upper-middle class. You are not middle-upper-middle-class.

You are a burger. I am a burger.

And we need to shut the fuck up and realize this fact.

the reason this struck a chord is because burgers are either those who hate pakistan because they don’t accept it, and don’t feel accepted there. or burgers are people who deep down know they are burgers, but have been educated and been made aware enough to hate that label, and resist ever being called that. by saying that burgers are pakistani too, i was able to move beyond the inane polemics of pakistani conversation and move towards something substantial. too many people spend time on the blogosphere arguing about the NRO or the Army or whatever to confirm that they are smart, and that they care about their country. but arguing about such bullshit is a waste of time, and brain cells.

what we need is to start talking about ourselves, our societies, our families and friends, our cars and our languages, our tastes in music and shoes, our preferences of internet browsers. and by we, i mean pakistanis. we agonize so much about matters beyond our control because it allows us to feel like we are doing something, while at the same time abdicating actual responsibility. it allows us to feel like we care, even as we tell the child labor servant in our house to fetch us a glass of water. (i do that all the time) and it turns us all into those journalists i was talking about – people who delude themselves into thinking that they are making a difference, when all they are doing is blowing hot air.

of course, i then moved to london for my masters degree. once i was physically separated from pakistan, i found it hard to write about it. what made it worse was as my alter-ego, i expected a very high quality of blogs from myself. (despite two-plus years of going to blogs nearly every day, i only wrote about 30 posts. and their frequency kept decreasing.) the last post i wrote made me realise that not only my style had developed and changed, but i was now more interested in different things.

and so, finally, we come here.

to sasti-masti.

i never saw pakistani movies while growing up. the only time i ever saw any was to enhance the effects of inebriation due to their inherent bizarreness and outlandishness.

i never even liked bollywood, which most pakistanis prefer over the local produce. it wasn’t anything against india, i just liked ‘american movies’ a lot more, i didn’t like songs in the middle of movies, and i found it all very tedious and unbelievable. but then again, movies and cinema as a whole was not exactly a passion for me, like the way cricket is.

so when i joined film school, i was at a loss because i had never seen enough good hollywood movies, let alone the french new wave or the italian neo-realists any half serious film student would obsess about. for example, i had seen more of scorsese with dicaprio than scorcese with deniro. so i had a choice – i could start educating myself about all these film-student must haves, or i could start venturing into completely unknown territory – lollywood.

i have ostensibly chosen the latter. i say that because as yet, i still watch about 20 movies from the rest of the world compared to every 1 i see from pakistan. its not the easiest thing in the world to suddenly get into. but it does allow me to do something i had advocated at copy-paste material – to stop being ashamed and embarrassed of pakistan, and to embrace it instead. and just because doing that is hard doesn’t make you more or less of a pakistani.

and so it begins.

i promise (to myself) to write here as often as i can, with a minimum of a post-a-week. of course this means a loss in quality, but i hope that the content would redeem that issue. not everything would be about lollywood, but that would explain itself as the process continues.

it has taken me a month to write this first post. i had a million different ideas about how to start, but finally, i have started. and i realise that despite all the grandeur, these words would probably only be read by me. but that’s something karachikhatmal (and myself?) would have to learn to accept.

one last thing.

one day, people in my class were all talking about their own countries. its a small class, but with people from france, india, persia etc everyone could talk about globally acclaimed stuff from back home. i was very proud to show them this. i hope that you too can learn to love it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2010 08:14

    I don’t know how I will be able to live without posts about Altaf Husain’s various poses and the intricacies of why us Pakistani’s called Inzi “Aaloo” but still I look forward to seeing a post a week from you. And now finally you have a cleaner format.

  2. March 12, 2010 18:25

    Hey! Just saw your new blog. Interesting start. Eager to read more of what you would post 🙂 Good luck!

  3. March 14, 2010 07:14


    haha, i know i had been dying to get on wordpress because of their lovely layouts.

  4. March 17, 2010 18:27

    what has always attracted me to your writing is that it is very clean and straightforward-seems to come straight from your heart,and this is no exception. sasti masti, by the way,is a brilliant title! i’m waiting for filmazia to begin appearing here now 😛

  5. March 19, 2010 11:33

    Great blog. I’d been looking for a Pakistani cinema blog, and here you are. Awesome.

    Cannot wait for a post on Anjuman and all her amazing talents.

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