Recently, I was flicking through the local channels when my fingers suddenly stopped on Pakistan Television (PTV) – our once-glorious national channel is now on permanent crutches, a tragic outcome of trying to keep up with modern trends. And amid such handicaps, there he was, the immortalised Mr Tariq Aziz, boisterously putting up questions of general knowledge.
Agile and above 60, he would race towards an enthusiastic audience that could be cajoled into doing anything for him, from playing age-old games like musical chairs to participating in Urdu poetry competitions. One of his famous chants still echoed in the auditorium as folks jumped in their seats excitedly.
“Yeh water cooler aap ka hua!”
(This water cooler is yours!)
The same huge hall, the blue stage decor, rickety musical scores and well, I could not come up with any startling difference except, perhaps, the show’s new name and the increasing number of wrinkles on Mr Aziz’s face.
Although now it goes by the name Bazm-e-Tariq Aziz, most from my generation and before are familiar with Neelaam Ghar. Amazingly, it continues to play unapologetically, keeping alive its title of the longest standing quiz show of our country.
This also reminds me of another historic show, Kasauti where three of our extremely learned intellectuals sat down to guess names of renowned people of the world through 20 questions. I remember watching it with my grandparents over dinner. It was something of a ritual.
Kasauti was simple, informative and fun to watch, even for a 10-year-old. The programme did not require made-up women or crude jokes to make it worth watching. It was about intellect, lots and lots of it.
Now when I think about Neelam Ghar, I remember watching it mostly because we did not have many options. But I remember, once the program began, it was difficult to change the channel. For families belonging to lower-income groups, Neelaam Ghar meant a sanctuary away from their daily struggles.
For them, it was pure simple entertainment and the promise of free giveaways and prizes. It was an environment that did not mock them for their inability to converse in the English language or their fashion sense. For them, it represented permanence and conservative boundaries; two factors that encompass our Pakistani masses.
It all boils down to this.
In this insane frenzy of staying in sync with progressing times, there are many important things that get lost. In this race to outshine others, certain attributes that need to be kept alive get hidden, like layers of fancy lacquer covering up essential dullness of antique jewellery.
Sometimes, true emotions get trampled in this ferocious lifestyle we love boasting about. Family values get disintegrated because nothing substantial is to be gained from them in terms of materialism. In this compulsion to discard everything that once was, in order to adopt everything that will be, it is refreshing to see a chivalrous few who stand just as they once did eons ago; people like Tariq Aziz and what his show stands for.
Admittedly, this is the first time I have looked at this show with awe and respect. This is the first time I have viewed permanence without a condescending opinion hovering in the background. And this is surely the first time I don’t fear stagnancy as much as I did before.
Change is a much favoured mantra and should be in most cases but not at the cost of family, tradition, culture, simplicity, warmth and so the list goes.
I am a believer of staying in sync with modern developments, fashion trends, educational and medicinal practices, debunking baseless myths and the likes. Yet, at the same time, I also believe that change is not cut out for everyone and everything. Just like technology isn’t for everyone, or even coffee! The warmth and comfort of a good old cup of tea cannot compare with new age coffee flavours like all those ‘… ccinos’ and ‘… chiattos’ – names that some of us can’t even pronounce.
Whether it’s an archaic television show we reminisce with pride or an out-dated custom where families sit down together to eat and converse, change should not always be a welcomed omen. As the evergreen Mr Tariq Aziz has said at the end of his show since the beginning,
(Long live Pakistan!)
In this case ‘long live permanence’ may strike a nerve. At least it has, in my case.
*** This post was published in The Express Tribune Blog under the name: Neelam Ghar and Kasauti: Change is not always a good thing