Noone plays ‘good vs.evil’ pingpong better than comic books. Worlds and cities with raging battles all around. Morbid clouds vowing never to let the sunlight through. Fiendish villains constantly hatching plans to unleash some carefully processed and planned misery on the poor masses. And then of course, the most important pillar of these rotten places, the super-heroes; the masks, the capes, the gadgets, the courage, the charm, the righteousness.
Gotham till date, has been the most decrepit and worn-down scum of a city to have crossed our comic-reading, high-definition movie-watching eyes. The grey in Gotham is a most disturbing shade. The evil-doers are almost inhuman. The good-guys are almost human. But Gotham survived. Sure, it’s a fantasy place and it will rule in the world of entertainment as long as the story-teller deems fit. But every hint of fantasy is masked behind a stark reality. A reality that we relate to in our daily lives.
This brings me to a comparison I would never have resorted to, if it hadn’t been for the resilient protests and the ‘change’ mantra headed by Imran Khan, a.k.a. ‘Kaptaan‘. A majority of Pakistan’s less privileged believe in him and see IK as their hero. I dare to compare a hellish city like Gotham to my beloved land. But cosmetics and exaggeration aside, a morally depraved society, over-the-top skanky characters and a believable but irrational good guy forever dodging skepticism are similarities hard to ignore.
Gotham has ‘Penguin’, Pakistan has ‘Politics’
Many of us hate but are secretly in awe of super-villains like the Penguin and Joker. In Gotham, they take the story-line to an all new level of thrill and the gory. In Pakistan we also have our fair share of bad-guys who by no means trigger envy from the masses. They are no diabolical geniuses either, but they are shrewd and narcissistic. The two most important requirements needed to suck Pakistan dry.
The Common man is not an angel either
Pakistanis, the supposedly naive common folk who know no better, actually do. We know we are not angels. Who needs to pretend sporting a halo anymore? We mean business, but only if it gives us something tangible and preferably some crinkly ruppee notes with our immortal wrinkled hero, the Qaid. Just like Gotham, here too, from the ‘sabzi-wala (vegetable vendor)’ to the ‘school-wala (educator)’, everyone’s self-destructive drug is money. Without getting into a long-exhausted rhetoric it’s hard to describe our present situation. We are a broken record that slits through anything that brushes against its rough edges. We are that ghastly a tune.
Pakistanis desperately looking for its own Batman
In Pakistan, we have always wanted a hero. We don’t like to face matters head on, but instead believe in fate, chance, luck, and more importantly, a saviour from above. In our case above could be anything from up North to the heavenly skies. We are chronically delusional. In Bhutto, we thought we had our savior. His charisma, his wit, his powerhouse of an acumen, everything swooned the masses into submission. He was a hero. Until he wasn’t. As much as we cling on to our angelic phantoms, when we notice their humanness, it gets overbearing. To a point where we crack quicker than an egg-shell under a shoe. And then what do we do? We pull them by the collar and throw them down real hard. Once the poor hero is safely rotting away six feet under, we dig up memories of their glorious days.
So now there’s IK. A viable, emotional and stubborn crusader. An unmasked avenger breathing fire and promising a changed nation. His honesty is hard to challenge, but truth be told, his words are difficult to actualize. As much as hope is the wind beneath my words, it sometimes shakes me to think what Pakistanis will do if IK does not come up to their expectations. And there is a huge chance that he will not live up to our schizophrenic ideals. Well at least not all of them. IK’s words are fueling the passion and resilience of millions of Pakistanis. His plans to change the nation are as vast as the alphabets in the English language. His words are causing a well-intended ripple in stagnant minds. His beliefs are making him a hero. I just hope that his actions (present and future) keep him a hero in the eyes of the public.
And more importantly, here is where we draw a line between fiction and non-fiction, between Gotham and Pakistan. The people of Gotham revel in make-believe because they are too weak to do anything themselves. Pakistanis are different, or at least I think we are. Let’s snap out of fantasy and look at our leaders for what they are; unmagical homo sapiens with blood and bones. While leaders are responsible for shaping a nation’s track, they are not solely in line for the guillotine. Until we realize our worth and accountability in the entire change process, no one will fit the mould of a hero we naively create in our minds.
No one will save the day for us, because it’s not theirs to save in the first place. It’s ours.