VIEW: Annual round-up—Munir Attaullah
I did a vain Google search for the longest recorded ‘etakaf’. Notwithstanding that old cliché about virtue being its own reward, should it not be the state duty of an Islamic republic to keep official records of all the various categories of pious activity, and recognise outstanding merit with ‘Pride of Performance’ awards?
It is that time of the year again when some of us run out of gas. With our political and religious leaders — quite uncharacteristically — also recently not showing any signs of providing column-worthy ammunition, I am bereft of ideas. In such circumstances, some variation of that ritual offering, ‘the year in retrospect’, is my standard default solution to the deadline problem. Sheepishly leaning on that particularly pitiful crutch, I will review some of the more striking absurdities of the past twelve months that made me laugh. As many of the items have been collected straight from the Infotainment section of this paper, it is more than possible that readers will be already familiar with most of the stories. But a good story is worth the re-telling.
First things first: Sorry to disappoint you but, no, Dr Shahid Masood et al will not be featuring in this Annual Review. But be sure to tune in next year, for — as they say — it is dollars to doughnuts that those particular inexhaustible wells of incredulity are not about to run dry anytime soon. Secondly, sorely tempted though I am, it would be sacrilege to lift material from Khalid Ahmed’s priceless weekly compilation in TFT of Nuggets from the Urdu Press. It is only proper you pay homage at the shrine yourself rather than drool over a particular relic brazenly stolen by an ardent devotee. The preliminaries over; let us get on with the show.
My first story set me off on a post-modernist mental roller-coaster. As you know, one of the pillars of that faith is the absolute relativity of values: there is no reason to think any particular type of activity may have an intrinsic merit that could establish it as being relatively more desirable than any other activity. So what should we make of the new world record for swallowing live 4-inch earthworms, set by this intrepid man from Chennai? 200 of them in 20 seconds, would you believe, clearly eclipsing the former mark of a measly 94 in 30 seconds. Should one consider the feat as at par with the world record for the 100-metre sprint (a world record is a world record)? Alas! a world ignorant of post-modernist truth, still takes a capriciously different view of the matter.
Who keeps records of such heroics anyway? Curiosity aroused, I reflect that we have separate races for 200m, 400m, 800m etc etc. Are there different records for 2-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch worms? What is the earthworm equivalent of the marathon? Is there a significance to live as opposed to dead worms? I personally feel that dead earthworms properly equate to the flat races while swallowing live ones is akin to hurdling. Added record-keeping complications could arise if the diameter of the earthworm comes into play: a fat one will obviously take more time to slither down the gullet. And would the use of mustard or chilli sauce be the equivalent of taking performance-enhancing drugs? Questions, questions.
Regrettably, there are as yet no sports journalists sufficiently bitten by the post-modernist bug to specialise in such arcane fields of reporting. Where are the ex-champs to guide us through the nitty-gritty with their expert commentary and analysis? With beer drinking, oyster swallowing and hamburger/pizza eating contests now well established, it is only a matter of time before we have organised ‘Food Olympics’. Here is a sporting area where our Punjabi pehlwans could well be world beaters.
Thinking of world records at off-beat activity, I did a vain Google search for the longest recorded etakaf. Notwithstanding that old cliché about virtue being its own reward, should it not be the state duty of an Islamic republic to keep official records of all the various categories of pious activity, and recognise outstanding merit with ‘Pride of Performance’ awards? Here is something for Mr Ijaz ul Haq to be working on.
Then there were the twin absurdities of Mr Javed Hashmi’s arrest for ‘treason’, and its justification by our honourable information minister with the statement that, “Mr Hashmi was serving the cause of the enemy by disparaging the Army”. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, as Monsieur Chirac must have said to our General just the other day. When you read below the immortal words of Marcel Duchamp you will understand why Sheikh Rashid is a post-modernist without knowing it.
The undoubted wisdom of one Mr Naveed Butt, a self-proclaimed leader of an outfit called Hizb ut Tahrir also deserves to be recorded. “It is the duty of an Islamic government to provide the basic needs of the citizen free; it therefore cannot charge for utilities.” Watch out for a future slot on ARY for the honourable gentleman to expand on these views and explain how this can be easily done.
Two reports confirmed that the likes of our very own litigious MD Tahir exist in abundance elsewhere in the world. In California, one Laila Sultan is suing a restaurant after she found a condom in her soup (clam chowder, if you really want to know). She claims she bit into “the rubbery thing” and was so revolted she spent the next 15 minutes vomiting. Was this another imperialist/Zionist/Hindu plot against chaste Muslim womanhood?
My legal and scientific antennae were immediately aroused. Secret experiments in the kitchen (as DT does not subsidise investigative reporting I was forced to use the humble tomato soup) confirmed my suspicions: a condom will float on the surface and be visible; certainly it is clearly visible when picked up by the soup spoon. At the very least therefore, the defence of contributory negligence should be available to the restaurant. But then I remembered that science sets rigorous standards of proof. It is possible that the specific gravity of clam chowder is such that a condom will not float; and if the colour of clam chowder matches that of a condom the visibility conclusion may not hold either. Perhaps I should call upon the resident culinary expert, Irfan Husain, to verify my conclusions independently with a more real-life simulation. Unlike me, he is sure to know how to make good clam chowder; but does he know where to find a condom?
In Belgium, grieved relatives were solemnly gathered around the coffin of the deceased in the premises of the undertaker, when they were startled — and allegedly frightened — by the ringing of a mobile phone inside the coffin. They have filed suit for emotional distress. If ever proof was needed of the spiritual bankruptcy of the West, and our own undoubted superiority, this is it. The defence should hire the masterminds of our Istakhara programme on ARY, to explain to the jury the beneficial mysteries of Ilm-al-Ghaib.
Finally, the piece de resistance. The recent poll of all who matter on the British art scene, to decide on “the most influential artwork of the 20th century”, produced a result that raised many an eyebrow. No, Ijaz ul Hassan didn’t figure; nor did my sisters’ Daidh Eent (it should have, seeing who won). And Picasso’s seminal 1907 work Le Demoiselles d’Avignon, and the Spanish civil war masterpiece Guernica, only managed 2nd and 4th place respectively. The runaway winner was The Fountain, by the French surrealist Marcel Duchamp: an actual 1917 white porcelain men’s urinal that he simply mounted upside down on a New York gallery wall, and declared, “it is Art simply because I say it is Art.”
Shades of the President’s pronouncements on our Democracy?
The writer is a businessman