City Culture – Undo Zia with Ajoka

A lot of people whine about western funding for promoting Sufism and a tolerant (western as some ‘ll protest) brand of Islam. I can empathize with them. It is a valid concern. We have a history of misadventures; Petro-Riyal funded institutions have tarnished ethos of a tolerant society for long and a knee-jerk reaction or a jump across the spectrum will probably create mayhem. If there is anything like western funding for reversing the damage then it has to go to an institute socially responsible and run by brains, and not monsters.

I have an advice. Invest in Ajoka.

Ajoka was in Karachi to perform two of their plays, ‘Burqavaganza’, a controversial play, followed by the brilliant ‘Dara’. If ‘Burqavaganza’ was outrageous (in writer’s own words) then Dara was humble, if ‘Burqavaganza’ was satirical then ‘Dara’ was tragic, if ‘Burqavaganza’ focused on struggle of a street romeo then ‘Dara’ depicted those of a crown prince and if ‘Burqavaganza’ was shrewdly dedicated to Jama’at Islami senator for ‘being source of inspiration’ then ‘Dara’ was sagaciously dedicated to a boy named Dara in the audience. Both plays however were very very relevant to the statuesque.

‘Burqavaganza’ was provoking and bold in every sense. It was banned by PNCA for mocking national dress i.e. Burqa of a brotherly country called Afghanistan. It was supposed to be witty but struggled. jingles were good. Dances were fantastic. Dialogues and delivery lacked originality: Molvis (though with good vocals) part was disastrous but overall ‘Burqavaganza’ is higher-pass for its energy and audacity.

‘Dara’ was near perfect; Qawallis and dances were overwhelming, Dialogues and acting superb, costumes colorful and sets practical. The only slight problem was the length of the play which was aggravated by ageing seats and air-conditioning system at Arts Council.

Four day marathon was concluded by Madiha Gohar’s speech. The concern for financial viability was apparent from her conculding remarks. I could imagine what it would cost to bring a contingent of 50 people without significant corporate support. I felt sorry for myself. They probably wont be coming back to Karachi for a very long time. She expected more people to pop up for the performances and why not? In a city with diminishing cultural activities, Ajoka offered affordable, informative and a very desi show.

I sincerely yearn that Ajoka gets funding and support it deserves for spreading message of tolerance and I give a hoot if its western.

Photo Credits: Ajoka and Dawn

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Categories: City Culture

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7 Comments on “City Culture – Undo Zia with Ajoka”

  1. Shahid
    July 6, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    Sadly, Ajoka might die with only a few remembering what it meant and what it ought to be. Someone might remember it in their memoirs, but nothing more than that.

    • farooqsoomro
      July 7, 2010 at 4:31 am #

      Ajoka thrived under Zia’s repressive rule but now the landscape is totally different. In Sheema Kermani’s words Zia regime was better because everyone knew who the villian was! now mindset of liberal public has changed. we are forced to fear everyone!!

  2. Mackers
    July 6, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Don’t agree, at all. How man people do you think go to watch plays, in Pakistan. Anyways, people pay heed to the opinions of those they consider ‘scholars’, when it comes to religion, not playwrights. The problem is the brain-washing of the common Pakistani, due, in great part, to the “petro-riyal” funding. We have 2 million kids in madrassas, and fundamentalists seem to have a monopoly on the control of these. Since, it is extremely hard for the Gov to close any madrassas, more moderate ones need to be provided funding, giving them a chance to challenge the fundos. You have to understand that many poor parents send their kids to madrassas out of a sense of religious obligation and because of the ancillary benefits that madrassas provide -free-food, daycare, and etc. Many a time, they don’t have a choice of which madrassa to pack of the kids to, much less knowledge of the views of the administrators. We can’t afford many more generations of youth becoming radicalized

    • farooqsoomro
      July 7, 2010 at 4:46 am #

      To me the gradual shift from a culture of theatre, mushairas and baithaks to isolated camps has distanced people from different sects. I dont deny what you have said but consider the curious case of well educated often westernised following hate preachers like Zaid Hamid. They have never gone to a madrassah and probably will crash the gate to watch new megan fox release but at the same time will cry for aurangzeb-zia inspired shari’a. Places like ajoka challenge people to ponder and I have hope in this process. We need to play our part and market such activities. What you have proposed is indeed necessary for our survival but alas, I see no one taking a step forward and assume responsibility to rationalize madrassahs

  3. Mackers
    July 7, 2010 at 5:22 am #

    Ajoka perhaps thrived during Zia’s time because all other mediums were being increasingly censored, and the libs found somewhere to flock to. However, the arts usually thrive in more open societies. The seeds that were sown in Zia’s time are the same ones causing trouble now. It is important to fund Ajoka, but Pakistani society is becoming increasingly conservative, and Ajoka and other endeavors must also have people willing to attend, perform, and generally support plays. The focus must then be on stalling the demographic shift towards conservatism, and, hopefully, reversing it.

    I am optimistic that the problems Pakistan is facing, at the hands of radicals, is galvanizing a movement against them. I think many in the intelligentsia do realize the problem with madrassas and policy-makers, too, will soon concur. Fingers crossed !

  4. July 7, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    Loved the title. “Undo” Zia with Ajoka. How creative could you get.

    I’ll stick to being the reticent woman I am infamous for. Great post, great read. Guess we’re not stuck in stone age after all. Chyeah.

    • farooqsoomro
      July 7, 2010 at 10:29 am #

      muchas gracias.. and like the wise man once said, keep hoping for the best.

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