You must have seen the ice bucket challenge by now, an online charity awareness campaign that went viral (like an STD on a directionless ship, if my Facebook is taken into consideration) a few weeks ago and involved people posting short videos in which they emptied a bucket of cold water on their heads and pranced around afterwards in various states of glacial regret. They then nominated other people (their “friends”, usually) to take the same challenge within 24 hours. The campaign is meant to increase awareness of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. (It affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal chord.) Eventually, celebrities started posting their own ice-bucket challenges, and the trend went global; and that’s how it arrived on my Facebook page, with most of my desi friends using it to donate money to local charities.
It’s a fine idea, I think. It won’t cure cancer (or ALS) immediately, but it’s a fun way for all of us to feel somewhat connected and informed. I mean, I’ve learned more about the disease in the last two weeks than I had in the last two decades. Other enjoyable outcomes include a fugitive’s capture by police after he stupidly uploaded his ice-bucket-challenge video with the address of his hiding place on full display.
Why, you may ask here, am I not dripping with ice water yet? Well, I have two reasons (so far). One: in a sad flashback to my experience of high-school sporting events, no one has picked me yet. Secondly, and vastly more importantly, I know that when that icy water cascades down my body and I shake my hair out like a model in a shampoo commercial, I won’t look like a dripping-wet-celeb-with-abs so much much as a gerbil-that-fell-into-the-toilet-bowl. Not gonna lie: those wet T-shirts are clingy and I’m still holding onto some holiday weight from my summer trip. (It’s as if those croissants I ate in France are currently procreating in my love handles.)
Speaking of damp squibs, the dharna is still raging while I write this, and Imran Khan is all up in the news cycle (only in Pak, btw. The rest of the world doesn’t really care about Naya Pakistan, what with Gaza and the Kardashians having stolen its thunder). Through the week I saw all of the PTI leadership on that “container” (if only it could contain their craziness) while having confident, open-air tactical discussions. I could see, from the way they genuflected and frowned and mouthed angry nothings, that they were trying to work out their position, just ‘coz, you know, that’s something you always do after you’ve mounted your remove-the-government/bring-on-the-coup campaign. Watching these shenanigans take place, I couldn’t not notice a flushed-looking Khan lecturing the world at large (“Oyeeeeeeee….!”) while wagging his finger at anyone who dared to speak. It was the clearest indicator yet that there is no consensus within his party; there’s only him and his opinions. I can swear that at one point I even saw Shah Mehmood Qureshi stand up from his chair, only to have Khan wave him away with a ‘Talk to the hand’ gesture, which forced the otherwise aristocratic SMQ to sit down again in his (decidedly unimportant) chair. (Thankfully, SMQ’s back was turned to the camera and his crestfallen face was spared public viewing. SM Kyun?)
At this point it’s almost too easy to write about Imran Khan. There is just so much material to work with, and you’re guaranteed at least some traction because everyone has an opinion about him. I often wonder if ignoring him might work out better for us as a nation. But that’s hard to do this week, partly because he’s up in everyone’s grill and refusing to “step down”, as it were; and partly because he’s said too many hilarious things that need to be appreciated, if not analyzed into a black hole of meaning. I’m thinking in particular about something he said in one of his later speeches during the dharna, that remark about wanting a Naya Pakistan so he could get on with the business of getting married. It elicited a roar of approval, or shock, or outrage, it was hard to tell by the noise alone, from the crowd gathered before him. (I really do believe a lot of people still flock to Imran Khan because he used to be hot.) It was like an episode of The Bachelor: Pak Edition.
[quote]Imran Khan’s marital prospects are not a good enough reason to have a revolution[/quote]
“Hello and welcome to Who Wants to Marry Mr. Khan. Do you dream of my sweaty pecs at night? Ever wonder what’s under my back brace? Want to play ball with the captain?”
I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. Imran Khan’s marital prospects are not a good enough reason to have a revolution, not here, not anywhere; I don’t care how many Englishwomen fell in love with him in the 80s. If anything, that sort of gloating exacerbates the tyrannies of our hyper-chauvinistic culture. (Would we have been proud of an Oxford-educated woman who had dated the oldest, nastiest upper-class in the world and danced regularly at Tramp?) No, let us please be rightly skeptical of anyone who uses their international celebrity to prove their egalitarian credentials. (“I already got everything I wanted,” the Imran Khan Legend goes. “Which is why I’m selfless and singularly suited to become your head of state.”)
I mean, I still don’t know Imran Khan’s position regarding peace and/or trade with India. (Hate on Nawaz Sharif all you like, but at least we know where he stands on that matter.) I still don’t know what Khan actually, really, deep-down-inside thinks about the Taliban. (Hate on BB all you like, but at least we knew how she felt about that enterprise.)
One of the curious side-effects of all this agitation for Naya Pakistan, of course, is that Tahirul Qadri and Asif Zardari are looking and smelling like flowers. TUQ because he seems reasonable, even intelligent, in comparison to the Unhinged One, and Zardari because he gets to play the Dumbledore of Pakistani Politics.
All of which makes me want to throw an ice bucket on my head. For sanity, if not for charity.
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