Halloween: Partying at what cost?

Published: October 31, 2011

how many more incidents of Raja Khan’s nature will it take to make us wake up and take notice of the reality that is fast becoming our identity?

The end of October this year brings us news of the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha break and once again people flock to any and every place bearing livestock to purchase their sacrificial animals. For others though, the end of October marks the advent of new preparations for an entirely different kind of celebration.

I present to you, ladies and gentlemen ‘the Halloween party’.

Never mind the number of shops selling awkwardly coloured Superman and Batman costumes, and schools that are organizing costume parties over the more traditional Eid gatherings. These lavish extravaganzas are aiming to take All Hallow’s Eve to a whole new level. Shiny disco balls, dance floors, loud music and probably just the right amount of illegal liquor to make things slippery are inviting individuals with money to burn to indulge in their pleasures.

I understand that proceeds from most events organized on a grand scale in Karachi, generally go to charity. However, I only understood this after some research. Thus, most people buying tickets to these events do not know that some or most or any of the proceeds are going to charity. The are willing to put out obscene amounts of money, not for the charity aspect, just to have a night of fun.

Now, before I move on, let this be on the record: it is your money and you are free to do as you wish. That said, it would be fair to consider an opinion that isn’t in favour of these events.

Suffice it to say that no amount of money is being spared in setting up the most attractive event of them all. Naturally, this increases the exclusivity of the crowd that will be able to attend, and the price of tickets rise in proportion.

One particular Club Night comes with the cool entry fee of Rs5,000. Just to put this in perspective, an entrant will be spending the equivalent of 70 percent of the minimum wage prescribed by the current government, which is fixed at Rs7,000. On the one hand you have those spending such large amounts without a second thought, and on the other you have individuals like Raja Khan who are resorting to gruesome methods of suicide in the face of abject poverty. The man travelled to the capital in the hopes of highlighting his plight and securing a means out of his miserable fiscal situation. Upon failure to find his area’s MNA – who had gone to Garhi Khuda Bux for the funeral of Nusrat Bhutto – the overwhelming frustration caused him to set fire to himself outside the Parliament House.

This definitely begs the question: is spending such large sums of money for a night full of (potential) debauchery really worth it? Especially considering that this same money will be denied to an organization working for, let’s say, flood relief for those affected by this year’s torrential downpour? Most will probably not take well to this point, citing the rampant corruption within the system and the cases of fraud that have misallocated prior donations as a reason for their lack of interest. But these same people will invariably roll up their tinted windows and cruise by students of several private universities who are standing with boxes in hand asking for charity.

Have we really been driven to such extremes of apathy towards our own countrymen that using a foreign holiday as an excuse to have a party seems more appealing than spending the same money towards our community’s betterment? Again, I’m not attacking anyone personally, but in the face of the country’s status quo, it seems we have misplaced our priorities as a whole.

Let’s drop the morality of it and look at the practicality of things. There is the general complaint that even a city like Karachi does not have enough events to keep its populace entertained, hence the reason so many exclusive Club Nights pop up on every occasion. It can also b e argued that the reason for the high costs is to provide quality entertainment without compromising the host’s profit shares, and these will indeed be valid arguments. But then I ask you, how many more incidents of Raja Khan’s nature will it take to make us wake up and take notice of the reality that is fast becoming our identity?

Or maybe that’s the reason we’re having so many parties to begin with. Maybe we’re a nation so far in denial that the only way to escape from everything is to drown ourselves in the latest Tiesto mix while dressed up as one of the Pussycat Dolls?

If this is indeed the case, then I don’t think I need to spell out how sadly that reflects on us.

Ovais.Munshi

Ovais Munshi

The author is LUMS undergrad majoring in Biology who has previously coached an A'level debate team and is now making slow progress towards a grad school portfolio. He tweets @grumpcoach

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Zulfiqar Ali Mughal

    Well written article !!Recommend

  • Tribune Reader

    I take it, you did not get invited to one of those exclusive Halloween parties or got pushed off due to the Couples only Entry policy? LolRecommend

  • Patriot

    the above statement shows the EXACT mentality of our people, when a person tries to fix what is around him and makes people aware, others ridicule him.Recommend

  • samia gul

    why we are dying to adopt dirty foreign culture without any sense? Recommend

  • Maha

    Tribune reader……………GROW UP !Recommend

  • Omega Supreme

    @author: Celebration of pagan festivities is clearly forbidden in Islam. This article is spot on.Recommend

  • maestro

    Does the writer realize that Pakistan is officially been noted as the highest charity giving country to its own people? I forget the name of organization that announced this recently but it was a well known international transparency group. We give as much as we can to our countrymen and women. I personally rarely come back from a market without having helped some one in some way. It saddens me and I know many of my compatriots to see our poor brothers and sisters. Do you not think that we want everyone in Pak with at least all the basic neccessities at their disposal? Of course we do – and we do our little part to help which doesnt need to be noticed because thats not the purpose. Now, if you are concerned that people want to have a good time in an entertainment starved country and they can afford it with, as you said, their OWN money, than whats your problem? So what if its a foreign concept. Halloween allows one time of the year to people to dress funny to show their humorous side – when they don’t have to worry about which shirt to match with which pants and shoes and try to look good. Instead, it is one time that its ok to look ridiculous and have a laugh – as long as its done tastefully and not offensive which is the case in most halloween parties i have been to in Pak. And if there’s “illegal liquor” -let me tell you i have been to villages in poor areas of Pak and there I have seen people making their own liquor (dangerous as heck). People who want to have a drink will drink – regardless of their social standing. Again everyone answers to God for their actions not to you or any mullah. As long as they don’t hurt others or cause problems, what they do in private is their own business not yours. Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    Never been to a Halloween party in Pakistan, but dude lighten up. Judgmental pieces about those looking to have fun are just stupid. Recommend

  • Saad Hasnain

    An Eye Opening Piece….Well Written Brother!!..Recommend

  • maestro

    @Omega Supreme:
    So don’t go to a Halloween party then. Who made you the judge of people who go? Recommend

  • Sara

    thoughtful….. and well articulated piece! Recommend

  • Dua

    I second to Mr. Noman Ansari but Pakistan’s public will never learn or realise how to live balancing life untill unless they are not critisized by someone. Recommend

  • waqqas iftikhar

    look, your article touches a chord on an emotional level, but when all the money is going to charity anyway, why deny people the fun? Entertainment like this is expensive for a number of reason including exclusivity and particularly the illegality of the event which makes the cost even higher. There are other countries, even places like the USA where people are going hungry at the same time as when some people are throwing lavish parties…..you cant force sensibility and care, if someone actually believes in foregoing his or her entertainment to contribute to a cause, they probably will, if they dont, no amount of shaming them or coaxing them will work.Recommend

  • Mj

    @samia gul:
    Is Islam native to Pakistan?Recommend

  • B

    ‘The are willing to put out obscene amounts of money, not for the charity aspect, just to have a night of fun.’

    You seem to have a problem with people having fun.
    Have you ever had fun?Recommend

  • Sarah

    @maestro: thanks for that sensible piece. well written!Recommend

  • teeb

    I can guarantee you that most of the people who celebrate Holloween in Pakistan doesn’t even know anything about it. Dude, if you want to copy the west, copy something that helps you become a good person. Try to become more educated and more aware of the things that makes you a good person and builds a strong community.

    Celebrating Holloween when your country is in a state of disaster, where people are dying, committing suicides, doesn’t make you cool, infact, that shows what your priorities are, as said by the author.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    Ridiculous and astonishingly sanctimonious.

    In a country where Maulana Yusuf Qureshi, in the midst of the flood crisis, offered Rs.5,00,000 to have Aasia Bibi, mother of five kids, killed for blasphemy. Where millions of rupees are lost in hajj scandals, a religious practice that the government shouldn’t be paying for in the first place. Where we spend more money buying bakras for Eid that you can spend in a dozen halloween parties (and only a fraction of it ever really goes to charity. The rest really just circulates among our financially-secure friends, relatives and coworkers).

    ..THIS is what you chose to rant about? A bunch of teenagers enjoying themselves at a party? A Halloween celebration is what’s going to bring this country down?

    Get your priorities straightened out!Recommend

  • Faisal

    Agree with Noman Ansari. You just really wanted to write something that would get comments. Country may be in a bad state but that does not mean everyone just sits at home and cries. Recommend

  • Daniel Chan

    I know alot of people who attend ”’Club Night” . They work hard all week and contribute to many charities and development projects. If the recent floods over the last two years showed anything its the private sector that stepped up and alot of them are your club night crowd.

    Our country going through a tough time and we could use any to reason to celebrate and forget about our worries even its for one night. Most people in Pakistan are stressed and constantly worried about the economy and political situation. By no means are we in denial.Recommend

  • Saad

    No need to bring Islam into this, really. Since the author didn’t even mention it once in the article!Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    @Mj:
    Since Samia Gul is not willing to reply to your post, I am taking the liberty of doing so. Islam was not indigenous to India and consequently to Pakistan. It was a religion of invaders and conquerors. Therefore, by definition, the Islamic culture was foreign to India. Now it is all a question of timing; what may seem foreign today may become local in a thousand years or so. Recommend

  • Ammar Ahmad

    Did you get rejected for a Halloween party ?
    Let guys have fun. I don’t see rich people in Saudi/ India going out of their way to help the poor so why is.
    Suck it up my friendRecommend

  • rehmat

    @Ammar Ahmad:
    “Let guys have fun”.

    I agree. Why are you jumping to the conclusion that these people who go to these parties have not also contributed to flood relief? Maybe they contributed 3 times as much to flood relief. But it does not mean that if there was a flood in the country no-one else in the country can do anything to enjoy themselves. Also the economy climbs by people being motivated to earn more. But if they cannot enjoy at least some of their hard earned money without people like the author passing judgment – why should they do that?

    I don’t see rich people in Saudi/ India going out of their way to help the poor.”

    What do you know? Jhunjhunwala has given 33% of his wealth for charity. Azim Premji has donated $2 billion towards improving public school education. Shiv Nadar is making a big contribution towards the vocational education and skill upgradation of youth. Plus just like people give money at the maids, Hindus give money to big temple charities that run schools, hospitals etc. So this comparison is not based on any knowledge or facts and could hae been avoided.Recommend

  • Aftab Zaidi

    “Let’s drop the morality of it and look at the practicality of things.”

    After going on at length about “the morality of it” you decide to drop it. Sorry, but your piece sounds like a whiny rant that some people have fun and you choose to use sweeping generalisations to define them. Boohoo to you tooRecommend

  • rani of jhansi

    A 23 year old with 3 children decided to set himself on fire rather than take the harder route and work as a laborer to support the kids he should not have had in the first place. and you want me to ruin my weekend over it? no thanks mate.Recommend

  • Imaan Q

    @ teeb
    Projecting positive thoughts…. good one!!!Recommend

  • Ovais Munshi

    @Saad:

    Thank you Saad.Recommend

  • sars

    Why is having a party on halloween (or christmas or Dewali or hannukah for that matter) any worse than buying ridiculously priced smuggled cattle to show off and having a barbecue to feed all your equally wealthy friends and relatives.

    The halloween party goers are often the same ones donating to the citizens foundation and SIUT and other charities that strive to minimise the inequalities between the haves and have nots.

    Why do you get to judge???Recommend

  • Adeel Suhail

    Nice article, but would be much better if Islamic point of view is added to it. We unfortunately try to keep Islam separate from our view. I don’t know why we do that, since our life, activities should be based on the teaching of Islam.

    Halloween is big No in Islam. Unfortunately lack of knowledge of Islam is one of the reason we are ok with this idea & thing is just a time pass with no meaning.

    I strongly suggest kindly search on google for some info on Halloween in Islam. All links might not be 100% right. But you will have fair idea of what i am talking about.

    May Allalh guide us to right path.AmeenRecommend

  • MK

    if i’ve learnt one thing, it’s this: To each, his own. Why oh why must we judge others by their lifestyles, beliefs or what they choose to spend on? It’s a free world, live it, you’re responsible for your own actions. Who cares if people want to party on Halloween? Frankly, I’d rather be discussing whether Imran Khan’s going to win or not, or How Khar is doing in the foreign policy. Urgh. Tribune, pls show some class to your content next time. It’s frustrating reading stuff that appears to be targeted to 9th graders.Recommend

  • Ovais Munshi

    @MK:

    By your own logic sir: to each his own,no?Recommend

  • ZS

    @Patriot:
    The author through this woefully written piece shows no intentions of fixing anything. All hes doing is capitalizing on the building xenophobia and narrow mindedness that is growing in our country. The purpose of this piece was not to solve any problems, it was a cheap poorly written attempt at getting people talking. Not a single constructive solution to poverty has been provided in the article, instead he has blamed and passed judgement on everyone he could think of.

    We’re poor as a people not because a few of us have all the money. We’re poor because we have failed to sustain ourselves. That is a failure that every single one of us is responsible for.Recommend

  • Anthony Permal

    @the author

    By your logic, those who spent crores on one single cow only to kill it in a few days are equally guilty of the alleged apathy. Right? Why no article about them?

    Those who buy the most luxurious cars and live in the snazziest villas in the most upscale areas – and who are completely all-generation Pakistani with Pakistani morals and cultural inclinations – are equally guilty again, right? How dare they buy million dollar houses and Prados or Audis when that money can be spent on the flood victims?

    If you’re going to rant about something, don’t generalise. Blatant generalisation is what causes extremism in mentalities. Recommend

  • http://www.salmanzq.com Salman Qureshi

    Sorry dude don’t agree at all. We can’t cut off all entertainment and spending. There are even worse situations in some African countries. Does that mean I stop living completely? I do feel compassion for them and I do what I can but I’d go crazy if I didnt have the odd entertainment. And for those stuck in Pakistan, I’m sure they need some sort of activities to vent out their frustrations. It’s probably whats keeping them sane. And moreover agree with Loneliberal – many more places where money is being wasted!Recommend

  • Pir Ali Raza

    for the most part i agree with you but on the other hand you cant just be apologetic for having a good time for a change. yea things are bad in our country but that doesnt mean we just lock our selves in our rooms and ponder over it. there are people who work hard all week and they deserve a break. on the other hand club night is a sham where you spent 5k over nothing. Recommend

  • Pearl

    I live in USA and have some Jewish and Christian friends as well who strictly doesn’t follow this pagan festival rather then correcting your deeds and stop following your lust do something productive then dressing up yourselves as fools which these people actually are doesnt have to show ..! Recommend

  • Salman

    Holloween??? common, is there any limit for wannabeism??…..i think the idea comes from people who have lived in a first world country as a third class citizen, and try to live their lives in a third world country as first class citizen. Recommend

  • AArshad

    @ Salman
    couldn’t agree with you more.Recommend

  • Asif

    The author IS NOT condoning the many frivolities that come with living in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Yes, it is extremely wrong to be handing out blood money for Aasia Bibi, or rewards for Qadri, paying unholy rates for bakras and camels in these present times. HOWEVER, that remains an ignorant attitude which needs to be rectified and exists in all classes of the country. Lower-middle class people will STILL buy animals for qurbani despite the exorbitant rates and that is the main reason why the demand is sustained and prices keep rising.

    Halloween, please don’t kill me for saying this, is only associated with a certain educated class of people who have exposure to this ‘pagan ritual’. BECAUSE of their education, they should know better than to be so callous in spending ridiculous amounts.

    By all means, we have every right to party. But come on, I would feel like an apathetic brat paying 5 grand for a New Year’s party. Halloween? Seriously?Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @Anthony Permal:

    Well said Anthony.

    I just find the piece absurdly judgmental and short sighted. So someone spent 5K at a Halloween party to unwind. How do you know he doesn’t spent 10 times that to help the poor? And even if he does or doesn’t, who is anyone to judge? I know of a lot of philanthropists who like to have a good time, but don’t ‘show off’ regarding their charity work.

    You see them having a good time at a party, or driving a luxury vehicle, and are suddenly making judgment calls?

    I think it is quite dangerous, this self righteous attitude. Recommend

  • 10th

    People spend that Rs5000 because they can. Does it affect you? No.

    As you mentioned, most event organizers end up donating to charity (at least they claim to). Had these people not spent Rs5000 on a Halloween party, would they have rather given that money to this Raja Khan fellow? I guess not. For all I know, the money they spent ended up being donated to charity and helped avoid more cases like that.

    In your blog you write:

    Maybe we’re a nation so far in denial
    that the only way to escape from
    everything is to drown ourselves in
    the latest Tiesto mix while dressed up
    as one of the Pussycat Dolls?

    By those standards, pretty much the whole world is so far in denial. I’ll just assume you’ve never travelled abroad and are simply deluded about the western world. People spend thousands of dollars on clubbing – simply because they can.

    If the state of one’s country is crap, does he have to live like crap too?

    Stop being such a closed-minded freak. Live and let live, and spend your free time on something more constructive than criticizing people having fun.Recommend

  • Sara Kazi

    ovais, so proud of you! absolutely loved this article!Recommend

  • Ovais Munshi

    @10th:

    I’ll just assume you’ve never travelled abroad and are simply deluded about the western world.

    It’s funny how you can so quickly assume how extensively I’ve traveled based on an article. I really admire the insight with which you’re able to deduce that. Can you teach me how to do that?Recommend

  • Build – Don’t Break.

    This hatred of all things foreign is detrimental to Pakistan as a whole. People from other cultures – especially the oft-criticized mass that is the “West” – celebrate Eid, Diwali, Hannukah, and a number of other diverse religious and cultural festivals. Why? Because they’re open to the idea of exploration. They’re not worried that celebrating Diwali is going to turn them into a staunch Hindu. They don’t think that just because they wish their Muslim friends “Eid Mubarak”, they must re-think their religious beliefs.
    If we keep closing ourselves off to the outside world, we’re going to implode as a nation – everyone angry at each other, everyone’s tempers getting hotter and hotter – till all the multiple types of people start firing more and more shots. And then, there’s mutually assured destruction. Start thinking peacefully. Concentrate on yourself, and your own ways of helping out. Don’t preach to others by criticizing their choice of activities. Advancing charity-work is admirable. But advance it in a positive vein – don’t associate it with negativity.
    Celebrate other cultures – or, at the very least, let the people who celebrate other cultures be.
    Everyone needs to unwind. Yes, our country is in a shocking state. Yes, the discrepancies are glaring, obvious, appalling. But throwing a party, getting together with friends, taking a night of to relax and celebrate – doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten that. It is a fund-raising event. Even if it wasn’t – people would go. The percentage of people all over the world who spend every single second of their lives dedicated to charity work, the percentage of people who never stop to take time off for themselves, is probably very very small. In fact, it may even be non-existent.
    We need to stop criticizing each other’s choices. Yes, some people may be “Westernized”. Some may like the concept of a “party”. Others may prefer to relax by staying home with the family and playing a board-game. Others may find their enjoyment doing charity-work.
    I’m not saying we should be selfish. I’m saying we should be open, accepting. Don’t criticize people’s personal lives – and perhaps we can begin to run more smoothly.
    Everyone doesn’t have to think the same way for progress to be made. Our country would have to shrink ridiculously if that was the case. And by trying to impose one concept of “what’s right” – that shrinking is being forced.Recommend