Our boys of Aalu Anday
Do you know how long it takes for kids to grow up in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? One and a half week. If you don’t believe me, listen to this story. It involves eggs, potatoes and three boys—and it’s scary.
The three boys went to school together. They were best friends. One boy was extensively tall, one unsuitably short, and the last one was just fifteen. They were nice, proper boys who kept their hair neatly oiled and parted on the sides and their neckties on even in the sweltering Lahori heat. They were good boys in most ways—respectful of their teachers, got along okay with their parents—but they had a problem. Each day when they opened their plastic lunchboxes, they got kicked in the nostrils by the cold, greasy reek of boiled eggs and potato curry. It was disgusting. But since that’s all they had to eat, they shut up and ate it. It was painful and it went on like that for a while, but one day their inner demons got the better of them. And then they just let it rip. It all led to the Aalu Anday music video last week.
This isn’t the scary bit though.
These ex-nice boys started calling themselves the Beghairat Brigade and launched a music video that chronicles their descent from niceties. It features, among other things, exaggerated facial expressions, inappropriate hip-movements, formula-1 flags painted on the faces, and placards and song lyrics which make fun of everybody—including those who think that the boys could be killed for making the video. The song was a hit. The world at large was in shock and it quickly united in opinion that these boys were not being funny at all but rather deadly serious, and here’s where the really scary part begins.
If you observe the first interview the Beghairat boys gave, which was aired, quite incredibly, the very day after the launch of their video, you’ll notice what their emphasis was: nothing. There is no agenda, no teaching point; they are just having fun, and in many cases saying things they don’t even believe in (it’s there for the rhymes). They are clear in stating that Aalu Anday does not mean anything, it was a phrase they liked, it went with the tune, and so they bummed it. It’s a catchy ploy, in other words. But then, a week and a half later, watch foray on NDTV and you’ll see the change: all of a sudden the boys are talking about the deep messages in their work. When the NDTV presenter pushed them they even agreed that ‘Aalu Anday’ signified/symbolized Pakistan’s present reality while ‘chicken di boti’ (piece of chicken) was what they wanted Pakistan to be.
It took us precisely one and a half week to help the boys lose their funny and start parroting the talk of the town.
Let me just say this more plainly: what is not being said about the Aalu Anday video is precisely what makes it tick. Here are a bunch of kids who are having fun with the world that gives them constant grief. The subversiveness of their video lies precisely in generating laughter and dance and inappropriate hip-movements from something we all have consigned to the status of Mighty and Holy. These boys are our heroes because they have chosen to laugh in the face of a world that wants them to be all-serious all the time. But of course we are serious people, and laughter is never enough. We want messages and nice worked out solutions to all our political problems. And we want all of it in music videos. So help us God.
However, there is much to be said about laughter and its subversive role in arts, but I have hit the word ceiling, so here’s a poem instead. Meanwhile, I recommend more Aalu Anday for the constipated. Cheers.
The Sea and the Man
by Anna Swir
You will not tame this sea
either by humility or rapture.
But you can laugh
in its face.
was invented by those
who lived briefly
as a burst of laughter.
The eternal sea
will never learn to laugh.
Translated from Polish by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Natham
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