I stopped tuning in to the local desi FM channels a while ago, when the anti-Pakistan bias became too pronounced to be ignored, when the RJs (or whatever they are calling them today) became ever more unbearable and their linguistic shortcomings began to catch up with the grey-matter shortfall in their heads too frequently, and when most of the music they played fell under explicit or implicit shirk – this seemed to have been the latest fad in bollywood ‘lyrics’, where every next song had a couplet declaring some kind of blasphemy like “Rab deewana huwa” or “Rub bhulaney ko dil chahe” or whatever it was they said.
It was quite convenient for me to stop listening to these stations, of which there are no less than five, simply because my CD collection is diverse enough and entertaining enough for me. I inserted a Tina Sani, a Fuzon, a Junaid Jamshed, a Jesse Cook, and a compilation of Pakistani music in the magazine months ago and have not felt the need to replace those CDs with others from even my own collection during this period. Sometimes, when I do not feel like listening to music, I turn the volume down and listen to the magic of my own voice in my head, or to BBC. I have hardly ever had to tune in to the obnoxious mind-rot that are desi FM stations.
I was stuck in traffic yesterday, and on an impulse switched to the desi presets on my FM2, just in time to catch a certain listener Mr. Murali calling in to the show on at the time. The show is hosted by some young chap, who is still finding his bearings in the big bad world of media, but he tries his best and when he makes mistakes, they are honest; so you forgive him. Now he hosts a sports show, where he puts a question to the audience and people call in – the standard formula, and the standard irritating callers with their ‘expert’ opinions. This Murali character, however, had other things in mind.
He launched into a tirade against Pakistan, and suggested that Pakistan be boycotted by ICC just the way South Africa was in the past for its apartheid policies. He believed that this was the only way to teach a lesson to Pakistan, and though, in his view, Bangladesh would be the only country to oppose such a move (his assumption quite obviously rooted in the fact that Muslim countries would stick together, which if had been the case Israel would have been a small city in the suburbs of New York, but that is another discussion – at this point it only laid bare his hatred for Muslims), ICC ought to push ahead with the boycott having the (financial) might and clout of Indian cricket at its back.
I was shocked. And incensed – that he had the audacity to spew his hatred on air in this country as if he were sitting in Narender Modi’s Gujrat; that the radio station allowed this hateful speech to continue and end in its own time, and that they failed to denounce the caller and his views and distance themselves from those views in the strongest terms immediately after the call.
After years of believing that calling into radio stations with one’s views was a futile exercise, and a complete wastage of time and money, I began to dial the number of the radio station frantically, hoping for the call to get through, willing it to get through, only to discover that he was to be the last caller of the day for the program. The call left a bad taste in my mouth, and a few hundred of kilos of fury, disgust and utter disdain for any and all Murali like characters I encountered after that call – and since I was in Dubai, and stuck in a traffic jam, I had possible Muralis all around me. I have a feeling I managed to not succumb to road rage, but only just. I did roll down my windows, made sure the Pakistan flag hanging from my center view mirror was prominently visible, and contrary to my usual driving habits refused to offer any courtesy to any Muralis. It did not help at all.
I was looking for confrontation yesterday, and daring any and all. Fortunately for all parties involved no-one took me up on my offer; not even the guy sitting at the coffee shop in Bur Juman, whom I gave the full honor of listening to my incensed recounting of the incident to a friend and then proceeded to stare down in person. The raging fury simmered down to seething anger, and I stayed determined to address the offense.
So I waited, and called the radio station today; and while I stayed polite and within confines of acceptable language on air, I got the whole thing out of my system. Here is how the conversation went:
I called, and the RJ answered. He asked if he could put me on hold for sometime, and I told him he could as long as he did not put me on hold for a half hour. He declared that he would only put me on hold for a couple of hours, to which I assured him it would not be a problem as long as it were not a half hour. It was bad humor, granted, but it broke the ice. He promised to call me back in a few minutes, and I rallied my thoughts in the meantime.
And then, the call came. I had been listening to the previous callers on the topic of the day, so when he asked my opinion, I told him, my opinion had already been stated quite accurately, and that I liked his program and how he conducted it (not a complete lie), but that I had a few concerns to share, and I would share them if he did not disconnect my call and let me complete. He promised he would not and would respectively.
At this point, I brought up the Murali moron’s call, and reminded him of what he had said and asked for. I made it clear that I had expected the Radio station to come up with damage control after the call, and for them to distance themselves from the zealot’s views. I let him know how disappointed in the radio station I was, and how offended by the call I was as a Pakistani listener, and since the radio station had not replied to the zealot’s views, I felt compelled to offer a response.
At this point, I half expected them to cut me short, but due credit to the guys for playing fair this time and letting the Pakistani rebuttal through as well.
I started by asserting that if there were indeed a nation on Earth today which needed to be ostracised from International sporting activities for its aparthied like policies, it was India and not Pakistan. Here we have a country, where a mass murderer like Narendera Modi is elected to the office of chief minister twice through democratic procedure of voting; Narendera Modi, the guy who was refused a visa by even the United States because of his involvement in the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat, and here he was being elected! So, the majority who voted for this man condoned his actions, and rewarded him for his murderous role. Quite obviously, he was being elected not despite but because of his role in the savage murder of 2000+ Muslims in ‘secular’ India. What happened to the Christians in Orissa was not hidden from anyone, and the Dalits – the untouchables – have been ostracised from Indian (read Hindu) society for much of the past two thousand years – their crime? Born to the wrong parents in the wrong caste. Until and unless, India set the record straight and understood what was meant by the word Secular, India needed to be boycotted from all international events and communities.
What I forgot to add was the fact that while Pakistan is labeled with all kinds of unflattering titles, and presented as the hot bed of terrorist and extremist activity, the fact remains that in the 60-year history of the country, the extremist mullahs have never formed the National Government. We have borne the brunt of military dictators, but we have steered clear of voting the fire-brand mullahs into the executive offices of the country. The MMAs and the JUI, for all their posturing and political activity, have always been marginalized in every election. The people of Pakistan have never voted in an extremist party, while in India, on the contrary, the BJP/RSS/Shiv Sena nexus has formed national government more than twice in the last two decades despite its hate filled agenda. Who then needed to be ostracized for aparthied – a people who resolutely denounce extremism every time they go to the ballots, or a people who reward their murderous zealots with re-election for their bloody achievements?
It did not matter though.
I am sorry I had to make that call. I am sorry I had to say things which my friends from India, and I have some very dear Indian friends – Muslims, and Non-Muslims both, might have found offensive and objectionable. But I am also happy that I spoke up today when I should have spoken up and when I needed to speak up.
I hate no-one, and I respect the sovereignty and the honor of every nation, including India. I object not to the near-complete oblivion of these radio stations to the fact that there is good Pakistani music being made all the time, and I do not even object to displays of an Indian patriotism by these radio stations even though when they are to be neutral radio stations catering to the Urdu/Hindi segment of this country and region, which roughly is split 45/55 Pakistanis and Indians, since most South Indians listen to radio stations in their own language. But when someone brings up my country, they had better show the same respect they expect from me for their country, or more.
Else, I intend to come out all guns firing every time they fire a shot this way.