As any second generation, British-Born Pakistani living with their parents under one roof can vouch for this – the battle for the TV remote is an extremely contentious issue.
To the outsider it may seem like a petty argument between two family members over a remote control but it’s much bigger than that. There’s a lot of discussion and numerous theories about people from the subcontinent who came to work in the UK and settle here, and their growing alienation with their own offspring born and bred here.
I would say it all boils down to the fight over the remote. Let me explain: your average Pakistani offspring can hardly speak in their parents’ native tongue and has no real emotional ties with the land of their ancestors a place they’ve probably only visited twice.
Their patriotism for Pakistan is limited to once in 4 years when the Cricket World Cup is on.
The parents on the other hand have a never ending obsession and need to know about every single event in their country.
I’ve often caught my father listening to the weather report for the weekend in Gujrat and considering that he’s been back to Pakistan once in the past 5 years – not sure why he would find that useful?
The elder generation may have been here for more than 5 decades but the passion to stay abreast of what’s going on back home is the same as the day they arrived on these shores.
Initially this was not a problem because the parents would have to suffice with ‘The Daily Jang’ a Pakistani newspaper that would offer enough titbits about back home.
So the remote was never an issue, it only became a problem with the arrival of several Pakistani channels on sky. The numerous political shows further escalated the battle of the remote.
I mean Sopranos, Manchester United vs. Barcelona, and X factor are not something that I think my parents would mark in the TV Guide as ‘Must Watch’. By the same token Pakistani Dramas, the numerous Pakistani Political shows, and hourly PTV news bulletins are not my idea of good night in either. It may sound a tad dramatic but I would go as far as saying that our viewing preferences are so different you may as well have George Bush and Osama Bin Laden fighting over the remote. I’ve no problem with the desire to stay in touch with Pakistan, but my main bugbear is the quantity of Pakistani Political shows and as a result the hogging of the remote.
In England on TV we have two main Political shows Question Time and Newsnight, the whole week, that’s about it – and England created Democracy.
However my father seems to watch at least five a night across several channels.
It was getting to the point where just the background music of a Pakistani political show would get me fuming.
The thing with Pakistani dramas is they’re watched by your mothers who you can normally sweet talk but with fathers it becomes a pride issue. You know he’d rather give his life away than the remote!
This was certainly the case in our household. On a daily basis just the opening music of an impending Pakistani Political show would see the rest of the family leave the room and my father sat on the sofa on his own.
However as the kids would be watching CBBC’s or Disney Channel on the spare Tv, this left us with no options- I forced myself to sit down with my father and give these shows a chance. My Urdu is better than your average second generation Pakistani so at least I understood them with a little bit of assistance from my dad who was a willing interpreter, he was just happy that I was expressing an interest.
I was right about them, these shows were unbearable to watch; the politicians were all the same – normally you’d have representatives from the two main parties. They were supposed to represent their own parties but all they ended up doing was accuse each other of corruption.
The person defending would not refute the allegation; he would dig something up about the other.
This was bordering on ridiculous, never mind politics, surely that’s one of the norms of society -is it not?
If someone accuses me of something that I’ve not done I would defend myself to the hilt, not make allegations about the person, but as my father would say ‘ this is Pakistan – you won’t understand’.
‘I know I won’t, see I gave it a chance dad, -can I have the remote back?’ Dad: ‘NO YOU’RE STILL NOT HAVING IT!!!’ Okay we both fall quiet and carry on watching. The numerous political shows were never ending – the closing credits of a show would be music to my ears until my father would switch channels and find another one.
As time went along – I came to realise that there’s no point arguing– the remote was his. So I began to stop resisting and just joined in.
In amongst all the chaos and din I was submerged in with these shows – Imran Khan, the cricket legend turned politician would make an appearance more and more frequently This helped a tad, as he is a sporting hero.
But I’m not sure all my sporting heroes David Beckham, Muhammed Ali, Eric Cantona morphed into one could make this enjoyable for me.
However what struck me whilst watching Imran Khan, was that this guy actually cared.
The angst in his face and the passion in his voice were in stark contrast to most other politicians who were either posturing like WWF wrestlers or they had a breath –taking indifference to the problems the country was facing.
As an outsider, I was slightly puzzled; if it was obvious to me (a political novice) why wasn’t it obvious to the Pakistani public? I did some more research and found that everything pointed to a man who was clean, honest, brave, and had a proven track record.
This man seemed to be the answer to all Pakistan’s problems, but yet politically he was still a non-starter, surely there must be something wrong.
I was on a mission to find something bad about him, apart from a colourful bachelorhood, you couldn’t pin anything on him – the Man delivered.
However the two things that stood out for me: As a second generation Pakistan born and raised with the English and often being accused of BEING MORE English than Pakistani we treat the English counterparts as equals. Often this is not the case with Pakistani Politicians who seem in awe of their western counterparts. The country is being stretched from pillar to post by External countries with vested interests, seeking to impose their will on the incumbent weak Pakistani leadership who are too busy trying to hang on to power rather than fight the cause of its own people.
Pakistan needs good strong leadership, not someone who starts the discussion with an inferiority complex. Imran Khan may have flaws but there’s one thing he does not suffer from, an inferiority complex. In his dealings with Western media, he’s unapologetic for his views; he presents a strong case and holds an argument.
Secondly, something that I noticed more out of laughing at Pakistani Politicians who would not miss an opportunity to display their Shakespearian English on Urdu Political Shows (often poorly); Imran Khan would rarely speak English even though as an Oxford Graduate he was better placed to do so even when questioned in English.
This may not seem a big issue in the grand scheme of things but it suggests to me a Pride in his culture, his language and empathy to his people who are watching.
A patriotism further displayed by his transparency in bringing his wealth back to the country as opposed to other Opposition Leaders.
All in all, a man with self esteem, a man proud to be Pakistani who would defend the country to the hilt.
I was thoroughly confused now – the man seems to have everything Pakistan needed, as a friend commented if he didn’t exist, you’d have to invent him – The question arises why he has not been carried into the Prime Ministers house by the people. As with all things to do with Pakistani Politics I would refer back to my Wikipedia for all such things - my father. The discussion would go something along the lines of.
Me: Pakistan’s in a bad state yes, we all know that. So whose fault is that then?
Father: Oh whoever’s been in Power, the two main parties and the Generals who keep taking over.
Me: Ok I accept the ‘Generals’ argument – the people do not have a choice – what about the Politicians – the people vote them in?
Father: The people of Pakistan have never had a better alternative, a clean option; it’s always been a choice between picking the lesser of two evils.
Me. So what about Imran Khan? He’s obviously a credible option Father: Don’t be silly, he can’t be taken seriously, he may be credible, but people want a viable party.
Father: If you’re honest in Pakistan Politics, you don’t get ANYWHERE.
Not the answers I expected and this left me more bewildered than ever but hey at least I was interested. I started listening to these shows with a renewed attention.
I wanted to find out if my father was correct.
It was true the opposition politicians would ridicule Imran Khan for being too clean, for being too naive, too idealistic.
I found myself waiting for Imran Khan to appear on these shows. No matter how many times he was knocked, laughed at, belittled by the other panellists, he would come back and give as good as he got.
A pattern emerged; the two main parties would be having at a go at each other but the introduction of Imran Khan would make them gang up and attack him; however he was steadfast and remained equally critical of both.
At this point my wife (who was born in Pakistan) had been pestering me to go ‘back home’ but being worried about the law and order situation, I managed to keep convincing her otherwise.
She wants to introduce our kids to her parents and siblings. It made me think that the only reason I’m worried is, that my wife and kids will probably visit Pakistan once in a blue moon for a couple of weeks (and even shorter if I’ve got anything to do with it).
So what about Pakistanis who live there and will do so for the rest of their lives – should they not be worried about the situation the country finds itself in?
I’ve got a vested interest now.
One year later, I’m an expert on Pakistani Politics shows, I find myself watching shows online in case I’ve missed them.
The battle of the remote is over, I switch over to Pakistani Political shows before my father gets a chance.
Also the Political situation seems to have changed since the 30th October 2011. Imran Khan held a massive rally in Lahore attended by people from all spectrums of the Pakistani society.
Overnight he has become a player, a third force – the people of Pakistan have finally stood up and taken notice. Since then the momentum around Imran Khan and his political party PTI is growing by the day.
It may be easier for me sat here in England but I do hope the hype is result orientated and the people of Pakistan give Imran Khan a chance.
I’m no political expert but one thing you cannot question is the man’s intention. He may not get it right but he will try his ultimate best to do so.
I like making things simple and the way I see it is; my house is in the middle of two houses. I go away for a holiday, leaving my keys with the neighbours on the left. I come back, pick up my keys and let myself back in to find things missing.
I go away next year, this time I leave my keys with the neighbours to my right with the same result. Surely my brethren in Pakistan will not give the keys to either neighbour again?
There’s only so long I can hold off my ever keen wife before she plans to visit Pakistan with the kids. I think more than anything she wants the kids to get to know their Grandparents and uncle and aunts.
It’s sad that a couple of doting grandparents cannot enjoy their grandkids because my fellow Pakistanis keep making the wrong decision.