Pakistan’s former information minister, writer and successful media entrepreneur Javed Jabbar speaks of the “scorching, self-critical introspection” that goes on in his country all the time. Jabbar made this comment during a discussion on NDTV’s show ‘Left Right and Centre” conducted by Nidhi Razdan.
He said this introspection was reaching the point of “self-abnegation and self-negation.” He said there was no self-denial. He also said “What is right with Pakistan is that this is a nation that overwhelmingly knows what is wrong with it.”
I begin my post with this if only to talk about my dependency on a current Internet content fix by the name of ‘Khabar Naak’, an witheringly humorous show on Pakistan’s Geo TV. Superbly anchored by Aftab Iqbal and made unfailingly engaging by his team of “dummy” commentators the show has become a must watch for me. Some of what Jabbar is saying about the “scorching, self-critical introspection” is evident on ‘Khabar Naak.’
The show’s default language is Urdu of the kind that Pakistanis speak so well but most of its biting and often delightfully earthy humor comes Punjabi. The wit and repartee on the show come across as spontaneous and improvised but even if they are scripted and rehearsed, they sound rather in the moment.
Although I have not been back to Pakistan now for 20 years,even that long ago its people’s ability to examine their own follies with brutal self-assurance was quite evident. Jabbar makes a valid point about that quality of Pakistanis. Of course, like all other countries it also abounds in all the human frailties but if there is one attribute that has kept Pakistanis going in the face of some profoundly debilitating odds, it is this ability.
‘Khabar Naak’, I am told, is a highly popular show because it addresses Pakistan’s many shortcomings, political, cultural and religious, with great humor that often cuts too close to the bone. Apart from the incisive quality of its humor what stands out is its recurring cast of characters that makes the show so eminently watchable.
The fact that it is a mix of Urdu and Punjabi makes its appeal limited to those who understand the languages. Fortunately, I understand them both. Of course, there is an element of approximation involved when it comes to some of what might be called “theth” Punjabi expressions because it is not something I grew up with but acquired.
Apart from its obvious strengths what draws me to the show on YouTube is that it continuously refreshes my understanding of Pakistani civil society. Humor has a way of updating itself constantly in order to remain effective. That necessarily means that it stays current.