Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The High and Low of the PSNT’s Pakistan Day Reception

March 30, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

The Pakistan Day falls every year on March 23. Laudably PSNT (Pakistani Society of North Texas) celebrates this overly important event with traditional fervor. Nadeem Zaman, the current president of the PSNT is an energetic, robust and thoughtful person. He succeeded Anjum Anwar, a charming, graceful yet dignified female who had held the prestigious portfolio of PSNT presidency for two consecutive years.

The chief guest for this year’s celebratory function was the newly appointed Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States H. E. Jalil Abbas Jilani. He graciously came from Washington DC to grace this auspicious occasion of national import and a proud reminder of the epic struggle of our stalwarts and leaders towards carving an independent state for the Muslims of India. It was on 23rd March in 1940 at Lahore that conceptually Pakistan came into being.  

As such it is an exceptional memorable day.
I would wish that such a dignified function should have been observed at an accessible and easy to reach place for the ordinary participants. It was certainly a tall order for a newcomer and for a person unaware of the winding and tricky roads of the congested downtown to reach Ritz Carrolton Hotel: the venue of this evening’s function.

Ritz Carrolton Hotel is a posh and high profile hotel serving mostly the VIPs, the government functionaries and super duper bureaucrats and businessmen. Not to speak of the free public parking, it maintains only a valet parking system with exorbitant charges of 15 dollars per car. One may imagine the predicament and frustration of someone who did not have enough cash under the impression that place like Funasia and other hotels in DFW should be having free parking also.

This is a kind of no go hotel for commoners. Yet it must have been chosen by the PSNT management body to accord befitting and magnificent welcome to the ambassador of Pakistan. Should we please our diplomats, political big-wigs and celebrities with such a lavish pomp and show that is out of sync with our culture of modesty and temperance?

Inside the hall there was a kind of pandemonium. In a hall no matter how spacious, if the lights are dim and one has the difficulty in recognizing the faces of your well wishers or distracters, the atmosphere becomes murky.  The main reason for feeble lights was that all main lights including the chandeliers were switched off.  

There were two floodlights placed in one corner of the spacious ballroom and were exclusively focused on the stage. Someone must explain why chandeliers were switched off causing a dim and relatively dark aura in the hall.

Those who fell in the line of those irresistible piercing flood lights must see an ophthalmologist this week. I could even see the president of the PSNT blinking his half opened eyes while delivering his welcome address because of those two devastating lights than one can see over the jail walls or in a playground. Wasn't it distressing?

On the central long table were seated the VIP guests including the chief guest the honorable ambassador of Pakistan. Sitting on this precious table were also an assortment of the leading business tycoons among the Pakistani community as well as the retina of the present and former office bearers of the PSNT.

Yet the occupants of this special table seemed to be caught in a miserable condition. While they were rubbing shoulders with each others because of the narrow space between the chairs, a halo of darkness engulfed that table making it difficult for onlookers to recognize them. Honestly despite my best efforts and by widening my eyes I could not place H. E. Ambassador Jilani as to where he was lodged.

As a keen observer I could watch the guests looking like shadows particularly those with their backs towards the main stage. Apart from their predicament of the gloomy light, they would steer their heads all the way backwards in order to cast a momentary furtive glance on the stage to discover how the speaker looked like and who he or she was. That queer gesture included also the VIPs sitting on the central table.

The other guests mostly the families sitting a bit far away around the stage with their backs to the stage were faced with a similar dilemma.  Ill at ease, they would turn their whole frame of body to look at the speaking figure at the stage.

  For the food serving staff, it was rather an ordeal to reach the tables with food-stuffed crockery. As the tables were laid close to each other, you may invoke your imagination how they would negotiate their accession to each table. It was amusing to see them emerging from the kitchen doors one after another in a queue with eyes down like penguins walking on the seaside.

I would suggest that instead of serving the dinner on the round tables, the buffet could have been a much better option. The PSNT has been offering buffet dinners on such previous occasions and those were least hazardous.  That was rather a safe and easy mechanism to avoid the army of the bearers to walk to every table and serve the food to every guest.

It would have been impressive if the management of this grand evening had thought of serving Desi or Pakistani cuisine as was done in such festivities in the past. That could have added to the flavor of celebrating a national day of joy and jubilation. On such rare occasions we Pakistani should think of promoting our culture by exhibiting our costumes, carpets, jewelry, foods and similar other facets of our life back home.

President Nadeem invited me personally with a gratis ticket of $ 200. But it was worthless as the seat for me was neither reserved nor marked with my name. And this bizarre situation must have been faced by many clueless invitees like me.  By courtesy of Amir Rupani, I was taken to various tables by an exceptionally courteous person (Nadeem Farooqi).  

On each table I was treated like a gate-crasher and an unwelcome intruder. I am not aware how many jay walkers might have faced such a bizarre and unpalatable situation. Even those who knew me for ages turned their faces away as if I was a lifter or a sneaky trespasser. The basic snag in that invitation was that I was given a ticket but no seat allotted.
After going around several tables finally I was lodged (courtesy Awais Naseer a celebrated journalist) on the media table placed close to the stage. But while sitting there it was difficult to look back because of those two dazzling lights one may call the min-suns.

Besides the dim light and flawed seating arrangements, the sound system too was not as resounding and clear as it should have been. The buzzing of the guests repressed the sound system or else sound system was considerably toned down.

Pardon my audacity not to report the contents of the address of the ambassador as I left in a hurry because of the meager quota of resilience left in me.
But notwithstanding these imperfections as pointed out by me I offer my best and most sincere compliments to the PSNT team for celebrating a day as momentous as Pakistan day. This demonstrates that despite the above mentioned odds, they are imbued with a trenchant passion of nationalism and blessed with the edifying gift of patriotism. I am with them if they launch a campaign for putting Pakistan on the right tracks.

Note: The above presentation is with malice towards none.