Mashal Spreads the Light of Pakistani Culture
By Ras H. Siddiqui

Mashal has convincingly demonstrated its potential and promise of promoting Pakistan’s true image

A relatively new organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area called Mashal (flame/torch in the Urdu language) put together a unique youth program on April 10, 2010 at the Del Valle Theatre in Walnut Creek, California with the theme of “Yaadein” or “Memories”, which visited the cultural happenings and milestones in Pakistan from the 1947 till today.

The program guide stated, “Mashal is a grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of Pakistanis at home and abroad.” The goals of the organization include creating awareness, maintaining dialogue and civic engagement among youth. And from the way things look, Mashal is succeeding in realizing its goals.

After a delicious and superbly presented dinner catered by Shalimar Restaurant and a great deal of socializing in the rather cool outdoors, the attendees and participants of  Yaadein moved to the inside and the program organizing committee members Rahim Shakoor and Ayesha Sheikh opened up the show with great enthusiasm.  

Mashal President Faraz Sattar gave a short speech on the group’s involvement of our youth in local community, sports events (cricket), promotion of the Urdu language and putting together shows like this one. Giving youth a window into Pakistani arts and culture is one of the organization’s objectives. Putting a little bit of Pakistan into the hearts of these kids is another. “What we want to do is build role models,” said Sattar. And from what this writer witnessed during the evening, Mashal is succeeding, with Faraz Sattar at the helm and with local Pakistani-American “auntie’s and uncles” helping.

The writer of Pakistan’s national anthem is no longer with us, but the great granddaughters of Hafeez Jalandhari (Jullandhri) were with us when his words along with the music originally composed by A. G. Chagla were played, along with The Star Spangled Banner to formally begin the proceedings. Master of Ceremonies Salman Sakrani immediately captured the audience attention on the stage and the ensuing evening was not only entertaining but educational as well (even for us older folks).

US Congressman Jerry McNerney and San Ramon Mayor H Abram Wilson along with  San Ramon Council Member David E. Hudson and his wife Barbara Hudson were the local dignitaries who graced the occasion. Congressman McNerney was the first to address the gathering. He said that he had received a warm welcome from the Pakistani community and that he was happy to be a part of this program. “I salute the youth for doing this event tonight. It is such a thrill,” he said. He added that from his experience, he found the Pakistani community very giving. He also mentioned that public service is and should remain the desired focus of collective efforts.

San Ramon Mayor H Abram Wilson spoke about the motto “Together we can” as he added that “this is what Mashal is doing”. Praising the youth, organizers, and encouraging the community, the Honorable Mayor was aware of the fact that he was amongst friends at this gathering. And some of them were Abid Farooq, Muhammed Jawaid, Anwar Mirza, Omar Khan, Rasim Bokhari and Jafar Safdarr, all of them assisting Faraz Sattar and this Mashal effort.

And now for the most difficult part of this report, where the real stars of the show do not get an individual mention. For over two and a half hours the children and youth of the Pakistani-American community not only gave a tremendous performance and made their elders proud, but they must also have learned quite a bit about Pakistan in the process (that the current media cannot teach them). And with close to 90 participants ranging from kindergarteners to college students, these Pakistani-Americans engaged in a video and stage journey through Pakistani culture encompassing over 60 years of movies, music, sports and other related endeavors.

The first segment included “Back To The Future” which proved to be an interesting skit on what one can still learn from Pakistan’s founder, the Quaid-i-Azam M.A. Jinnah.  A video montage followed, featuring legends such as Fazal Mehmood, the Little Master Haneef Mohammad from the cricket world, Hashim Khan from the world of squash and Waheed Murad, Zeba. Mohammad Ali, the Melody Queen Nur Jehan from the silver screen and the world of music amongst others. A classical dance and incredible Bhangra performance followed.

The second segment, the 1970’s included a “ Coming of Age” video. A witty and humorous Lollywood style “Nigar Awards” ceremony next entertained us where the young people mimicked what stars such as Nadim, Shabnam and others would be like either presenting or accepting awards.

Next the 1980’s were even more exciting with a video montage titled “East Meets West” which included Huma made famous by Allan Faqir and Mohammad Ali Shekhi. And the incredibly well done kids fashion show followed which saw music, clothing and charm blending well on stage. But the Fifty-Fifty TV show parody “Bashira in Trouble”, Romance and Naz Paan Commercial Break and Disco Chor added a great deal to the developing mood. The 1980’s Inspired Dance segment was also very well received and kudos to all the participants.

The 1990’s in Pakistan are remembered for the cricket team’s World Cup victory presented in the video montage form. The music of Sajjad Ali, Abrar and not to forget the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was also remembered. Another Back To The Future skit was included along with a 1990’s inspired dance, a Tasweerain (photographs) skit and a very well done musical number by very talented kids from one family who played Nusrat’s Sanu Aik Pal Chaiin Na Aaway and another number on guitar, violin and drums.

The 2000 and Beyond segment started with the Aman Ki Asha video (Longing for Peace between India and Pakistan) followed by a modern fashion show which included some great clothing and deserved the attention that it received. And the haunting (literally) “ Pakistan’s Best Dance Crew” closed the entertainment segment after which all of the performers were invited to the stage followed by the closing remarks of the Program Directors and Mashal. Mayor Wilson stayed till the very end and so did  David and Barbara Hudson, to participate in the medal-presentation ceremony.        

To conclude, one has to congratulate the Mashal organization for spreading and sharing the light of Pakistani culture by putting together this amazing event. And thank you kids, all of you made us very proud. As we get older, our Pakistani-American children grow up and we want them to at least know a little bit about Pakistan, its rich culture and heritage and let us not forget its inspiring beauty both within its geography and its colorful people. At one time that task seemed easy, but today it is far from it. Somehow violent politics and extremism got in the way. As one segment in the show asked “Jaanay Kahan Gaye Woh Din?” (Where did those days go?).

The optimists in our community believe that those days will return.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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