PACC’s Pakistan Day Program Dripped with Eighties’ Nostalgia
By A.H. Cemendtaur
A lot of hard work by the PACC team (President Asghar Aboobaker, President-elect Rabia Adil, Co-founder Farrukh Shah Khan, Shahzad Basir, Nasreen Aboobaker, Noreen Tariq, Maheen Khan, Suhail Mohammad aka Suhail Akbar of the Koshish Foundation, Uzma Rauf, Amjad Noorani, Najma Noorani, and others) and financial help from generous sponsors (Jadoo TV, HDF, Javed & Shahnaz Iqbal, Asif & Shahina Haq, Safwan Shah, Umerani & Associates, and Total Wealth Solutions) produced an entertaining Pakistan Day program that was dripping with nostalgia. The organizers -- many of them left Pakistan in the Eighties -- decided to relive their best Pakistan days by reconstructing the 80s Pakistani TV scene in their latest program.
The Eighties were deceptive times for Pakistan. The economic stability brought to the country with the help of international forces put a veneer of calm and prosperity over the Pakistani society. Yes, there was a war raging across the border in the north and Pakistan was the conduit -- often very leaky -- through which the American weapons gushed northwards, young disenchanted Muslim men looking for a purpose in life reached Pakistan from the world over, military training was given to anyone interested in jihad, and unaccounted number of trained men carrying unaccounted weapons left for unknown destinations; and yes, the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy was brutally crushed in rural Sindh; but the state-owned media made sure the news was sanitized for the Pakistani urbanites. The city-dwellers watched ‘Neelam Ghar’, laughed at the ‘Fifty-Fifty’ humor, and sang with the Benjamin Sisters; the daily show ended with the 9 o’clock news (the Khabarnama) telling Pakistanis everything was fine and General Zia Ul Haq was the best thing that could happen to their country. This is how you saw Pakistan and the world through PTV, if your formative years in that country were the 80s.
The good old Pakistani Eighties of the PTV were reconstructed in the PACC’s Pakistan Day program, held on March 29 at the Computer History Museum auditorium, through a ‘Neelam Ghar’ quiz competition, and a stellar performance by the Benjamin Sisters (accompanied by two very talented sons of S.B. John).
If Tariq Aziz (host of the original ‘Neelam Ghar’) ever wished to have an heir (minus Aziz’s occasional tantrums) to his popular TV show, his prayers have been answered. Enter Ausaf Masood. Masood, a versatile actor, hosted Pakistan Day Neelam Ghar with great poise and humor. The reconstructed Neelam Ghar had the various components of the original show: the quiz, the dart game, and the US-immigration-styled questions to the newly wed couples. Courtesy of the sponsors of the program, contestants received expensive gifts (cash prizes, iPods, tablets, a big screen TV, and of course the quintessential Neelam Ghar water cooler).
A wonderful discovery of the evening was the young singer Havva Munir who showed great control on her voice beautifully singing in high and low notes. Munir enchanted the crowd with Reshma’s ‘Lambi Judai’.
For a good part of the Eighties Benjamin Sisters (Nerissa, Beena and Shabana Benjamin) ruled the PTV music scene. Fast forward almost thirty years, and the storm brewing under the tranquil 80s has hit Pakistan with full force, yesterday’s unaccounted combat trainees have become the new trainers, intolerance and extremism (found everywhere in the world) now has a lethal face in Pakistan, and young men armed with illegal weapons ambush and kill people in ‘jihad’ based on their personal religious convictions; two of the Benjamin Sisters have followed their fans and have moved to the US.
S.B. John (of ‘Tou Jo Nahin Hai’ fame) is also now settled in New York, and his two musician sons, Robin and Glenn perform with various artists. In PACC’s Pakistan Day program the Benjamin Sisters (a new member Edna replacing Shabana who with her husband now lives in the Middle East) sang their hit songs from the 80s and kept the audience riveted to their seats past midnight.