Gaitty Ara Anis: Ever since the work the new shiny Islamabad’s Metro Bus is underway, I, like other islooities, have had to meander through less taken roads on my way to the office. This is a regular passage near Jinnah Super – nothing to write back home about – till one day I noticed a huge hoarding with a doe eyed damsel, all made up ;advertising some beauty salon right at the end of the road. There was nothing unusual but the black paint that was adorning her eyes and makeup. There were two more boards one of a local clothing brand and other of shoes, all of them drenched in an ugly black splash of paint targeting only the women models.
The usual black paint, which is a constant reminder of impatient groups with unrealistic ideas holding us all hostage to their ideologies, has become a permanent feature and fate of many unfortunate advertising boards that can be found anywhere in Pakistan.
The very next day the model was back on the board with an extra wash of eye shadow that was dabbed on her eyelids. I heaved a sigh of relief not that I was fond of the model or the brands being advertised but that someone was taking notice and the ugliness was gone. But little did I know how short-lived this interval would be…
It certainly became a charade between the ones who came sometimes in the wee hours of the morning to do the dirty job and the advertisers who had to satisfy their clients and who not having much trust in the police silently kept changing the posters.
One day the miscreants chose not just to paint the eyes they actually tore the poster off. On the other board the ‘infidel’ who was showing too much of her bare skin was painted black and her eyes were gouged out. You could sense the never ending tug of war going on between the advertiser and the militancy prone paint brush brandishing self acclaimed ‘virtuous’ men of Islamabad.
One of the more wise advertisers must have given it a thought before putting the board with the male model representing the brand unfortunately the ones selling salon services for women or jewelry could not dare tamper with the advertisement board.
The story would have been much boring if it had ended like this. On the very board that had become the battle ground between these terrorists like group and advertisers, a third party cared to join in. I was taken aback few days ago when there was a stenciled sentence marked on the board ‘aurat ko mittana bannd kero’ (stop eliminating women).
The sentence was short and simple but could be interpreted in numerous ways. I was not very pleased to see more of the black paint dripping down these boards. But then those boards somehow had stopped advertising the products they were put up to advertise once. They were turned into a political statement, a crime scene, may be a war zone where different actions represented different ideologies.
It might have been fun to see these people talk and agree to disagree but seems like we are left with ghosts , hiding behind shields, losing their identities to rigid ideas where discussion has become a distant idea where as killing and destroying anything is as much on the cards as the sun up in the sky each morning,
Is the intervention of a third party a positive sign, a mark of resistance? May be, yes but if it also has to resort to the modus operandi representing militants to represent their ideas then I would say we are in a great mess. Someone has to put the liberal ideas and thoughts in a manner that do not kill their spirit of understanding, and freedom expression , that respect how opinions are individual but not sacred enough not to be questioned and criticised. It needs to be done, the cleansing of the fundamentalism but the right way the other path has already been taken by the Taliban and militants that has lead us all to a hell like situation.
Geti Ara is a story-teller, journalist and a documentary maker