Ghairat is one of the most frequently used words in Pakistan. It broadly means honor and is arguably the fulcrum about which the country’s cultural and political discourse turns.
Ironically, it is a word that needs its nemesis beyghairat, which is the exact opposite meaning shameless or sans honor, for its own survival. There is no ghairat if it cannot contrast itself against beyghairat.
I give this short primer to take note of the raging popularity of a protest song called “Aalu Anday” (Eggs and potato curry) by a Pakistani boy band that aptly calls itself “Beyghairat Brigade”. And as the name suggests it is a band that is assertively shameless in that it scorns, scalds, scratches and satirizes all of Pakistan’s holy cows.
The three young men of “Beyghairat Brigade” led by the vocalist Ali Aftaab Saeed focus on the topsy-turvy state of affairs in Pakistan where killers such as Ajmal Qasab, the lone surviving terrorist of the November, 2008, Mumbai attacks, and Mumtaz Qadri, who killed liberal politician Salman Taseer, are heroes and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Abdus Salam is cast aside because he belongs to a much excoriated minority Ahmadi community. The song also takes in its sweep the army, political parties and mullahs, all of whom are normally not to be trifled with in Pakistan without running into some mortal danger.
The song is about deliberately pushing the envelop. I think the smartest crack in the song is not part of the lyric but a sign that calls cricketer turned politician Imran Khan’s “Tehrik-e-Insaaf’ party “Good looking Jamaat-e-Islami”, which is a fundamentalist party. Another sign, “Mullah + Military = Zia-ul-Yuckee” is a sharp reference to the late military strongman and dictator Zia-ul-Haq under whose malevolent regime Pakistan was radicalized. Then there the more sarcastic one that says “This video is sponsored by Zionists”. It ends with "If you want a bullet through my head: like the video.”
The mood of the song and the video is rebellious in keeping with the exuberant youth of its protagonists Ali, Daniyal Malik and Hamza Malik. In fact, Hamza the guitarist is only 15. I am not sure if “Beyghairat Brigade” represents a large enough constituency in Pakistan that can force the country’s entrenched power elites-- political, military and religious-- to drastically reform. What it does do though is tell them that the youth of Pakistan, like the young everywhere, do not stand for the skullduggeries which have been imposed on the country for decades. For that alone one sincerely wishes that the song shames the feudal lords into submission.
It seems to me that the disenchantment with Aalu Anday or eggs and potato curry is a metaphor for the youthful yearning for change. Incidentally, Aalu Anday are the staple school lunch that middleclass parents in Pakistan often pack for their children much to their disgust. They want chicken and freshly baked rotis as the song says. Not so ambitious, you might think but in Pakistan normal is ambitious.