Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Media circus

The ruet chief finally felt ready to address the nation. I watched the event unfold on Geo with baited breath and growing impatience. The man, dressed in a white shalwar kameez and black waistcoat, with a thick jet black beard, a Jinnah cap and really ugly plastic-framed glasses, positioned himself in front of a whole herd of microphones. This was apparently the head of the national Ruet-e-Hilal committee, a mufti like all the other bearded and bespectacled men seated at the table. Behind the chief was a proper horde of anxious and slightly bored reporters. The chief clears his throat and asks several times if everyone is ready. I, in the meantime, am wringing my hands and begging him to just say yes or no and deliver the entire nation of its misery. But this man had other plans in mind.

He begins with a tilawat. I groan. He has not even finished saying bismillah when a reporter's cellphone starts to ring. Another reporter to the chief's right is busy smsing on his cellphone. The chief is visibly annoyed. Without stopping his recitation of the Quran, he waves his left hand at the reporters, trying to get them to pipe down. It does not work. Another cellphone starts ringing. A helpful reporter makes shushing noises. The recitation and the hand-waving continue. Finally, the painful tilawat ends and the chief launches into what resembled an Oscar speech. " I would like to thank this fellow and that fellow and oh that fellow too." A million different maulanas were acknowledged for their contribution to the decision making process while I literally writhed in agony before the television. Just give me a yes or a no!

After the thank yous were all finished – surprisingly enough, Allah did not receive any acknowledgment from the chief, hmmmm – the chief launched into an awful, prewritten speech. He delivered it with painstaking slowness and in a complete monotone. He clearly wanted to make his moment before the nation last. He went on and on about the immense responsibility in his hands of deciding the fate of 160 million Muslims and their rozas. My mother wisely noted that mufti sahib was only stretching this out because he knew the moment he would give their verdict we would all change the channel, or at the very least put him on mute.

Finally, in belabored Urdu, mufti sahib announced that testimonies of moon sightings had been accepted and tomorrow is Eid. Well, why didn't you say that in the first place, mufti sahib? He was promptly put on mute by my family.

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