Angling amidst ‘smart’ lockdowns!

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Khalid Saleem

THE prevailing uncertainty in the political scenario in this blessed land, not to talk of the ‘smart’ lock-downs following the corona virus pandemic, is causing several eyebrows to be raised. Why call a lock-down ‘smart’ for one? After all a lock-down is a lock-down! As things get murkier and murkier, one may be forgiven for taking the liberty to talk about Angling of all things. In one’s defence, one may be permitted to add that it is not without cogent reasons, which one shall allude to in due course.
Before one goes any further and ties one-self up in knots, it may not be such a bad idea to delve a bit into the subject matter itself? Let us begin, then, with a word or two about the somewhat bizarre title of this column. A thing or two about the history of the ‘sport’ known as angling! Angling has evoked extreme reactions in people over the ages. The great Samuel Johnson, for one, defined the fishing rod as “a stick with a hook at one end and a fool at the other”. How is that for a loaded statement? Izzak Walton, on the other extreme, averred, “God never did make a more calm, quiet and innocent recreation than angling.” Somewhere down the middle would figure George Parker’s definition of angling as “an innocent cruelty.”
Be that as it may, it is somewhat difficult to quite appreciate the rationale behind the sport of angling. The gentle reader might well argue: why get worked up about invidious attempts to lure a poor miserable fish to swallow the hook at the end of the line; and then call it sport to boot? Does that look sporting, he or she might rightly argue? Man’s yen to catch fish for food one can readily understand, even appreciate. But the desire of angling for fun is way beyond one’s ken. How can angling possibly be classed in this Land of the Pure as a pleasant pastime in these days of the ‘smart’ lockdowns associated with the corona virus pandemic? And yet one often comes across pictures in the Press of zealots indulging in this ‘sport’.
What had kindled one’s interest in the first place is the overwhelming fear that, pre-pandemic, the Land of the Pure was well on the way to becoming a nation of anglers. A horrifying thought that; but not as far-fetched as the gentle reader may be inclined to think. A word of explanation may be in order. The first thing the reader is advised to do is not to look at ‘angling’ in its restrictive sense. Its scope would need to be expanded to take it far afield; in other words, why confine the context to a mere sport? In a wider sense, our people have taken to angling like fish to water (pun intended). For all one knows, this may well have something to do with the “genius of our people” (remember our history?).
Permit one, then, to draw the attention of the perspicacious reader to ‘breaking news’ items proliferating in the national media relating to the return home from another “successful” visit abroad of another (prodigal?) dignitary. Most high-ups have made it a habit of undertaking a series of official visits abroad that it makes one wonder how they manage to squeeze in a few days to do whatever it is that they are supposed to do, while holding positions of authority in the government. Just prior to the ‘smart’ lock-downs, one had observed several items in the vigilant press reporting our dignitaries departing for, returning from or in the midst of foreign trips, all undertaken at the hapless tax-payers’ expense. Angling for invitations to undertake foreign trips had apparently become the preferred national pastime of our elite!
If the aforesaid conveys the impression that angling for foreign trips is the only priority of our elites, perish the thought. Angling for postings, permits and plots (to mention just a few) has long been the mainstay of our political and administrative edifices. Gone are the days when service to God, country and the nation constituted the declared ambition of at least some of our “public servants”. Now each one angles for what he or she can get out of it. The concern is not for what one can do for the country but what one can do to the country and get away with! Many of our “public servants” spend a good part of their time and effort angling for greener pastures where the pickings are good. Those miserable few, who continue to hold on to the tattered shreds of principles they hold dear, are hounded from pillar to post until they or their principles give up the ghost, whichever comes first.
Our elders and betters (?), when they are not busy dividing up loaves and fishes, keep themselves busy fishing in troubled waters, when they should rather be pouring oil on them. It has been argued that this is what troubled waters are meant for, but then who makes the waters “troubled” in the first place? Angling – Pakistan-style – spawns in a milieu in which established institutions are conspicuous by their absence. Ad hoc ism, that has permeated the system of the body politic like slow poison, is gnawing away at the very vitals of the State. Dare one suggest that it may be worthwhile for the powers-that-be to spare a thought to check-mate this malaise before things get out of control! Meanwhile, it may not be out of place for all right-thinking persons to hope and pray that the pandemic may have the emollient effect of drilling some sense into the minds of those who matter. Or, is that akin to asking for the moon?
— The writer is a former Ambassador and former Assistant Secretary General of OIC.

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