Demise of outdoor life


Muhammad Asif

BEFORE the nationalisation of educational institutions by the 1st PPP government in 1972-73, most of the schools and colleges in the urban areas were managed by the semi government and voluntary organisations such as Cantonment Boards, Christian Missionary and Non-Governmental Organisations, on a self-help basis. The number of government and private educational institutions was quite negligible. Most of these institutions were established by Christian, Hindu and Sikh voluntary organisations before the partition of India. There were a few educational institutions that had been established by the Muslim voluntary organisations, as well. After the partition of India, the control and management of the educational institutions established by Hindus and Sikhs, in the areas that were included into Pakistan, were taken over by the Muslim voluntary organisations.
Since before the creation of Pakistan urban areas, including city centres and downtowns were sparsely populated, the educational institutions were established on vast pieces of land. In some cases, the educational institutions that did not have playgrounds adjacent to the main campus, had their own playing areas located at some distance from the institutions outside the city centres. In addition to sports competitions, other co-curricular activities formed an integral part of training programme of every institution. Besides sports and athletic competitions, inter-schools and intercollegiate speech contests were organised regularly. Nearly every institution had school/college band, dramatic club, literary society, etc. The managements of educational institutions, established by the voluntary organisations, accorded equal importance to sports, speech contest, fine arts and literary activities because of the realization that these non-formal means and methods of education were as important as the formal educational activities to ensure wholesome personality development and character building of students. In addition to providing healthy recreation to students and inculcating self-discipline, spirit of healthy competition, sportsmanship; sports competitions and co-curricular activities help the students polish their latent leadership, artistic and creative talent and taste.
Much after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, most of the localities of urban areas were surrounded by the unoccupied open fields, which were utilized as playgrounds as well as parks by the communities living near those localities. Cricket matches were played between the teams of the nearby muhallas on holidays. These keenly contested matches were watched and enjoyed by the youngsters and children. The elderly people also ensured their presence on these matches to cheer the team of their muhalla. During summers the open spaces-cum-playgrounds remained crowded by the groups of children, youngsters and elderly persons from evening to midnight.
These open spaces were also utilized by the professional entertainers on the eve of Eid Mela (festival). Eid Mela, organised both on Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha used to be the main attraction of Eid festivities. The Melas were fully equipped with all types of means of entertainment for children, youngsters and elderly persons, such as oscillators, Maut ka Kauan (death well) Maut ka Golla (death ball), circus, zoo, and makeshift theatres. The folk artistes of national fame, such as Alam Lohar, Inayat Hussain Bhatti, Bali Jatti, etc, entertained the people with their live performance virtually on negligible charges. The theatres remained teeming with the music lovers till midnight. Due to the conversion of the open areas into new housing schemes by the Improvement Trusts and Municipal Corporations in early 1960s, and the Town Development Authorities, subsequently, delivered a fatal blow to the traditional pastimes and means of recreation for the people of this region. These pastimes ranged from hide-and-seek to kids wrestling, folk singing, folklores, gossip, last but not the least, Eid Melas.
In1960s, other than open spaces in the urban areas, cinema houses used to be people’s favourite places for recreation. Before 1965 Indo-Pak War, even Indian films were shown on cinema houses in Pakistan. Films produced by 1970s in Pakistan and India, besides providing healthy entertainment to the viewers at an easily affordable cost, served to promote a number of genres of fine arts and literature, including poetry, fiction, drama, music, singing, dance, acting, film direction and film production. Till mid-1970s, legendry male and female story writers, poets, directors, music composers, producers, singers and actors were associated with the film industry in Pakistan. The advent of the first TV Channel in Pakistan in 1965 coupled with the commercialisation of film production in 1970s contributed to the gradual decline and ultimate demise of the cinema-going culture in Pakistan.
The advent of Dish Antenna in early 1990s that gave the TV viewers option of watching the channels of their choice, served as the final blow to the remainder of the outdoor-life in urban areas. The Dish Antenna was shortly followed by Cable Networks, which increased choice of channels from about ten to over one hundred in a single leap. Due to the advancement in the field of information technology during the same period, people of even developing countries, became chair-bound from room-bound in quick time. The invention of Smartphones, in the beginning of current millennium, further excluded man from rest of the world, from his family, friends, relatives, neighbours, and from his own being. The modern technology has made man truly lonely in the Global Village by having drained and dried the desire and craving for spending time in the company of family members and friends.
To pull the public out of homes to cinema houses, the filmmakers have started selling violence, hatred and falsification to make money by producing movies based on horror, crime, sex, science fiction, etc. The transformation of arts and sports into money-making industries, changed the role of these exclusive human possessions from the pedestals of great civilizations to the platforms for spreading discord, dispute as well as delinquencies and debauchery. The multiplication of electronic and social media in the developed as well as developing countries, among all segments of societies like the underprivileged classes and juveniles, has accelerated the proliferation of violence and crimes.
— The writer, a retired Brig, is professional educationist based in Islamabad.

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