It’s not often that you end up on the same table with characters carrying such hefty, esteemed titles as the KarachiKid, TeethMaestro, DiscoMaulvi and US Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs.
Not unlike the Mad Hatter’s tea party, the US Consulate General Karachi tossed a motley crew of media folk, bloggers, local Twitterati and ‘youth leaders’ into a quick brunch with US Under Secretary Maria Otero just to mix things up a little for the visiting diplomat. The selection of the guests was geared to create an “interactive session focusing on youth initiatives and blogging” as the invitation read.
For independent bloggers hoping to get a foot into the US Consulate General and meet with a distinguished personality, this was an unexpected treat. For us media folk it was that, and a question mark – why, oh why is a top US diplomat interested in mingling with the likes of usChotay Log (unimportant people)? What could we possibly offer her from our life experiences that she, and the vast US intelligence network at her disposal cannot gather and present as a report replete with bullet points, fancy fonts and according to recent reports, even Twitter updates courtesy the CIA’s ‘vengeful librarian’ team.
Yes such a meeting is every Zaid Hamid follower’s “Aha!” moment, and I won’t deny it, myself and another (unnamed) blogger at the event whispered between ourselves:
“I bet this meeting is the first step towards our eventual brainwashing… In fact, we must be brainwashed already to be here.”
How did the US proceed to brainwash us amisdst servings of tea, palak paneer, naan and coffee? Well. They asked a lot of questions, mostly focusing on broad issues people in the room were passionate about. They asked about the potential (or lack thereof) of blogging towards activism and social change (Occupy Pakistan anyone?).
Otero spoke with a soft tone and impeccable manners, bewitching us all, and disarming us with the fact that she had been born and raised in Bolivia. We spoke on women’s rights, the need for Urdu blogs, democracy and why a Maulvi would add the word ‘Disco’ in front of his Twitter handle.
Otero listened and laughed and empathised with our condition. She offered us warm words of encouragement while the scratching sound of US Consulate General pens taking notes of our words felt oddly empowering. It was an exchange of words and ideas, at times stirring, at times unimportant. In its utter normalcy it was perhaps at its best. The US plan was definitely afoot. Talk to enough people and show them we are all humans working on the same issues, dreaming the same dreams is probably a winning strategy.