When I was a young man, the month of Ramazan had a completely different meaning from what it has now become.
In those days life was very simple; there was no such thing as social media and there was only one TV channel, which of course did air Ramazan specials but transmissions were limited. Back in those days the programs were very informative, had more religious content and conveyed a real sense of value and ethics.
Forty years on, Ramazan has taken on a completely new dimension and with digital technology seeping into our lives and invading our privacy, everything seems to be in superlatives.
It would not be out of context to say that that religion for some has become an industry and the religious spirit is being exploited for commercial interests especially by our overzealous electronic media.
The leading light to shine in Ramazan on television is none other than our so called religious icon, TV evangelist and self professed scholar Dr Aamir Liaquat, loathed and detested by many while revered and loved by millions whose histrionics in his programs drives his fans into a religious frenzy and enraptures them.
To prove one’s point that TRPs and commercial interests are soaring let us review the current Ramazan TV specials being aired on the airwaves.
1. AMMAN RAMZAN
Aired on Geo Entertainment and hosted by Dr Aamir Liaquat, TRPS have shot through the roof and the media barons are rubbing their hands in glee for sponsorships and advertisements are flowing in big time. The setting is exquisitely and beautifully decorated and 500 people are invited daily both for Iftar and Sehri shows. Moving naats are recited with the opening naat by the good doctor himself in his vocal and eloquent style.
This is followed by a religious quiz show where the doctor launches a flurry of questions and dishes away quality prizes at throwaway questions. His flamboyant style and demeanor sends the crowd into frenzy. Motorcycles, gift vouchers, detergents, cell phones, blankets and finally a car are handed over daily.
Charity is also dispensed generously. Destitute housemaids and people suffering various ailments are brought in and their woes narrated, which arouses sympathy and fear in the hearts of people.
I was always under the impression that charity should be shrouded and the left hand should not know what the right has doled out. However, it seems that TV rating take precedence and channels are falling over themselves to lead the charitable cause.
Aired on ARY and hosted by singer-turned-messiah Junaid Jamshed accompanied by the anchor Waseem Badami, this show is competing with its rivals to enhance its ratings. Sehri and Iftari are served lavishly to the invitees and beautiful naats are rendered by the former Vital Signs lead singer.
Religious questions are posed and prizes distributed generously, sometimes bordering on the absurd like when a disabled person was gifted a motorcycle whereas his need was financial aid for medical treatment.
Remember Maya Khan, the lady in the park with the vigilante squad? Well, to atone for all that she now hosts a Ramazan show alongside Dr Shahid Masood, presenting a charitable cause and dishing out gifts just like the other channels. The ingredients are the same but the setting is different.
4. COOKING SHOWS
Cooking shows are very popular even on normal days. Come Ramazan they seem to go viral as every homemaker is eager to learn new dishes to serve at Iftar time and Sehri. Zubaida Apa is one of the leading stars in the cookery world and she spices up her cooking tips with tips about life in general.
There are several other kitchen and cookery shows on almost every channel providing food tips, offering mouth watering recipes and religious information and entertainment with celebrity participants.
It is not for me to judge whether such extravagant programs capture the spirit of Ramazan in its real essence but one can indisputably say that our TV channels have real given this Holy Month a really festive aura.