By Juhi Jaferii
KARACHI: ‘Hotel Mohenjodaro’ stood like a mirror facing the audience at the brimming Arts Council on Wednesday night. It artistically reflected the present in a story written in the past. The play sang and danced to the tune set by a condemned artist who was hardly appreciated for his prophetic work in his life. It bluntly portrayed an image of a Pakistan that Ghulam Abbas prophesized in his short-story Dhanak almost forty years ago; it portrayed an image that has sadly and most hideously managed to come true.
George Orwell prophesized 1984 in 1950, Allan Moore drew the 1990s during the 1980s. Their works were brilliant, but not much of it came true, the world hasn’t seen a Big Brother, nor a V from V for Vendetta.
Many people have written about the future, some have predicted a few things correctly, but none, none have come as close as Ghulam Abbas when it came to predicting the very dilemma Pakistan would face four decades.
Ajoka, paying tribute to Abbas’s ability to see what no one else could fathom, created ‘Hotel Mohenjodaro’, a play based on Abbas’s Dhanak. Adapted and directed by Shahid Nadeem, it was an apt way to end Ajoka’s visit to Karachi. The play made one shiver at its exactness, its appropriateness and its symbolic message. It shed light on the way things were, are and could’ve been, without distorting Abbas’s work.
The play starts with a scene in a hotel called Hotel Mohenjodaro where a modern and flamboyant Pakistan celebrated winning the race to the moon. It wasn’t long before the audience had to gulp down a dark substance called humor when the petty act of astronaut Captain Adam Khan, being kissed on the helmet by an ambassador’s second wife, heralded the demise of modernity and open mindedness in Pakistan. Clerics were shocked, baffled by the act; they unleashed an uprising that uprooted Pakistan’s modernity and planted weeds of backwardness in its place. Backwardness that closely resembled a saying from the play itself: ‘To die is halal, to live is haram.’ In fact, the unity amongst the different clerics began and ended on what is halal and haram; they didn’t waste time in scheduling another uprising, this time it was extremism versus extremism, full throttle. While the clerics were busy fighting each other in their new jihad, the nation slowly weakened and began looking more and more like prey to surreptitious opportunistic countries. It didn’t take long for it to crumble into the dust and desert. The play ends with a bleak view of a mound of sand that once used to be the great Hotel Mohenjodaro where the first man to walk on the moon was kissed by the ambassador’s wife.