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Review of “An Afternoon Dedicated to Urdu” Show at UC Berkeley

I went to see “An Afternoon Dedicated to Urdu” show at UC Berkeley last weekend on May 3rd, 2008. This show was presented by the Pakistani Students Association at UC Berkeley.

The show had quite a lineup of acts including, but not limited to, a live song/ghazal performance, a Qawwali, Saturday Night Live-type news segment named “Khabarnama,” and Antakshri.

Apart from that, some guest speakers were UC Berkeley Urdu Professor Aftab Ahmed, Chairman of Urdu Society Tashie Zaheer, and a representative from yourDIL.org.

I hope you liked what I said above because you might not like what I say now.

The show was in a small classroom in the Dwinelle building on the gigantic UC Berkeley campus, where there are humongous lecture halls.

Apparently, the organizers thought that no one would show up. I would rather see a few empty chairs than no chairs and people being crammed.

The hall wasn’t decorated with a single piece of paper that had the name of the show on it. I mean, seriously, when you organize a show, you try to at least create a banner that has the name of the show may be outside the hall or, for that matter, inside the hall.

The point where I completely lost it was when I saw the worst Urdu speakers hosting the show. Why are you hosting an Urdu show if you cannot speak Urdu?

Every time the hosts showed up to announce acts, I had to cross my fingers because people around me were making fun of every word pronounced with a WHITE Urdu accent or butchered.

It was evident that the organizers had messed up big time, especially when you see a person on the damn stage sitting on a table with two laptops trying to change PowerPoint slides.

That said, all the acts, like the song/ghazal performances, Qawwali, and Khabarnama were very nicely done. It looked like the performers treated the show with more respect than the organizers involved with micro-managing.

I also enjoyed the music videos as they were better than those produced last year. I kept in mind that each of the performers, on and off the stage, is basically an amateur, and one can only do as much as one can. All the performers did a wonderful job and tried to do their best, and I applaud them for this.

I, like everyone else, tend to remember the bad rather than the good, and I can’t ignore the organizers who treated this show with the utmost disrespect, especially when they dumped Urdu in the middle of the show and decided to announce acts in English, that honestly is a disgrace.

From the beginning days of this show, my wife was involved with the whole project; from what I heard, they were not prepared. All the organizers wanted was to pull off a show. They were not concerned or cared about why and how? This show had a reason, at least for me, I wanted to hear what good is in the Urdu language, and I wanted to see it promoted… that was not what organizers thought about the show because they had lowered their expectations to such a low standard that few 5th graders who sing national anthem would look better in front of them.

There is hope, though; I heard this show was better than they had last year. That is a good sign. It is getting better every year, and next year hopefully, it will be better than this year.

On a very good note, the show generated $950 in cash for the non-profit organization yourDIL, promoting literacy in Pakistan.