Power of the media pass -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Power of the media pass

Adiah Afraz

I have a question. Are columnists journalists? And to answer this question I formulated a theory and then put it to test. My theory was that columnists are journalists as long as they can be labelled, threatened and criticised for being journalists. And they cease to be journalists when a queue in charge at a social event treats Mubashir Luqman like royalty, yet stares at a columnist up and down and says, “Media pass hai aap kay paas?”

To put this theory to test, I went to a high class social event last week with a companion in tow and just one entry pass in my column writing hands.

Well, to be honest, I was not really putting any theories to test when I was doing that wonderful activity. Somebody had made the mistake of inviting a lady to a late night event alone, and the companion was forced to tag along for ‘I can’t go alone’ type of reasons.

“Do you think we would get another entry pass at the gate there?” I asked the companion before leaving. The companion, who is infinitely worldly and wise in the ways of finding a way around social roadblocks, was very optimistic.

“So what if we won’t?” I was told with a sinister smile. “There are always ways to get in.”

“Oh please I don’t want us to create a scene now”, I warned the companion. “If you argue or create a scene there, then I will totally disown you and pretend you don’t exist.”

“When was the last time I created a scene?” Sinister smile again.

I simply laughed in the companion’s face.

“O. We wonÂ’t have to fight. Trust me.”

“O. We might have to. Trust you.”

The companion changed tracks “Don’t underestimate yourself, you! You are too famous not to be let in. You are actually a national heritage.”

Laugh in the face again.

The companion got serious. “With the standing of the newspaper you write for, passes donÂ’t mean a thing. You will just tell them who you are and they will be honoured to let you in without a pass. Trust me.”

“O God. So are we taking the famous ‘you know who I am’ route?” I complained. “You know I hate that. Plus I seriously doubt if anybody cares who I am. Trust me.”

“That’s because you don’t know how to market yourself.” said the companion. “Trust me.”

So with one entry pass in hand and the burden of having to market myself to a queue in charge at a high end social event, me and the standing of my newspaper put on the best looking face we had, went to the entrance of the event, and said in our best possible English to the queue in charge: ‘Jee excuse me. We are two people and we have just one pass. What do I need to do to get another one?’

“Jee, do you have a pass?” came the reply in Urdu.

“Jee, we have a pass but as I told you we have just one pass. Can we get another pass?” English again.

The queue in charge looked at the pass, motioned me to go in, and turned to the companion: “Do you have a pass?”

Two things dawned on me at once. Talking in English might be a natural defence mechanism for dealing with awkward situations, but there is a chance that the other person might not understand.

So feeling some real tender thoughts for the linguistically handicapped of my country in general, and an infinite social responsibility towards the queue in charges with limited English proficiency in particular, I decided to talk in Urdu. In quick short sentences I introduced myself, name and all. Told him what I did, who had invited me and why, and briefly stated the nature of my problem. By this time, a group had gathered around us. Somebody heard the word ‘newspaper’ and ‘invitation by so and so’. The invitee’s name was examined on the envelope, my name was examined on the pass, I was examined from head to toe and finally I was asked: “Media pass hai aap kay paas?”

“I am afraid I don’t have a media pass.” I replied.

“Why” the queue in charge was genuinely curious. The universe just stopped for a minute, all eyes turned towards me and with bated breath everybody waited for me to answer this universal question.

But before I could warm up to my theme of the essential differences between a journalist and a columnist , the companion being bored beyond belief by now, decided to be in charge of the situation.

What happened next was instructive for me at many levels. Not a single word was uttered. There was a slight shift in the facial expressions only, body language transformed from relaxed to irritated, looks were exchanged and with a pull of the elbow I was motioned to turn around and leave.

“We are too good to be standing here” said the companionÂ’s body language. “We are important people who do important things and if somebody can’t see that it’s not our problem”

Two minutes later as I was finding myself a seat inside the venue of a high end social event with one invitation card and a companion in tow, I pinched the companion and complained: “The way you acted out there, I almost felt as if you were the national heritage and not me. You stole my thunder.”

“Well maybe I am a national heritage!” came the reply.

“O Really. I thought I was the columnist with the invitation to this event.” I retorted.

“O Really? Media pass hai aap kay paas?” came the reply.
Source: The News