Saadia’s Side: Were Ali Sethi’s Instagram Live Sessions a Bigger Threat Than COVID-19 for India?
Think Pieces

Saadia’s Side: Were Ali Sethi’s Instagram Live Sessions a Bigger Threat Than COVID-19 for India?

The Federation of Western India Cine Employers has commanded Indian artists to stop ‘collaborating’ with Pakistani artists.

They say we are together in this. Yes, I refer to the global pandemic that has us all in jitters and shivers. The whole world is shaken due to the unexpected turmoil of COVID-19 putting life as we know it, at a halt. Most of the countries around the world are in a state of lockdown bringing both economic and social activity at a standstill. While many people across the globe have been infected and have even lost their lives, the rest are homebound engulfed by a sense of uncertainty, fear, and panic. Everyone is living with a day to day expecation, with no idea of what tomorrow holds.

Needless to say, people are resorting to online forms of entertainment in order to keep themselves entertained and deviate their minds away from the stress this situation has to offer. This is why online streaming platforms are witnessing more traffic than ever before. Social media has also become more active than ever and the artists are using their respective platforms to stay in touch with their fans through their Instagram and Facebook live sessions.

Same was the case with the famous Pakistani Ali Sethi who continued entertaining the audiences by coming live on Instagram adding various artists to his live sessions. These also included some esteemed artists from India including Rekha Bhardwaj, Shilpa Rao, Varun Grover, and Zakir Khan. I do not think that I was the only one who was loving these sessions with all her heart. In these turbulent times, these live sessions only promoting love between art-loving individuals were a breath of fresh air. In fact, some of those even made me emotional e.g. Ali Sethi composing a piece of poetry by Varun Grover, Rekha Bhardwaj and Vishal Bhardwaj speaking to Farida Khanum, and Shilpa Rao’s parents expressing their love for Ali Sethi.

The two countries have not always shared the best relationship despite being culturally and historically connected. Since it was one country until 1947, the cultural base is the same and people of both countries have high regard for artists across the border. If people in Pakistan have Bollywood running through their blood, fans in India watch the Pakistani drama even more than those living in Pakistan. Same is the case with singers. No wonder why singers have worked in other industries due to their huge fan following in the neighbouring country.

However, owing to the political tension among the two countries the past few years have not seen the best times in terms of cultural exchange.

Why wouldn’t the audiences deprived of the entertainment and harmony not  love Ali Sethi’s live music sessions which brought their favourite artists together?

I recently saw the decision of the Federation of Western India Cine Employers which warned Indian artists to work with Pakistani artists online and I found it bizarre, absurd, and irrational. According to the letter issued by the federation, some artists were ‘blatantly’ violating the con-cooperation orders issued earlier. It is ironic, on all levels of humanity and decency, in my opinion.

Doesn’t this baffle you how threatening could simple and happy Instagram live sessions could be for the Indian media? In the days of a global pandemic, was bringing a smile to the faces of distressed people an act of ‘blatant’ non-cooperation? Were not both countries dealing with bigger problems than just a live social media chat which was not even a part of the mainstream media?

To be honest, one often wonders who is our bigger enemy. Is it COVID-19 consuming numerous lives crippling the already frail economies or the stupidity that has occupied the minds of these neighbouring countries for years? I would probably leave this question to those of you who are reading this piece of writing and have the ability to analyse this situation more logically as compared to an emotional writer who has always dreamt of joyous times and an end to the animosity which has only ruined both India and Pakistan. Maybe I am not in the frame of mind to give my verdict. Not only do you know it better but you better know. Till the love takes over a blinding hatred and bigotry…

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By Saadia Ahmed
Saadia Ahmed is a Bollywood and cheesecake fanatic with no obvious interest in space travel. She tweets @khwamkhwah day in and out