By Tahir Mehdi
Are all Pathans stupid? It can’t be. Then why are they normally the butt of every other joke? Is there something sinister behind this stereotyping? Since most of these jokes are community creations, I would rather not look for a ‘well-hatched’ conspiracy theory.
But then why are Pathans portrayed the way they are? I recalled all the Pathans that I have ever interacted with, one by one, from my college days, from my professional life, from my neighborhood, my social circles, Facebook friends. The identification parade told me that some of them did live up to the stereotype, but there is no indication of an abnormally high tendency for joke-worthiness among Pathans.
All communities carry all colors and characteristics, and it is the competing and conflicting interests of various communities that make them exaggerate and twist some of those. I have used this formulation to explain away all the community stereotypes that we frequently encounter. While I still may not mind laughing at a Pathan joke, this explanation helps me guard against letting this fun convert into a discriminatory attitude. But let me admit, that I have struggled with the stereotype of a Sindhi far longer. Are Sindhis docile, smug and the least entrepreneurial people? Most of my friends think so. One joked that if a Sindhi has to go to even the railway station in his hometown, he falls homesick and immediately starts calling himself a pardesi! This proved to be a tough test for my formula to fight off such stereotypes.
I decided to hold an identification parade for all the Sindhis that I had ever interacted with – my college fellows, colleagues, neighbours, friends and all. That’s when I realised all the Sindhis I knew could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Had I not attended a college that had a quota for students from all provinces and areas of Pakistan, I am sure I would have befriended none. I then decided to look into the statistics.