Ever wondered how much zeal our nation possesses? It has the zeal, fervour, enthusiasm, and patriotism to celebrate Independence Day every August 14. During my 40-year life, I have never seen any Independence Day that is not celebrated without zeal. It is the same passion with which we have been decorating our cities and adorning our neighbourhoods with flags. The country has been engulfed with political instability, institutional decay, economic insecurity, foreign oppression, inflation, unemployment, and the list goes on. The only factor remaining constant over the last seven and a half decades despite all the internal and external challenges is zeal. It keeps returning with force every August.

One wonders where this zeal comes from. It is surely not given to us for we were never handed anything operational. This zeal was not created at the national level for we never made anything that could bring even comfort to our lives. This zeal, as we may find through observation, is used, reused, recycled, and reprocessed every year to bring about a pleasing thought among the people. It is not zeal that is making the lower and lower-middle class survive through the pains of inflation and unemployment. It is not zeal that is guiding the middle class to travel across jam-packed areas to reach their offices and face the same traffic congestion on their way back. It is certainly not this zeal that gives the people of Pakistan, especially that of Karachi, the reason to find the inner strength to cross rainwater inundating roads, streets, lanes, and alleys and survive hours without electricity and gas.

Zeal is not a word but a psyche we are being forced to live with. We are not a nation but a collection of people trying to make it through their lives while overcoming all challenges. We are not even individuals for we do not show an individual sense of existence but try to follow the crowd. Drivers usually park their cars in whatever position they find fit. This happens because they see someone doing or has done the same with their car. “This is how it happens here,” is what we usually say. Imagine a group of people standing in a line at a government office. Someone will make way to the front and the rest will follow suit. When faced with criticism, the person who broke the line will say, “this is how it happens here.”

One wonders how this zeal is manufactured, constructed, and sold among the masses when the same masses are taunting, demeaning, condescending, and abusing the government that fails to implement plans, policies, and procedures that were meant to be set in place for the common man’s comfort. We, as individuals, and as a nation—to what extent that may be—will continue to live, or perhaps survive, in this Hunger Games-style version of life where we make ad hoc decisions to counter electricity, gas, and water shortages and endure rainfall when trying to reach home or office. Then, the same disgruntled citizens are asked to show zeal when August comes. We cannot help it but have to buy flags because “this is how it happens here!”