Billboards and Baltistan!

By Zeeshan Haider 

With the huge surge in mass tourism the traditional values of Baltistan have become endangered and are fighting for their survival. A few days back while returning from home I came across this billboard in the main bazaar Skardu. As soon my eyesight encountered with the billboard, few questions popped-up in my mind immediately.

Does abidance to cultural norm preclude the attainment of progress and enlightenment? Why should or shouldn’t the idea of enlightenment and development entail the forfeiture of one’s cultural values and identity? Is it not something comprehensible that development can go-with harmoniously with the preservation of cherished cultural norms and values?

I believe that people who deny cultural norms and practices as an antiquated curb to enlightenment and advocate for their denunciation in the pursuit of enlightenment and progress stave-off with a narrow understanding of the complex interplay between progress and tradition.

It is imperative to consider that the essence of advancement and enlightenment lies in engaging with evolved ideas while preserving the diverse practices that shape and define communities, without applying any external sets of judgements or levels of validity. The striping-away from cultural and customary attire in favor of western or non-native style with the concept of enlightenment and progress is to create a schematic and reductive narrative. We should not equate enlightenment solely with material or fashionable changes but rather view it as a deeper and more complex process which penetrates the depths of societal consciousness.

The richness of human life-experience doesn’t get diminished by the preservation of traditional practices, each of which is crafted in a unique way and holds special hues of meanings and values within itself. It is therefore imperative to keep-alive and mention the inherent values of every tradition and while each culture has a distinct approach towards enlightenment, we need to admire the artworks and beauties of native cultures which are necessary for the sustainable identity formation leading the way towards a worthy living experience for the upcoming generations of the community.

The contributor is a student at IBA-Karachi. He belongs to Baltistan. 

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