everydaymumbai: The situation in Mumbai is the same. Dubado politicians ko isme. (Drown the politicians in this).
everydaypakistan: @everydaymumbai, politicians bs jhooth bholtay rahein gy. (Politicians will only lie).
This exchange is on the Instagram page called everydaypakistan. The humour is genuine and the empathy visible. The above mentioned ‘situation’ is a flooded street in Lahore, where an auto wades through waist-high water. The scene is reminiscent of a gondola ride in Venice, but minus the romance, with a lot more logistical problems. The Instagram page of everydaypakistan, has been gaining popularity in India with a steady momentum. A brainchild of 20-year-old Anas Saleem, the page is breaking stereotypes about our neighbours one photo at a time.
“The thought for the page came after I saw the everyday mumbai page, started by Chirag Wakaskar. I saw a Mumbai and an India, which was very new to me. I wanted something similar for Pakistan,” says Saleem, who is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in computer science from the Lahore Garrison University.
There was also the idea of countering the perception perpetuated by western photographers. “We in South Asia have this problem. Western photo agencies and news outlets come with their own photographers and they present a biased view of my country, and of South Asia. Right now they are obsessed with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (the former North West Frontier Province), and the immigrants who have come into Pakistan from Afghanistan. There are so many other things happening simultaneously in my country,” he says, “For instance, Lyari, a neighbourhood of Karachi has been in the news for its violence and gangs. I deliberately have the photo of a young girl, from the region, practising boxing.”
The page presents an interesting kaleidoscope of colours. A team of girls wearing bright red football jerseys and cleats pose proudly in front of their team Karachi United’s logo. There is also a close-up of a ‘Hindu woman’ in rural Sindh, the bright clothes she wears sparkle in the sun as she washes her face at a hand pump. There is also a photo of an old painting inside the Katas Raj Temple complex in the Chakwal district of Punjab. A young couple sitting on a bench inside a shopping mall are also featured. Saleem curates these photos after choosing them from the many entries he receives from all over Pakistan. “The photo of the Sindhi woman is clicked by Emmanuel Guddu; he is quite popular in Pakistan. He earns only Rs 18,000 a month, has four kids. But he is so passionate about documentary photography,” says Saleem, whose parents stay in Faisalabad.
In the past two months, Saleem has seen unprecedented support for his page from India. “I have people messaging me and thanking me from India for presenting a view of Pakistan that counters the dominant narrative. I am overwhelmed. The autorickshaw image in the flooded street, got about 2 lakh impressions. Chirag has been very supportive of this venture. I have been flooded by interview requests by many Indian news outlets as well. Pakistani media, on the other hand, has not paid any attention to me,” he says.
Globally, there has been a surge of photographers who started documenting people, places, and the stories surrounding them, and publishing them on social media. Humans Of New York, a photoblog by Brandon Stanton, was one such instance, which inspired many similar pages, including Humans of Bombay. “There are stories on the streets of Pakistan which have nothing to do with politics. My page wants to highlight those stories, I don’t pay the photographers to publish their work, nor do they pay me,” he says.
Saleem knows that he has to tread this new-found popular road carefully. He has been at the receiving end of trolls, when he put up a picture of a play that was staged in Lahore. “Yahan hai masla censorship ka,” says Saleem in Urdu, laced with a Punjabi accent. “I took that photo down. People commented that this is not the real Pakistan. But at some point in the future I want to put it up again, because censorship ke hum mohtaj nahin ho sakte,” he asserts. “I am getting away with some things right now. I know that maybe the image of the girls wearing the football jerseys might irritate the maulanas — par maulana abhi instagram par nahin aaye hain,” he quips, with a straight face.
At some point in the future, Saleem hopes that the page can be a platform for dialogue within the country and also with other nations. There is also the question of not presenting a white-washed hunky-dory image of Pakistan. “Khaamiyan hain Pakistan main. Yes there are issues of terrorism and related violence. I want to work on bigger stories surrounding those things. One step at a time I think,” says Saleem, who wishes to pursue photojournalism as a career once he finishes his degree. For now he is excited to watch Race 3. “I have been busy. I see every Salman film in the theatre. Inshallah, Ek din Dilli main ek film dekhenge.”