Throughout our lives, we have all come across instances where things as trivial as nose rings are frowned upon, due to the negative cultural connotations attached with them that have nothing to do whatsoever with the original history of the thing itself. Phrases like ‘nath’ni tou bus kanjri’an pehanti hain‘ are thrown around often, rather irresponsibly and consequently, the thing loses its significance forever. The story does not end here.
Words like Mirasi and Kanjar have been going through similar treatment in Pakistan, for the longest time. Today, anyone who is a little loud and outgoing is termed as a Mirasi or a Kanjar. Cheery on top, the context is almost always derogatory. The problem becomes rather prominent when our celebrities, who by the way have worked hard (well, most of them) to get where they are today, are addressed as ‘Kanjars‘ mainly because they belong to the entertainment industry and what they do does not conform to our traditional ideas of an ‘izzat dar‘ profession.
Here the question arises; why is it that we use the term ‘Kanjar‘ for our celebrities? What is it that the term actually entails and why is it always viewed in such a negative light?
Historically, Kanjar were an endogamous group of artisans and entertainers who were nomads and were spread throughout Southwest Asia. Amidst them were singers, musicians, those who operated carnival or mela rides, dancers and yes, prostitutes too. They were mostly known for the terra cotta toys that they made themselves and then went door to door to sell them. So you see, none of these roles were or are derogatory, in their true essence. However today, in Pakistan, the term is associated only with pimping and prostitution which is understandable because nomenclature evolves, like every other thing in the universe. But can we justify us using it loosely for our celebrities and film artists, knowing fully well the negative cultural connotations attached with them?
The answer is: we cannot and should not.
21st century is here in it full glory, medicine, engineering and teaching are no longer the only respectable professions. People are venturing into all sorts of things and it is rather regressive to call people, who bring us laughter and joy through their performances, something that has now evolved into something even more regressive with time. This lose usage of the term ‘Kanjar‘ comes with a plethora of problems. Why is it that desi parents and desi families in general still frown up their kids wanting to be actors, musicians and filmmakers? It is because, in their heads, anyone who is associated with anything remotely fun and entertaining is looked down upon as someone who sleeps around or sells their body to move up the social ladder. The idea that you have to be subdued and not entertaining to have a respectable standing in the society is problematic, to begin with and unfortunately, we are all responsible for perpetuating this idea.
My problem is not with the word itself. Its significance, connotations, and the associated meanings have changed over time which is nothing unnatural. My problem is with the way we have always been way too casual with its usage, without realizing the consequences of it.