“I don’t own a television.” When I let that slip into conversation, most of my friends are aghast. They immediately assume one of two things: a) I am one of those holier-than-thou, live-in-the-moment, anti-media types or b) I’m just a weirdo. It’s probably a combination of both. Maybe someday I’ll see the need for a television, but right now I’m content with my laptop for movies and the occasional show at someone else’s house. But then again, our family has never been the television type. (Insert assumed air of humility and delicate toss of head.) My parents didn’t purchase their first television set until I was about 14, before that I mostly got my pop culture in disjointed snippets. Five minutes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at a neighbor’s house. The occasional pop song at the mall. Our church didn’t allow the ownership of televisions. Too secular. Too much potential for exposure to sex. Gasp!
So unlike most American kids, I didn’t wake up early every Saturday morning and rush to the television to watch my favorite cartoons (at least not until I was 14). All that to say this: I’m not very familiar with the children’s show Sesame Street, which airs in 120 countries in 20 international versions. I did not learn my numbers from the Count, alas. Aside from that cute little rubber ducky song and of course a fascination with Cookie Monster (nom), I wouldn’t know my Bert from my Ernie. Luckily for kids in Pakistan, however, Sesame Street will soon be a reality in a country where education is on the bottom of the governmental to-do list. Forget NYC, these puppets are going to Lahore.
In a $20m (Â£12m) remake of the classic American children’s programme, the setting for the show has moved from the streets of New York to a lively village in Pakistan with a roadside tea and snacks stall, known as a dhaba, some fancy houses with overhanging balconies along with simple dwellings, and residents hanging out on their verandas.
The Pakistani version, in which characters will speak mostly in Urdu, will feature Rani, a cute six-year-old Muppet, the child of a peasant farmer, with pigtails, flowers in her hair and a smart blue-and-white school uniform. Her curiosity and questions about the world will, it is hoped, make her a role model for Pakistani children.
The financing for the series comes from USAid, the economic assistance arm of the US government, which aims to help the country’s young learn some basic words and numbers through Sesame Street’s fun style of education. Pakistan’s schooling system is failing badly, a major reason for a descent into religious conservatism and economic stagnation.
Bad news, though. The characters of Count von Count and Cookie Monster have been cut from the Pakistani version of the show. I call shenanigans. How can there be a Sesame Street without a Count and a Cookie Monster. We all know there are vampires in Pakistan. Okay, maybe a Pakora Monster instead, but still. Travesty.
And of course, not everyone is super thrilled that the US is giving funds for even more puppets in Pakistan…
Photo Credit: independant.co.uk.
Hat tip: Neha (Currylingus) and Ennis Singh Mutinywala.