Pakistani millennials find themselves at a tough spot when it comes to Jalsas. First off they narrowly missed those grand Jalsas that took place on Rabwah soil for 30 some years. If that wasn’t painful enough, they were also deprived of the presence of Khalifa who had to move from Pakistan to the UK. Zia’s suffocating regime added fuel to the fire. They grew up hearing heartwarming tales of Jalsas in good ol’ days. How their family would either host Jalsa guests or would travel from far off places to attend Jalsa during winter break in Rabwah? How haystacks made most comfortable beds? How Naray Takbeer would resound Rabwah’s hustling streets? And how regardless of rain or shine, attendees of Jalsa will patiently listen to the Khalifa’s speeches in the open air. Millennials do not remember any of this.
Instead, what they remember is that how their parents would anxiously wait for those audio cassettes of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih 4th’s friday sermons to listen to behind the closed doors of their houses. Almost every single one of them remembers dozing off while listening to those cassettes by the time they ended with 4th Khalifa’s melodious Khutba Saniya. They remember grief-stricken poetry that became eighties trademark. The 4th Khalifa’s heart-touching poems served as their nursery rhymes. As they grew older, they started realizing the painful context of the 4th Khalifa’s speeches and poetry. However, they also started seeing a ray of hope when he said, hum aan milain gai mutwalo. Millennials spent their childhood in a constant state of interval. Jalsas will happen when Huzoor comes, or Huzoor will come when Jalsas happen, they couldn’t quite figure that out. By the late eighties and early nineties, the waiting became burdensome. It was nearly a decade that Jalsas were banned in Pakistan, Khalifa was in some far off land and soon they started to realize that they are missing out big time.
Now they were old enough to do Jalsa duties, but there was no sign of Jalsas to take place in Pakistan anytime soon. And gradually, without even realizing, that void started to fill with something colorful. Video tapes replaced audio cassettes and brought 4th Khalifa’s Jalsa speeches to his people. It seems trivial now, but back then it was a giant step especially for the kids. Now they could actually see their beloved Huzoor and could establish a connection with him. As they were getting used to this model of waiting for the Jalsa UK guests to return to Pakistan and watch those video tapes upon their arrival, something amazing happened. In the summer of 1992, out of the blue, they were able to watch the live transmission of Jalsa UK. Of course it wasn’t as precipitous as I am making it sound like but it definitely took kids by surprise. Little did they know that a new era was dawning upon them. From then on, Jalsas became late night events for them during their summer break. It couldn’t have gotten any better. The sheer fact that they could listen to Huzoor as he was speaking was surreal. And then gradually, those Jalsa days of live transmission extended to weekly Friday Sermons and then to 24 hours transmission of MTA international. Dish Antennas mushroomed on Ahmadi rooftops across Pakistan. As teenagers, with the blessing of MTA, millennials developed such a strong relationship with Khilafat that left older generations startled. They were deprived of Khalifa’s presence in Pakistan, and now because of MTA the Khalifa was personally mentoring each single one of them.
There is no doubt that the technology has done a tremendous job to connect the younger generation with the Khalifa. However, it is extremely painful to realize that a large number of Pakistani millennials has yet to attend a Jalsa in person. They never had a chance to meet any Khalifa. They have seen trials and tribulations and have kept on marching forward. Unlike their own parents, millennials who have now become parents themselves, don’t have Jalsa tales to tell their kids. They may seem satisfied watching almost 5 Jalsas from different parts of the world but deep down in their hearts they all are waiting for the day when Huzoor will return to Pakistan.