Doraemon's Cultural Significance In Pakistan

A cartoon character, Doraemon may have been taken off air but he lives on in Pakistan as an identity.

Doraemon's Cultural Significance In Pakistan

It is often wondered by many of a generation that cares deeply about the world and its billions of residents both human and nonhuman alike: what ever happened to Doraemon? 

Fleetingly in a flight of imagination perhaps it seems Doraemon became all that rage.

It was as if one day a cable TV operator decided to choke the siphon of ancient cartoon series crafted in the 90s, regurgitated in the 2000s, spat out as foul-tasting digital vomit in the 2010s to be fed again to another creed of oblivious young ones to prime them to defend the animated blonde Elvis Presley caricature as a nincompoop who doesn’t know any better but to keep making sexual advances as appropriate responses to the sight of an attractive ‘specimen’ of the opposite gender. 

After all, none ever were met with success thus meriting the conclusion: no harm no foul, whoosh, swept under the carpet. Murmurs were met with rancor to drown the protest. Give a solution loud and clear or don’t talk under your breath; a habit mostly ascribed to pubescent teenagers thereby adding insult to injury. And so, consenting adults welcomed in their TV sets the robot cat from the future that spoke in immaculate Hindi and effectively gave the power of the remote control in their infant’s hands. 

But change is a wanton wonting that is mostly dealt with an iron hand, if left unchecked, by the ones that had agreed to give allowances. Therefore, a conundrum ensued. Bastions of the golden era of cartoon TV, decreed the robot cat from the future a disgrace. 

Younglings exposed to and infected by this viral affliction were immediately taken to sanitization booths that washed them with antiseptic showers of the objectionable black-shirted-aviators-donning loveable fool who had the libidinal energy of a silverback gorilla and made no attempts to hide it. The damage had been done, however. 

The corruption of the system was underway. The could-have-been-a-registered-sex-offender spoke in a deep voice and used the terms ‘baby’ and ‘mama’ in situations that did not call for them. 

Doraemon and his posse spoke in a language that was familiar and in a tonality that was more infant-like making it resonantly pleasurable for the young listeners. The saviors of the new crop were puzzled and as they sat down with their younger siblings/cousins/nephews/nieces/daughters/sons they found Doraemon to be a harmless robot cat that mostly invested its energies into saving the lazy and pitiful Nobita and teaching him a lesson in morality at the end. 

For the retaliating ones who decided not to ever understand what was going on, an opportunity has been missed thanks to deliberate misconstruing. Doraemon is a science fiction classic. 

Here’s a brief synopsis: 

Nobita Nobi is an unremarkable young boy who is kind-hearted but also bears the burdens of laziness, academic underachievement, and general misfortune. Nobita’s life dramatically changes when an earless robot cat called Doraemon from the 22nd century is sent back to get his affairs in order by his grandchild Sewashi Nobi out of fear that the luck of misfortune would keep ailing them in the future if an intervention in the past is not made. 

Doraemon possesses a four-dimensional pouch that is a remarkable treasure trove of tools, gadgets, and futuristic inventions. These marvelous inventions serve as problem-solving companions for Nobita who keeps pining for them until Doraemon gives in. With the help of this futuristic technology, Nobita is no longer an underachiever but frequently gets carried away with the use of the technology forcing Doraemon to intervene and strip him of the advancement. 

The cycle keeps repeating. Nobita never learns but Doraemon keeps assisting. The cartoon series went off the air and then came back. Then was taken off again. The Hindi dubbing was at the heart of such decisions. Increasing tensions with our space-age neighbors meant decreasing media import. 

And then, like a vanishing act, Doraemon was canceled and was completely taken off the air much to the chagrin of its viewership but to the satisfaction of their parents who paid the cable TV bills. The saying goes, however, something like: ideas do not die out or some such and so an enterprising bunch aided by the production power of our other neighbor, brought in knockoff merchandise for the voracious youth that missed the blue cat. 

I recently found one of the merchandised Doraemon toys earning less than minimum wage at Nadeem Tikka. It has a pouch that only has candies. The gadgets have perhaps been stolen away by Gian and Suneo, Nobita’s nemesis in the series. The white hands are filthy but have opposable thumbs perfect for manual labor. At moments it is whistled over and commanded to do a little hip shake for toddlers but otherwise, it stands behind a door to welcome the carnivorous parade of Lahoris who are eager to feel its skin as if checking if the metal has turned soft. 

If a toddler is not around and amusement is what is needed with tikka boti, one can, half choking on a beef kebab, gesture to the blue cat from the future to perform for you. You get the feeling that this is an imposter. Doraemon would not put itself through this. 

Besides, why would a technologically advanced entity subject itself to a life of humiliation? Your feeling is not unfounded. Underneath the loveable skin of the robot cat, is a man robbed of his person. This is a man, who like Nobita, leads an unremarkable life but is not saved by a robot from the future. In his job description, he is only assigned the duties to act like a mascot and to remain unidentifiable. The compensation? A measly ten thousand rupees but with a chance to earn tips that can be pocketed. For the Nobita in the cartoon series, one of his descendants had the technological power and the economic privilege to change the course of history even if it was for their personal benefit. 

In the case of this live-action version of our local Nobita, dressing up as Doraemon is the only source of strength that can be gained to face the cruelty of the world and to survive in it. A progeny of a progeny seems unlikely to change the course of history for this one. Our chimerical Nobita-Doraemon is not provided with the conditions to change its conditions and neither are the conditions around him set for technological advancements.

It seems that this chimera can only look toward the neighbouring countries to become the harbingers of time travel as they have done so with space travel. Like so many other invaders of fairer complexions, foreign features, and patterned costumes, Doraemon retains its cultural significance over us exchanging chump change for circus acts all the while feasting on a shank of the most lucrative enterprise.