Sesame Street Diplomacy: Elmo is not in Kabul because he is in — Pakistan!

Remember in December when Sesame Street went to Kabul, we were wondering where was Elmo?  Well, it turns out, Elmo is in Pakistan.

Senator Coburn’s office had put together a Guide to the Most Wasteful and Low Priority Spending of 2011. It’s called Wastebook 2011.  Number #13 is the Remake of “Sesame Street” for Pakistan by the U.S. Agency for International Development for $10 Million.

US Consul General Nina Maria Fite launches Sim Sim Hamara, Pakistan's USAID funded Sesame Street | Photo from US ConGen Lahore

Here is the entry:

In 2010, Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, a Pakistani arts organization, was awarded $20 million over the next four years, to create ―130 episodes of an indigenously produced Sesame Street.‖ The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided the first $10 million for the project in FY 2011. The Pakistan Sesame Street would be produced in cooperation with Sesame Workshop , creators of the original Sesame Street.

According to news sources, the show will be renamed  “SimSim Humara” and set in 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 only character adopted from the original Sesame Street will be the furry red monster Elmo. The rest of the puppet cast will be made up of new local characters, including a conceited welldwelling crocodile named Haseen O Jameel, a spirited adult woman, Baaji, who enjoys family time and tradition, and Baily, a hard-working donkey who longs to be a pop star.

Faizaan Peerzada, the head of the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop defended the $20 million project, saying “The idea is to prepare and inspire a child to go on the path of learning, and inspire the parents of the child to think that the child must be educated,”

Besides the television show, the grant also includes funding for the following:

  • Radio programs based on the main puppet characters
  • A dynamic website where children can interact‘ with their favorite puppet characters
  • 600 events with live puppet performances using vehicles with trained puppeteers performing shows
  • 600 events with mobile video vans displaying pre-developed puppet-based programs to children and communities
  • 9,000 small gatherings involving thirty trained District Ambassadors playing video shows using laptop computers.

The television and radio shows will include 78 shows in Urdu and 13 shows in each of the four major regional languages.

I don’t know if Senator Coburn would have objected if USAID did a remake of Jack Bauer’s 24 in Urdu. After all, Jack is apparently one of the top 20 Coolest Heroes in American Pop Culture (although suspects do not think so).

Domani Spero