Sunday, March 11, 2012
From the top: With the Coco Chanel of Pakistan.
At a wonderful sunday brunch.
The lovely bride dressed in a traditional Indian designer lehenga.
Gorgeous ladies at a Sangeet.
This appeared in Asian Age-Deccan Chronicle on Saturday...
Clearly,I am a fast learner. Minutes after walking out of the Karachi International airport, after a rather eventful PIA flight from Mumbai ( more about that later), I noticed the printed t-shirt of our baggage handler.Here’s what it said, “I am a bomb technician.If you see me run,try and keep up.” I swear this is true. I looked at my local minder nervously and gulped. She was sweetly saying, ‘Welcome to Karachi,” as she instructed an armed guard in the front seat of the car to make sure we arrived safely at our hotel. I figured the best way to enjoy the next four days in Karachi was to do as the Karachiwalas do and pretend aal eez welllll. The short hop between what could have been sister cities ( Mumbai and Karachi) takes just an hour and a half. Recordings from the holy Quran are played right before take off. Most of the passengers on this particular flight were Karachiwalas. One of them, a blousy woman wearing an animal print outfit was irate as she fidgeted in her seat. She’d been deported by our Mumbai cops on arrival and she was not amused. “I’m losing so much business!” she kept screaming, till she was firmly asked to shut up. An elderly couple seated behind me didn’t like it at all when I reclined my seat later in the flight, to take a short nap. The woman kept kicking hard, till the stewardess intervened and offered me another seat. The old lady asked loudly, “Hindustani hai ya Pakistani?” I’m guessing she would have kicked regardless!
We ( Indians and Pakistanis) share so very many things, besides the obvious ones ( culture, cuisine, clothes,complexion). And yet, the one thing that separates us is temperament.Mutual hostility, I can understand. But the total suspension of logic is harder to accept. Several people I spoke to referred to the Mumbai 26\11 terror attacks, and tried to convince me Pakistan had nothing to do with what took place. Who then could have orchestrated those attacks? And where did Qasab come from? “Look, wherever he came from, it wasn’t in a dinghy from our shores. That route is impossible to navigate without getting caught by naval patrol boats. If you ask us, the whole thing was an American-Israeli plot to discredit Pakistan in the eyes of the world.Why would Pakistanis attack a Jewish place? If it’s not the Americans, it’s your own people who did this. Please stop blaming us.” Well, since I am not top cop Rakesh Maria from the ATS, and was a temporary mehmaan in a neighbouring country, it seemed wiser to order some more food and change the topic.
“Would you like to meet Dawood?” an influential gentleman asked me casually, like he was asking me whether I wanted to meet a famous Pakistani cricketer or movie star. He added, “His home is less than 500 yards from where we are right now.” Suddenly, the delicious chicken piece I was about to swallow threatened to choke me. This was so unexpected. I instantly jumped at the opportunity and asked him to fix it up anytime…that night itself…. the next day. Another friend , listening to this conversation, interrupted quickly to say, “Don’t talk nonsense, yaar. Dawood doesn’t live in Pakistan, remember?” Someone else laughed, “ I ran into him at the hospital when I’d gone for a blood test recently.” This conversation was going nowhere. The offer was promptly changed. “ Okay. No Dawood. But if you want to meet Chhota Shakeel…?” I declined politely before standards fell further.
Though Veena Malik is the one who generates maximum contempt for stripping in India ( “ surely , there are better ways to make money… what a shameless woman. India will use her and throw her like they did with Meera”) , our politicians fare no better, especially Narendra Modi. The biggest fear seems to revolve around Modi becoming India’s prime minister. I told my local friends to relax – that’s not likely to happen any time soon, or at all. “Hindu Right Wingers” are another concern, and it’s no use saying these fears are somewhat paranoid and unfounded. At a wonderful mehendi-sangeet hosted in a grand mansion, I talked to a few of the youngsters between their choreographed dance numbers ( Dhinka Chika and Chikni Chameli, followed by Kolaveri Di). Their fascination for Bollywood gossip cancelled out any fears they may have harboured about India attacking Pakistan. Similarly, extended conversations with the bleached blond Begum Brigade over a long brunch, revealed their obsession for desi fashion and an insatiable curiosity about society scandals across the border… with zero interest in political affairs. I have to say this: in terms of hospitality, they beat us hollow! There is just no comparison. In terms of beauty, Pakistani women are streets ahead. Where we score is in our basic ‘buddhi’ and ‘dimaag’. Our education system as compared to our neighbour’s, is far superior. And our society appears more stable. Divorce and multiple marriages are so rampant, not an eyebrow was raised at a ladies’ lunch when in response to an innocuous question – “ How’s your husband?” the reply was a prompt, “Which one, jaani? I’ve had so many of them!” But I’ll give the last word to a kind porter who saw me through the chaotic maze at the airport while checking in for my return flight, “ Pakistan needs a Khomieni. He really cleaned up his country and killed all the corrupt people.” Somehow, future prime minister Imran Khan does not quite fit the bill in this regard! Just as well…