Friday, August 7, 2009

here's looking at you kid

If ever a writer had a drawl it is Mohammad Hanif. Whether it was the utterly fantastic, bitterly funny A Case of Exploding Mangoes or this piece on moving back to Pakistan, I always see the narrator leaning against the door frame, a cigarette in his mouth, drawling out the lines, the indolence masking the irreverence.

Although we've received it more commonly through American pop culture, this dry drawling style does of course exist as a tradition in the sardonic rhythms of parts of South Asia, in the erudite, ironic observations of litterateurs...

It is a glamour-evoking fabulousness indeed as styles go.

Walking along the Karachi seafront after returning from London, I worked myself into a self-righteous rage at these young women in black burkas hanging out at the beach when they should have been at school or in some mosque praying for our collective salvation. But then I looked closely and found out that many of them were on a date. Some were actually making out, in broad daylight, with men with beards. Covered from head to toe in a black robe, this is quite a spectacle – and provides just the right combination of challenge and opportunity. Walking on the beach with my wife the other day, we stared at a couple who were exploring the full possibilities of the burka, using their motorcycle to lean against. With the Arabian sea lapping at their feet.

At the other end of the fashion spectrum, nattily dressed fashionistas on TV have started mixing piety with plunging necklines. (We have two 24/7 fashion channels. Also three food channels and, at the last count, five religious channels.) They talk about their last shopping trip to Dubai by pouting "masha'Allah" (God willed it) and conclude their plans for next season's collection with "insha'Allah" (if God wills). Depending on what else is happening in the name of religion on that particular day on the news channels (23 and still counting), I find it either very cute or another precursor to the destruction of our civilisation as foretold by the leading magazines.