Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pakistan Diary (Part III) - Some observations

1. It is as conservative as people have claimed for all these years. At least the Punjab part of Pakistan - that's Lahore and Faisalabad. There's no little surprise waiting to spring on you; no seriously modern-thinking man, no seriously cool woman, nothing.

2. I believe that when we go to other countries, we come back thinking the people in the concerned country are seriously concerned about political and social issues. That's wrong, because we end up speaking only about the country in question with the people from that country. At least a big chunk of our talk/chatter revolves around asking questions about the methods and madnesses of the countries concerned, and we come back getting a warped picture of the people.

3. But, as far as religion is concerned, Pakistan - like most other Islamic nations - is knee-deep in the concepts. References to Allah happen in every sentence...namaaz is read (adaa-ed) five times a day...very few people do things that are not allowed. Is this something specific to do with Islam? No clue. But my reading is that unlike in other religions (or most other religions) Islam deals big time with peoples' day-to-day existence. It's not just about long-term obligations. It's to do with the entire social and private make-up of a person. From taking a leak to eating food to wearing clothes; everything is religion-based. Maybe that's the reason.

4. People are not as friendly as they have been promoted down the years. At least there are no freebies waiting for you everywhere you go. Unless there's something to be gotten in return. It's not a crime to be that way. That's precisely what 90 per cent of the world is like. But Pakistanis - since this rotten air of friendship and aman started blowing - have just been taken to such an unbelievable level of goodness, it was nice to see the truth. People fleece you on the streets and shops because they know you are Indian. It's cricket time, so people who look the same as the locals but speak with a different accent are obviously Indians. Easy as pie.

5. But it's true that most people have a lot of curiosity as far as India and Indians are concerned.

6. It's also true that the average person on the street - man on the street actually, because not many women are out, and when they are, they certainly don't come up to you and chat you up - is unimaginably obsessed about televsion cameras. And kaun sa channel hai is a question that comes out almost as a reflex action whenever a passer-by spots a guy with a mike. Weird!

7. I have talked about the food earlier, so won't touch on it here...but nothing's changed. I still eat/have more oil than meat when I go out and order something really interesting sounding. Unless it's a kebab.

8. Now to tell you about the sex bit. Pakistani men have to be the horniest - to add to being extremely chauvinistic - beings on earth. A huge chunk of their existence revolves around women, sex, paid sex, the works. Curiosity about India centres around the women in India. Indian actresses are discussed with their price tags in focus. Not the price they ask for to act in a film. But the price they will come for if an average person wants to have sex with her. Practically every Pakistani man I have met has a mistress, a couple of hookers lined up. Middle aged men with a wife and children. (All of them have more than one or two children, by the way) Practically all of them can bring you a woman for a price. You hear replies like petrol na ho to ghaaslet se kaam chalana padhta hai when answering a question as to why a particular Pakistani man is not married.

The biggest craze among the middle-class Pakistani man are the 'saaxy' songs. There's a well-established genre of popular music in Pakistan that is called 'saaxy'. 'Saaxy' songs talk about what a man can do with a woman's kameez and stuff like that. Certainly less risque than a lot of the mainstream stuff in popular Indian entertainment, but then...

Along with the 'saaxy' songs, Pakistanis live on what they call 'stage dramas'. Basically theatre-like stuff - dramatic nonsense acted out at the top of the actors' voices on stage - that is actually recorded and broadcast on cable television. Again, not risque at all, except that women dance fully clothed to songs like Kajra re but change a few words here and there and incorporate little anatomical details. That way...

That's about it.

The 'observations' have to do almost entirely with Lahore, by the way. Went to Faisalabad after that, and have moved to Karachi since. Haven't had time to write on them yet...will do so soonest. At least try and wrap up a Faisalabad Diary before leaving Karachi.

Allah Hafiz!