Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dating in Isloo...

So I am guilty of helping my 22-year-old Pushtu cook date her fiance!

When: Holy month of Ramzan, 2009
Where: Super Market, Islamabad
Why: She wanted to give him an Eid gift

Nargis wanted to gift the gray-colour shalwar suit that she'd picked up on her weekly trip to the Jumma Bazaar at Peshawar More to her fiance Sagheer. She didn't know how because good Pathan girls don't date, not even soon-to-be Mehrams. She, of course, didn't agree with most Pathan pearls of wisdom, having lived most of her life in good old Isloo.

On her day three with us, she sweet-talked us into buying her a phone (to be fair it was her money), but without her family's consent. Soon our six cats were witness to endless phone conversations held in our kitchen, in our living room, on the terrace, in the backyard, well everywhere except perhaps the cats' cage -- as at 5.7 feet she couldn't quite fit in.

One Ramzan afternoon, she showed up at the door with an urgent request: "Can you come with me to Super?"

I had entertained such requests in the past, but that day I turned it down because I was fasting and was, therefore, (psychologically) low on energy.

She persisted. And I gave in. We took a cab, with me holding a bouquet which I had passed on to her earlier in the day, and she the gift.

I noticed Nargis, who usually wore a chador before stepping out, was covered from head to toe in a figure-hugging black burqa, the veil neatly held up on both sides with two safety pins.

Her one hand stuck to her ear taking instructions from her half-Mehram on the mobile, we got off at Super and then started walking towards a jewellery stall. She stopped, muttered something in Pushtu, and handed over the bouquet and the gift to the man at the stall. The guy refused to accept the goodies, saying he had no instructions to receive bouquets/gifts!!

It was obvious that we had stopped at the wrong stall. We strolled around some more, eyeing all jewellery-wallahs, and by now, all jewellery-wallahs, potato chip-wallahs, pirated CD-wallahs eyeing us and showering us (actually me more as I was the non-burqa, jean-clad, unholy type) with the horrified "buri aurats that too in Ramzan look".

With my companion all covered up, and her hand still glued to her ear, she was blissfully unaware of the goings-on.

It was time to act. I told her I was leaving and that she could continue with her wild goose chase. The threat worked and within minutes the fiance decided to show up at one of the stalls. He slid into a corner because good Pathan boys and girls not only don't date but also don't make eye contact before marriage.

We dropped the gift like a bomb and vanished -- with me swearing never to visit Super again without a shuttlecock burqa.


  1. hi.. this is samiya from india.. i m sorry to comment but cant stopmyself from it.. i have been topakmany times and have stayed thr for months together as i have many relatives..its true that the society is conservative but the places u are talking abt like super market and others are not that bad actually.. the girls over thr obviously wear jeans but obviously nt skirts and all.. putting on a jeans is nt a bg deal these days actually.. i think its also changing

  2. Hi Samiya,

    Thanks for reading and commenting :)

    I personally have been very uncomfortable about the comments and looks that came my way when I went to Super Market wearing jeans, but that wasn't the point of this piece.

  3. interesting blog laskar..though obviously your wife wrote this one! will continue following your accounts! cheers and best of luck! Shikha.

  4. i would say that jinnah super has a very modern look.Most of the teen agers are studing in american schools/Olevel/Alevel.
    I am IN US for many years and I found lot of traditional and conservative gora families here.
    I dont understand why ur trying to send a wrong message to indians that even in Islamabad
    people are over conservative.
    My family is from islamabad ....every body encourage girls for studies and jobs but that true people want it in a dignified way.specially for girls they want them to be educated ,professional but safe .
    yes people who want to drink they can manage it in islamabad pretty much freely .
    at the same time good educated families dont encourage it and I dont understand whats wrong with this.
    I had a driving ticket in Arkansas last year.
    I got a driving lecture to attend and the chief COP was preaching for almost 2 hrs how bad the drinking is and its bad effects on driving.
    I think as an Indian represtative its ur responsibity to tell ur people true picture
    u dont need to please ur ppl with stero type they want to listen as manipulated by indian media about Pakistani culture.
    I hope it would not offend U and softly remind u of ur responsibities.

  5. Point taken Faheem. Thanks for reading :)

  6. Funny article- especially about the fiance not even taking a peek at his to-be wife. I know that in Islam, you are allowed to meet with your to-be wife/husband before marriage in the presence of others. So does seem a little extra conservative.

  7. Funny, but I've been in Isloo for two years, Havent worn a burqa al my life (neither in Karachi nor in Lahore).
    And I personally think any burqa clad woman would stand out in Super market instead of the other way round!
    I for one haven't ever been on the receiving end of 'buri aurat' glances in Isloo cause of my attire.
    I'd have agreed if this were set in Peshawar but for Isloo, this is so not correct!

  8. Naqsh, this post is about two women -- one in burqa, the other in jeans holding a bouquet and a gift -- trying to zero in on a guy in a deserted marketplace on a Ramzan afternoon...

    Personally, I think the only place one doesn't stand out in western outfits is the Gole Market area of F7-3 (the place which houses Civil Junction, Gelato, Hot Spot etc)...

    Thanks for reading. Value your feedback.


  9. Now that I have joined the party (yeah, i know, i am late to bump in), might as well start with the first blog, and might I add, loving every bit of it and thanks for sharing your experiences. You two have a great time, and keep blogging, and you’ll have me replying every now and then :).

    Looking forward to your pic in a burqa covered head to toe, that is if it has not been shared so far with the people around :D

    Not sure how one posts a pic here, is it to be done through an image hosting site?

    Anyways here’s one, an epic!


  10. Ritesh, thanks for joining the "party" :D

  11. This was a good read...but how about everything from this post onwards be about CATS for some reason. But you can't STATE the reason...or it'd ruin the cats.