Women on women
By Aiman Adnan
Just when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is keeping mum on the issue taken up by her detractors [her weight], her choice seems completely in sync with the eastern ethos of how women must function. In contrast, some weeks back we saw Ashley Judd slamming all her critics who had been grossly assaulting her on her “puffy face.” Anyone who has followed what happened there must have felt a real surge of reverence for Judd, regardless of whether one is a feminist or not.
Time to sing the amaltas
The gold of the blossoms catching the slanting sun as if it were liquid against the solid blue of the sky is indeed the prettiest sight in Lahore in May through mid-June
By Salman Rashid
I don’t know
which trees Joyce Kilmer had in mind when he published his collection
‘Trees and other Poems’ in 1914. But since he was an American
(journalist and poet), I suspect he would have been talking of elms, oaks
and yews that he was acquainted with. The first stanza of his ode Trees is
remarkable: I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree.
The poem, all twelve
lines of it, is a beautiful, heart-warming appreciation of trees that one
can scarcely go any better. But have you ever stopped to put your face
against the smooth bark of the peepul or the rough one of a tahli or neem
and imagined you can hear the sap coursing through its veins? The sap that
carries the songs of several decades and, in the case of some fine old
banyans, even of centuries. I have, and I have heard songs and tales and
have seen events unfolding as the tree saw them. But then I suppose I am a
sentimental old dreamer.
We don’t do these
things. Because now as Lahore expands unplanned and uncontrolled, the
ancient trees are being destroyed to be replaced only by shrubbery and
fast growing species like rubber plant, asoka and, lately, cornucopus. As
we are in too unholy a haste to get nowhere, similarly we are in greater
haste to see these grow, trees that do not belong on this good land.
My gripe apart, this is
the season to sing the amaltas (Cassia fistula), the tree of the smooth
pale-coloured bark that in full summer has a dense leafy crown much
favoured by collared doves, bulbuls, little brown doves of the somnolent
coos and, if it is a big tree, by the kuk-kuk-kuk bird – the beautiful
green, blue and red coppersmith or chukki rah of Punjabi.
Unlike the tahli, neem
or the peepul that shed in midwinter and come back into leaf by April, the
amaltas sheds in early May. Then for about three weeks it stands bare, its
skeletal branches, smooth and almost white, pointing fingers at the sky,
which in this season is always a quartertone of blue. I have so many times
stood under a bare amaltas this time of year and imagined it is shaming
the sky for losing its azure to the dust and filth we humans have pumped
into the sky.
About sometime in
mid-May, tiny green buds break out on pendent new shoots. But instead of
unfurling into leaves, these buds grow fatter by the day until they burst
into yellow blossoms. Every day they grow in numbers until the tree, still
without its green drape, becomes a very cascade of fragrant gold. It is a
flower fall (if we can have waterfalls why not a flower fall) of gold,
And the fragrance, oh,
the fragrance! I don’t think even Kilmer could have described it. It is
as mellow and subdued as can be. Not the overpowering exuberance of Raat
ki Rani but no less straight out of some similar mythical paradise.
Whereas the Raat ki Rani drowns you so that you do not wish to rise again,
the fragrance of the amaltas is only just discernible as it rides the
breeze in undulating waves; it uplifts. It is a lilt in the air, a melody
and a dance that rolls like the waltz — always smooth, always without a
twitch, as if it has oiled the very breeze that carries it.
This is the time when
the tree also breaks out its new foliage. Not its parrot green of high
summer, but a pale brick-red turning to olive, just so to set the gold to
blazing advantage. It is the shade of the crown on the tailor bird’s
head. Is it the colour then that invites the tailor bird to nest in this
heavenly tree when its leaves mature in June?
Every morning shortly
after sunrise, I stand under the amaltas in my yard and look up through
its cascade of gold and brick-red amid the white branches to a sky that is
not yet burned to a half-tone by the blistering sun. I stand there for
minutes on end until the doves and the bulbuls become nervous with my
stare which they assume is aimed at them.
With the sun low in the
east, the gold of the blossoms catches the slanting rays to shimmer and
glint as if it were liquid against the solid blue of the sky. I don’t
think there is a prettier sight in Lahore in May through mid-June. And
then there are those ripples of fragrance to uplift. Every morning, I have
but one regret: why must the amaltas only favour us for, at most, six
weeks a year? Why cannot we have it in blossom the year round?
But that is the way of
Nature. So before it is too late, shake a leg, go out and make friends
with an amaltas. You will not regret it.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is keeping mum on the issue taken up by her
detractors [her weight], her choice seems completely in sync with the
eastern ethos of how women must function. In contrast, some weeks back we
saw Ashley Judd slamming all her critics who had been grossly assaulting
her on her “puffy face.” Anyone who has followed what happened there
must have felt a real surge of reverence for Judd, regardless of whether
one is a feminist or not.
Judd is reported to have
said, “Patriarchy isn’t men. It is the system in which both women and
men participate.” And from here exactly, I take the opportunity to look
at the women at large in this city.
All of us have heard of
men who stare at goats. But what about the women who stare at other women?
All of us have come across them. We have seen them in the shape of random
women, our relatives, our friends/colleagues etc. One ‘shocking’
revelation might be that such a woman resides in us. Blekh!
Anyhow, since I’ve
gained consciousness to operate socially on my own, I’ve definitely seen
things other than what my elders chose to show. Well, that was important.
Among the many things that were revealed, I noticed that random women you
don’t even know, wouldn’t even bother knowing, have a habit of staring
at you. They leave no stone unturned to manage that desperate feat of
staring at you from head to toe, threadbare. No matter where they are —
in a bazaar, at some institution, public/private offices, cafes etc.
I’ve had a fair share
of women who had no interest in me other than what brand I was clad in.
Hello women! many of you would agree with me here, unless you’re
running on an attention deficit. I believe everyone deserves some
attention but showering random strangers with such unreasonable attention
is uncalled for. It makes the other feel uncomfortable at times.
Unarguably, this is a
subtle assault on those who are the victims of this unwanted attention. I
could have shared little anecdotes, to link the broader concern with my
personal sensitivity, but somehow I haven’t. I hear cries of feminism
every day (some of which are raised by me as well) but that should not
stop me from thinking and saying what wrongs are committed by women
While we are
exhaustively engaged in fighting the misogynistic assault on women, here
is a sketch of the mischief perpetrated by those who are not men. In doing
so, I hope that such a pitiful and shallow display of one’s mind and
priorities will be addressed and will prove to be a step forward to
another milestone for women.
Art Beat: National Child
Art Exhibitions , June 11 to 13 at 5pm at Alhamra Art Council, The Mall.
Introduction to Poetry
in English & Persian
from 5:00 to 6:00 pm at Hast-o-Neest Centre for Traditional Art
WAHDAT UL WUJUD June 03,
2012, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm at Hast-o-Neest Centre for Traditional Art &
Rustam-o-Sohrab from 4th
to 6th June, 2012 at at 7.30 at Alhamrah
Kung Fu To’a Martial
Arts Classes from Jan 16 - Dec 31, 2012
from 4 to 5pm at Faiz Ghar from 4 to 5pm for age groups (5 yrs above).
Lahore Music Forum
Monthly Concert on Saturday June 09, 2012
at 6:00 pm at Lahore Music Forum
Summer Arts and New
Media Workshops from July 30, 2012 at Annemarie-Schimmel-Haus for age
As far as I
remember Ferozsons was a premier bookshop in Lahore since late 1950s.
Usually there were small shops on Mall road with books stuffed in poorly.
But Ferozsons stood out because of its space and the variety of books for
book lovers. The books were of general nature, not syllabus books, that
were available at Imperial in the same vicinity.
We used to go there with
a lot of fervour. And we were always greeted by a Parsi gentleman who was
a manager then. But for the regular visitors he was more than a manager
— he was a guide who would indulge in book-talk with you and he’d
exactly know what kind of a book you were looking for.
I remember Ferozsons had
a section for children which always attracted me. Away from parental
control we used to sneak in and browse comics, which we weren’t allowed
in school and at home.
“An important bookmark
of my life”
— Arif Azad, writer
I can hardly
recall a visit to Lahore which does not involve an obligatory pilgrimage
to Ferozsons on the Mall. Such is the hold of Ferozsons over my past and
When I lived in Lahore
as a student in the eighties, Ferozsons was an essential port of call
whenever I happened to be in the area. Ferozsons provided the much-needed
window to the outer, wider outside world through books during the stifling
period of General Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorial rule. It was the place where
book-watching spurred imagination to run wild.
Since then, the
Ferozsons has remained a permanent bookmark and landmark in my life. Even
when I lived abroad for a long stretch of time, Ferozsons was never away
from my thoughts of Lahore (both were, in fact, inextricably linked).
Every time I visited Pakistan in those days, I made it a point to stop
over at 60-Mall to take stock of where the country was headed through the
type of books being sold and published.
The idea that Ferozsons
is no more is deeply unsettling as it has robbed me of a permanent anchor
of my Lahore days and my frequent visits.
“I have lots of
memories attached to the place”
— Salima Hashmi, artist
Ferozsons and I
go back to when I was a little girl. I remember back in the 1950s, there
were just bookshops that I frequented and one of them was the Ferozsons of
the Mall road. I feel sad that it got burned because I have a lot of
memories associated with it.
I can recall that
whenever Dr. Taseer came to our place, I along with his daughter used to
hop in his car to go to this famous bookshop and shop for books. My mother
herself was a great patron of this shop for the sole reason that it was a
contemporary bookshop and one of the only good one in Lahore back at that
time. Likewise she always tried to inculcate the reading habit in us.
Moreover, when it was my
birthday, or when my father sent his poetry from the prison and we got
them published and all the money that came from selling them, we spent it
on books that were bought here. Gradually, the centre of Lahore shifted
from the Mall to other places and it became very difficult to feel the
same comfort that we once felt when we came to The Mall. I couldn’t
bring my children here to share the same experience because in their time
The Mall became so polluted, and anti-pedestrian as well — it just
ruined the entire effort to enjoy the luxury of books that Ferozsons
offered. I still remained a patron of Ferozsons when it had its branch
opened at the Qaddafi Stadium although its outlet at The Mall was special
because it was in such a beautiful building.
As publishers, Ferozsons
itself was rather conservative. I believe it didn’t experiment much on
imaginative writings and didn’t also take any imaginative leap of faith
“The fragrance of
books etched in my mind”
— Mustansar Hussain
Since the day
the Ferozsons got burnt, I am in a fix of depression. I have many reasons
to be sad about it but the foremost is that such a building got burnt
which should not have been while all those which should have been burnt
This is one place that I
have frequented since my childhood. Since I was in class 6 or 7 to the day
I moved from my Laxmi mansion residence, I went there daily. The fragrance
of the books, the entire atmosphere of the shop is etched in my mind to
this day. It was no ordinary bookshop; one went there and ended up making
friends, meeting new people and hence became part of the cultural centre
and learning that was Lahore.
Back in my time, it was
the only bookshop that imported contemporary European novels, foreign
literature, English magazines and offered a huge array of products of
books and stationary. I have strong sentiments attached to that place also
because all the shelves that I had paid attention to during my youth
gradually started to have my own books when I became a writer.
It meant something
incredible to me and it was a highlight for me when I saw that Ferozsons
was publishing my books. Also I cultivated friendships with their
salesmen. Those folks were unlike today’s personnel who check the
inventory on their computers; rather they knew it if a certain book was
out of stock or not. Well-read people themselves, they took the
opportunity of suggesting you the books if you were their regular
customers and they knew your taste.
I just don’t have the
heart to see a place that I’ve held so dear since my childhood in ruins.
I have remained a patron of Ferozsons on The Mall for all this time before
it was set ablaze, so much so that I have not been to its other outlets in
Fortress Stadium and the Qaddafi Stadium. I am extremely attached to the
building; it is one of the landmarks in Lahore of my time.
As a publisher, I think
Ferozsons has remained orthodox with its selection of work. I think they
lacked the will to grow out of the lakeer ka faqeer attitude.
steam-roast chicken or deep-fried chargha available for just Rs 160!
That’s strange — the fact that a large number of roadside food outlets
are selling the product at this price in the city.
For example, the fish
shops on the road leading from Qartaba Chowk to Chauburji are offering
steam-roast at unbelievably low price. Unable to sell a fraction of the
fish stock they sell in winter, chicken is a safe bet for them these days.
In a bid to outdo each other, these shops offer amazing discounts to
prospective clients who have to think more than once to take a decision.
“Only a dead chicken
could be sold for this price,” says Muhammad Zahid, 40, a resident of
Northern Lahore who is too fond of eating local food. His point is that if
one counts the cost of spices, yogurt and other ingredients, and overheads
like gas, labour etc, the price of chicken comes at around Rs70 to Rs80
carry weight, keeping in view the fact that a normal-sized chicken costs
around Rs200 to Rs220 if giblets such as kidneys, liver, neck are removed.
The answer to his
questions come from Qasim Saeed, a poultry shop owner in Samanabad. He
tells TNS that poultry farms have recently been providing two types of
chickens in the market. The first type was fully grown, ageing around 7
weeks and the second extremely undersized.
“I am sure it’s this
under-sized chicken the food shops are selling. They are available for
Rs90 to Rs100 per kg.”
Qasim Saeed clarifies he
does not sell undersized chicken as he fears it is suffering from some
disease that hampers its growth. That’s why, he says, he has placed a
hanging placard at his shop reading: “Only large-sized chicken available
“What if this
small-sized chicken is procured by sellers of minced and boneless meat and
caterers for the low price it offers?” questions Mudassar Durrani, an
employee at a construction company. He urges the concerned government
authorities to ensure that substandard chicken is not sold in the market.
Prof Dr Tahir Yaqub,
Director Quality Operation Lab, at the University of Veterinary and Animal
Sciences, Lahore, explains the supply of under-sized chicken in the market
was due to the spread of Newcastle Disease (ND), locally called raani
khait, among the poultry stock in the province. “Not less than 55
million broiler chickens died due to this disease and mortality rate was
as high as 90 per cent among the flock affected by it.”
tells TNS a farm owner who lost 4,000 chickens in a day did not wait for
the remaining to die and brought them in the market. Normally, it is
advised a chicken less than 40 days old should not be brought into the
market as it does not gain the required weight before this time period.
After the disease outbreak, chickens much younger than this age were
brought to the market. This chicken is simply under-age and does not
suffer from any genetic disorder and can be consumed, he clarifies.
As the average distance
between poultry farms have reduced due to heavy investment in this sector,
fear spreads very fast. If poultry stock in a farm is affected, the
neighbouring ones panic and start selling their stock without even waiting
for a day.
The situation was out of
control as the strain of the disease was local and incurable. Fortunately,
Dr Tahir says, the university has successfully developed a vaccine which
is available at a highly subsidised cost and the disease is getting under
control. “We are charging Rs250 to Rs300 only for 1000 doses. It’s a
service for the local farmers as the price is unbelievably low,” he