Moni Mohsin – A Ball-less Winter

Haalats are very bad. So bad so bad, keh don’t even ask. Every day bombs bursting everywhere and people dying like fries. And because of all these bombs shombs and shooting vooting, life has become very bore.

First tau the schools closed down for a full week. Oho, baba, because they were receiving ten ten threats a day from the beardo weirdos. Girls schools specially being warned that they’ll burn down their buildings and throw acid in their faces because their uniform is unIslamic. Just look at them! What can be more Islamic than a kameez that comes down to your uncles, and a shulloo that has more cloth in it than a three seater sofa? Cracks. And outside Kulchoo’s school they found a car loaded with bombs just waiting to go off. Imagine! Khair, we tau all hit the ceiling and the Principle who was insisting until then that there was no danger couldn’t ignore any more and so his school shut up and Kulchoo was home for a full week doing Facebook, with Janoo muttering non stop about his disrupted education. But I said, baba he’ll only get educated if he lives, no? Lots of people are talking about sending their children to England vaghera for boarding. It’s too unsafe here they say. I agree but Janoo’s such a kanjoos makhi choos and also I’ll miss Kulchoo too much so I haven’t mentioned to Janoo.

Anyways, schools have reopened but danger hasn’t gone away. Kulchoo tau I don’t let out of my sights even. He goes to school, with driver and armed guard and comes straight back and bus khatam. No roaming around, no friends’ houses, no Pizza Hut, no DVD shops, no nothing. Not even tuition. Of course he shouts and screams and eats my head and drinks my blood day and night because he says I’m polaroid about the Talibans but I say better polaroid than dead, baba. I swear I feel frightened myself going to the bazaar in case the weirdos shoot me for buying western food like chips or for wearing western clothes like pop socks. All the time I’m looking over my shoulder, all the time thinking someone standing behind me in a shop or parked beside me on a bicycle in a traffic jam might blow me up. It’s been two full months since I went to Avari hotel on The Mall to get my facial (they’re the best at giving facial and head – massage and things na). Ever since the Marriott was bombed last year in Isloo, I’ve tau stopped hotelling. The only thing I used to still go for was my facial. Now I get a girl to come to the house but she’s not a thatch on the Avari waali. And also she has b.o. Honestly, what the Talibans have put us through!

At least Lahore isn’t as bad as Isloo. There tau everyone’s under house arrest. So many important foreign types keep coming there, na, that guvmunt’s shut down everything to protect them. First came Senator Carry, oh baba, the one who lost that election to Bush, then came the Turkish PMT, sorry sorry I mean PM, what’s his name, Astrakhan or Ardogan or something (such strange strange names people have) and then Hillary Clinton came. The guvmunt as you can imagine is scared sniff about where Talibans will strike next and fearing a repeat of the Sri Lankan cricket team wallah scene, they’ve closed down hole of Isloo to protect these important types. I swear you can’t take three steps without getting stopped by a police wallah at a check post and being searched in places you didn’t even know you had.

Isloo wallahs, becharas, tau are totally fed up. I was talking to my friend Baby Khan the other day and she said hardly any parties sharties or balls are happening. People are frightened of even leaving their houses. And those few brave ones who do go out to a dinner or GT (oho bhai, kya ho gya, get togethers) have to leave two hours before they’re invited because of all the stoppages at police check posts. Honestly. God knows what will happen when the shaadi season starts properly. And this year tau, the whole of it is going to be jam packed into just November and half of December because after that is Muharram, na, the month of moaning, when nobody can have a ball, let alone throw a proper seven event wedding. I think so this is going to be a very bore winter. Mulloo-Tony and Baby- Toto are going off to Dubai for New Year’s eve and winters ki holidays because they say Pakistan’s going to be so bore. I just mentioned to Janoo and he blew up like a rocket launcher.

“Your country is in flames and all you can think of is partying! Are you off your head?”

I wanted to say I will be if I stay here a moment longer but then I thought would he listen? Taubah karo!

Strange things are happening every where. That no one can deny. Take Furry, for instant. You know na her husband, TC, travels a lot. So she became worried when her driver started growing a beard and giving her funny, funny looks from rare view window every time she wore sleeveless and drove alone with him in the car. And one day while TC was away she was about to enter the kitchen when she heard whisperings coming from inside. The cook and driver were talking and guess what about? About her rape! Imagine! They were planning to rape her! But you know Furry, na, so brave she is. She barged right in and started screaming at them and threatened them with police and torture and prison and God knows what what. She gave the driver his munching orders there and then only.

‘And the cook,’ I asked, ‘what did you do to the cook?’

Furry sighed. ‘I was about to throw him out also but then I thought, good cooks are so hard to find. . .’

The police has taken out an add in the papers telling us all to be aware of suicide bombers. They say we should watch out for people who look a bit fattish in their top halfs (suicide vests do nothing for your figure, na) and are distracted and loudly saying Arabic prayers and respiring heavily and all. So yesterday when Janoo had gone out and I was at home watching a re-run of  Kyonke Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, the bearer came and said that a Kashmiri shawl wallah had come and wanted to show me his stuff. I got all excited thinking maybe I can buy a new double coloured shatoosh to saarho Mulloo with for the shaadi season. (Bhai at least one or two will happen.) Thinking it was my old shawl wallah, Abrar, I told bearer to put him in the drawing.

When I walked in it wasn’t Abrar at all but a thin sa young sa man, who I’d never seen before, in a shulloo kurta and wispy si beard and a white cap on his head. But uss se bhi worst, he was wearing a puffy sa leather jacket. And sub se worst, he had this suitcase lying beside him. I swear I thought I heard it ticking. My tau colour immediately went fuck. He said his name was Imtiaz and that was from Karachi and he’d heard from the shawl wallahs ki grape wine that I was a collector of shawls. And then he reached inside his pocket and took out a key and bent towards his suitcase. Bus then I lost it. I told him, I said that I didn’t have any money and I hated shawls anyway and I’d never bought a shawl in my life and he mustn’t please for God’s sake open the suit case and who’d given him my address and I was a God fearing Muslim and I had a young son and what would become of him and please have some pity. He looked at me as if I was completely crack. But I didn’t care and by this time I think so he was more afraid of me than I was of him and he picked up his suit case and ran. When he was gone I called all the servants, bearer, cook, driver, maids, sweeper, guards shards everyone and shouted at them for letting people into the house that they didn’t know when haalats were so bad and why were they such stuppids and just now only I’d foiled a suicide bomber all by myself. So they also looked at me as if I was a crack but I damn care. Stuppids jaisay!

Later that evening Mulloo called and said ‘Guess what? I’ve just bought the most tabahi six yards ka double coloured shatoosh from this shweetoo sha shawl wallah called Imitiaz. And such good prices he gives! Wait till you see it. You tau will just die!”

The Diary of a Social Butterfly

Moni Mohsin is the author of the highly acclaimed The Diary of a Social Butterfly based on her popular columns for Pakistan’s Friday Times. She grew up in Lahore and now divides her time between Lahore and London, where she lives with her husband and two children.

The Penguin India Blog

4 thoughts on “Moni Mohsin – A Ball-less Winter

  1. Wonderful book! One of my favs. The stupidity or unrefined innocence, if u can call it, comes out so well out of her words. I want more from Moni Mohsin. Unfortunately, I haven’t read the End of Innocence yet. It’s not available in major bookstores.

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