Note: I wrote this piece a while back for ‘The Lookout Journal’. Etching just a snippet of it piece on the blog today. You can read the full piece here.
“There is a moment sandwiched between the last breath of electricity and the first hum of the generators. That moment is mine. The city stands still. It freezes. In that moment. For that moment.
And then a second comes to completion, clocks tick, fans start turning, candles start melting.
That moment when reality hits, when air conditioners stop and the prospect of heat seeping inside closed doors starts haunting others, I look at Lahore and smile. That’s the only honest moment the city gives me…”
You know the feeling that someone is hammering you down there, under? The feeling that you and I try to cloak with painkillers and the shopkeeper with brown paper bags? Well our friends over at Angry Girl are here to rant, complain and start an open conversation about it! And today I’m talking to them about talking about it. Confused? Read on.
NewGirl: Period talk! When did you decide to take the brown bag off it and start talking about Aunt Flo out loud?
Angry Girl: When the team realized that the only hygiene essentials that are not being sold online in Pakistan are sanitary napkins, we knew we had to be okay with talking about menstruation openly as a society, something had to be done. And so Angry Girl came to life to start a conversation, change a perception.
NewGirl: Talking about perceptions, is the Angry Girl only angry about menstruation?
Angry Girl: One step at a time. Angry Girl is angry about period non-versations today. Tomorrow she might pick up another topic. But until she makes sure her voice is heard on one platform, she cannot jump to another. We cannot let an issue be lost amidst the clutter of others, especially when it means so much.
NewGirl: Will the issues only be women-related?
Angry Girl: The thing is, we never considered what Angry Girl was talking about to be a ‘woman-related’ issue. It is a community issue. From the conversations we initiate, we don’t want them to be considered girl-to-girl, but rather person-to-person. So yes, Angry Girl will speak about issues and they will be community related.
NewGirl: I’m curious as to how people are taking this. How has the response been like so far?
Angry Girl: We have gotten great feedback from people we were least expecting it from. Our inbox has been flooded with period confessions but there is still some hesitation. People want their identities hidden. What has shocked us though is that people we considered enlightened enough weren’t willing to talk about menstruation openly or even okay with a conversation being started around the topic. But hey! That is precisely why we are here.
NewGirl: I love how casual the tone of the whole dialogue is! Who is behind the design, the idea and its conception?
Angry Girl: We’re two guys and a girl. The design came about as a result of research where we came up with color swatches and reference images. We already had the name by then and all we needed to do was put a face to it. We wanted the Angry Girl to talk like her counterparts. She needed to talk local to be heard and understood by locals.
And when we finally wrapped up our conversation and I asked them if they had any additional comments. Here’s what they had to say:
Usually when I look at a blank space, I chatter. I fill it with words and stories that I house in my heart. I give it some inhabitants, I make it a home and then I visit it often. These days it is a different story. Writer’s block has been in town for a long time now but I’m forcing this blog post out. It has become a tradition for me to jot down my resolutions here after a quarter or almost half a year has passed and I want to keep it alive.
So here it goes…
I’m grateful for the apartment I have now. And I finally feel I’ve found that one place I wouldn’t want to leave for as long as I’m in Lahore. Now I’m on the lookout for a job like that. I plan on joining a new work place and sticking to that job for as long as I’m in the city. Too boring for my standards? Naah. I’ve waltzed around a lot, discovered what I do best, gathered a lot of experience and learned even more but now its time to settle down, apply that learning and grow within an organization. I’ve sent out my resume, have my eyes fixated on one particular organization and just need to update you on when I start working there. I’m ambitious like that. That reminds me of sugar. Yes! Sugar.
Last year, I quit sugar for almost two months. Just two months but only two months changed my attitude towards all things sweet. I have had zero midnight sugar cravings since. The idea of over indulging in desserts nauseates me and coffee with sugar is a big no now. Even I can’t believe myself! Sugar was my life line, my constant. I will have to write a full blog post on how going sugar free for two months changed my eating preferences. But first, I’d need to shake off that writer’s block holding onto me from the back. I write extensively for work but I miss being able to write here. This year I want to blog more regularly, write better and truly get this space bubbling with fun and Lahore-esque content.
And before you buzz away, judge me for quitting sugar, let me tell you I want to hold onto you my readers, the plants I’m growing and the people who brighten up my days. Some bonds are too special and I want to work towards keeping them in harmony. By the way, did I mention I want to grow my own food? Well some of it! More to come on that later.
Lastly, I want to spend more time grounding, meditating and learning more about the universe we inhabit.
What are your resolutions for this year? Do share! I’ve a feeling jotting down resolutions here makes us stick to them. Trust me I’ve stuck to almost of all the resolutions I published on the blog last year and the year before. Can I call it my lucky space?
Conventionality skipped my household. It hopped over the multiple houses we changed, not even stopping to squat for a while. If I was breaking a fast (a rare event for the family members, save our cook), my father would sit across me explaining the law of diminishing marginal utility in relation to the number of glasses of water I was gulping down. If I re-arranged the furniture in my room and emailed a detailed account of the new setting to my mother, she would reply back with a long essay on Feng Shui. So when I told my father, it was about time I got some salwar kameez stitched, we discussed the effects of peer pressure and internal identity crisis on my dressing sense.
No, his intent wasn’t to save me from peer pressure as much as it was to keep me from wearing the pieces of garment he abhorred, wore only when he visited his father’s grave in Multan or on Eid if we happened to be in Pakistan, that too in his father’s memory. I never really found out why he disliked the garment so much. After all, Pakistanis all over the world think of freedom in relation to a light cotton salwar. I exaggerate a little. Okay, I exaggerate a lot. People don’t vouch for salwar so much anymore. In fact, it is now making a comeback after a few years of absence from the fashion arena. But this blog post isn’t just about the conventional salwar kameez alone anyway. I’m my parent’s daughter, after all. Redundancy, my eighth grade teacher had written with a green sharpie fine point in the margins of my SOL essay. It still hurts. So does shopping for kurtas/kameezes. I haven’t figured out the difference yet.
All I know is that the long tunics that I buy off the rack are tricky. Saunter into a Sapphire or Khaadi outlet and tell me if you aren’t nauseated by the number and types of flowers creeping up the tunics. While the world embraces clean lines, we stick to vines, flowers and digitally printed images from Chinese gardens. A mumbo jumbo on our shirts! Shirts designed for rectangle cardboard boxes instead of real women with pear shaped bodies. Maybe it is just a handful of us in Pakistan, us hour glass, apple and pear shaped women.
And yet when I don even clothes with the right cuts, I still feel like a rabbit hopping around in a burlap sack rather than Mahira Khan on the sets of Humsafar. Not that I believe my beauty matches hers.
Perhaps her ease with the garb comes from years of practice for the only feeling I get is that of a rabbit in a burlap sack race when I don it. On most days, the shawl falters at first, then skids off my shoulder and wraps itself around my legs. I bend down to pick it up and then forget to pull down my shirt when I finally straighten up. I resume walking, my shirt flapping against my back, the lace smacking my knees. The light weight salwar moving like a flag swaying from left to right, plays peek-a-boo with my feet. I hop instead of tread, carrying out conversations with my father in my head. Why?
Perhaps, he wanted to save me from this harassment at the hands of the traditional garments for as long as he could.
Why is the last button on a button down shirt always oriented horizontally unlike the rest of the buttons? What is the purpose of the loop on the back of a shirt? When did dhaba owners decide to use the adjective ‘coozy’ for haleem? Is it really cozy? You get the point? I’m a curious person and E is a patient listener. He listens to questions, shakes his head and leaves me to Google. Very smart.
But Google isn’t always helpful. When I wondered what Disney meant by happily ever after, it revealed its idiocy to me. A few months later, I stumbled upon an Instagram account, Rants of a Desi Bride. There was my answer.
Fauzia is the desi bride behind the blog, Rants of a Desi Bride. You can scroll all the way down to the bottom of her Instagram page and start going through her shaadi journey, listen to her rant and laugh. She made a beautiful bride. And now that she has been married for a year, she makes you realize what Disney meant by happily ever after, only Disney never talked about the positive mindset that Fauzia talks about.
But I decided to talk to Fauzia about something else. She moved from Karachi to Lahore to be with her husband and I was curious about how she was finding the city. Luckily, I didn’t have to turn to Google. We had a little tête-à-tête:
When is Lahore at its best for you?
Fauzia: Just as summer starts fading away, there is this beautiful chill in the air – For me, Lahore is definitely at its best then. I love that beautiful winter smell in the air.
What would a perfect evening in Lahore look like?
Fauzia: A perfect Lahori evening? Hmm…For me, on a very personal level, it would probably involve a very casual walk with my husband followed by some disgusting roadside french fries/pakoray/chaat.
Lahore and food are somewhat synonymous. Favorite Lahori eatery?
Fauzia: I am obsessed with H&G’s Ginger Mint Lemonade. Give it to me right now and I’ll have it. As for food, I really like Lahore Social, mostly because their food is consistently good. My go to place, however, is definitely Johnny and Jugnu. Their tortilla wrap is incredible. And of course Maro Tandoor for those awesome stuffed naans.
How are Lahori weddings different from Karachi weddings?
Fauzia: Lahori weddings are way too flashy. Sometimes its hard to figure out who the bride is because everyone is so dressed up. Haha. I feel like in Karachi, people are becoming more mature when it comes to the shaadi business. Less events, less guests, less wastage. People here say things like ‘Oh they had one event? Probably just trying to save money’. That is a mindset that is almost out of Karachi and I hope Lahore follows soon. 8-9 events per wedding makes me want to jump off a cliff.
Lahore is like…
Lahore is like that very loud neighbor we have a love-hate relationship with. It is a little judgmental, sadly very materialistic but deep inside has a kind heart and is very welcoming.
A tourist is in town and can visit only one spot, where would you take them?
It would either be Masjid Wazir Khan (mainly because I still haven’t been there myself. What better excuse to go? Haha) or Badshahi Masjid.
And you thought white Christmas was romantic. Snow falling outside your window, soft like a lover’s caress. You didn’t know about fog back then, did you? The enigma that wraps itself around the city every winter, subtle unlike the snow, delicate like petals under your feet. Tread slowly or you’ll lose your way. It is in this fog, bundled up in hand me down shawls that Lahore whispers romance over a cup of Pakistani coffee.
Pakistani coffee? Ever heard of the auntie arm workout? You’ve been living in a hole all your life, my friend. Tear open a sachet of instant coffee and slide that dirt into a mug. DO NOT add a cup of boiling water over it and call it a day. Love is patient. Patient and tiring. Add a teaspoon of water, some sugar and beat it. Beat it hard. Keep slipping a drop of water here and there, in between. Those arms are going to be ripped by the time it all starts looking like caramel. Take a sniff, that is romance. Now if you lick it off the spoon…well go ahead. Try. Love is foolish at times. Cut that thick concoction with hot milk. Keep adding milk until you see boundaries dissolve. Now is the time, take a sip.
Wrap yourself in a shawl, walk out into the foggy night with a mug of Pakistani coffee in your hand and Ghalib in your thoughts. Love in our neck of the woods is simple, subtle and nostalgic. Exhaust it with declarations and demands and it will shy away.
Judge me all you want, I rickshaw-ed all the way to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital rather than Uber-ing to a hotshot doctor’s private clinic to get a contagious skin wart removed from my chin. My chin! I’m vain like that. If the procedure had gone wrong, I would have been left with a scar. That scar would have then found itself in all my pictures and my future children would have wondered how I got it. But I take risks. There will always be Photoshop and a stash of cool stories to tell the future offspring. And also because I trust the ladies on the internet to come up with a DIY recipe for lightening scars if there isn’t one already. Confused? Let me take it from the top.
Once upon a time a little tiny flower like wart found itself on my chin. The internet warned of a buddy wart growing next to it. It could spread to my hands, neck, feet. Wart invasion. I started sleeping in awkward positions to keep it from touching my pillow case. Someone advised tying a single strand of hair from a horse’s tail around the wart and waiting for it to come off on its own. I chickened out at the idea of cutting hair off a horse’s tail. What if it got offended?
I didn’t want to risk offending a horse so I consulted dermatologists. They decided they were going to laser away the wart and charge anywhere between Rs. 5000-7000 for removing it. Living independently comes with a cost. Literally. I couldn’t spend that much on a wart. I looked for DIY remedies. But the internet just ended up scaring me.
I woke up early one day and went to a government hospital, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. You would know how crowded government organizations are if you had stood in a line at DMV for six hours on a Saturday afternoon. No, you can’t get appointments scheduled for your first consultation at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. And yes, my jaws dropped when the receptionist asked me to donate whatever I wanted to instead of charging me Rs.5000-7000. I dropped twenty rupees in the box. It was the end of the month. You know how it is…
I was the first person to be seen. The dermatologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital told me that the wart would be removed in two sittings. She would burn it off. The procedure is called fulguration. I was given a date and time and I left. On my next visit, I forgot all about my DMV incident and got to the skin ward right on time. Needless to say I waited for three hours before my turn came, drenched in sweat. Mind you, don’t walk into a government hospital thinking you’d get any protocol. Those receptionists in there leave kindness at the gates when they enter their work place. But this time, I donated a bit more generously. I’d prefer that to dishing out the same amount at a private clinic any day.
No, I won’t judge you for going to a private clinic and being seated by an elegant English speaking receptionist in a waiting area with polished floors and nice coffee table books. But I’ll tell you this, it has been two months now and there is no scar on my chin. Friends who had warned me about un-sterilized equipment at government hospitals think I got lucky. Maybe I did. Who knows…