Speaking the ‘unspeakables’


Zahra Haider 

She’s got gall, gotta give her that! 🙈
Zahra Haider’s rather tumultuous rant  has sent our nation in a mass frenzy. I wonder what brought about the mock outrage more – the brutal honesty she writes with, or the matter-of-fact way she puts things? Or perhaps, the content itself because it is vile and ‘unladylike’? 😶 Referring to our entire nation as the h******* in the world was downright stupid and poorly researched coupled with being a very unkind stereotype, so I won’t be acknowledging that at all. While she’s being massacred by the mass-media for daring to pen such ‘obscenities’, there are a choice few who read between the lines of the notorious tirade; http://www.dawn.com/news/1255226 (although I highly suspect by the time you read this, DAWN will have removed it).

On a serious note though, the article could’ve been more well-written, yes, but while Zahra’s post is mostly more of a (personal?) reflection on sexual encounters+sexuality+sexual repression, and how these are received, her post does capture the essence of multiple problems plaguing our country today because they seem to share the same roots.
I don’t exactly condone the whole sleeping around jazz – I don’t judge you or anyone for sleeping with one person or twenty, but no, I don’t endorse it on the same level as Zahra perhaps because it’s always going to be something that’s largely a personal choice (and more often than not, religious). But, I do greatly scorn the paranoia and judgemental stigma that pervades our part of the world – Plastering labels on people that follow them all the way to their graves is never going be right, and it disgusts me how people have the audacity to do that while putting themselves on some higher moral ground (read: holier than thou).


I vehemently oppose the ‘culture of silence’ here, particularly on important matters that badly need to be talked about, inter alia, child abuse, Sex-Ed, the stigma prevalent across psychological illnesses etc. I personally feel that she did somewhat encapsulate the oppressive reins that our society strangles women with. Most women not even knowing jack about dosage and ODing on contraceptives is very, very real. And the persistent stigma circulating abortion is not exactly laudable either (not going to be talking about the religion tangent here, sorry); where it’s an inadvertent happening and cons rate higher, I do believe it’s really always the girl’s choice. Because, postpartum depression is incredibly severe and has the tendency to lead to MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). A non-existent Sex-Ed policy accompanied with illiteracy leaves Pakistan grappling with multiple problems on this front – primarily, that of overpopulation and of the high suicide rate because when our underprivileged people pop out babies without any family-planning, and lack the very means to feed the growing number of mouths, their simplest solution is to off themselves. It is crucial to understand the gravity of what being tight-lipped about so many important matters can do. How much longer will we let human lives be treated like cheap commodities?

Moreover, Zahra is very right in underscoring how the standards for men and those for women are so brazenly imbalanced and twisted, it is downright unacceptable. I do not know why or how we are allowing such blatant hypocrisy to reign so free in our world; I have yet to see people more chauvinistic and misogynistic than the ordinary Pakistani man. Similarly, I have yet to hear about an honor killing of a man for the same twisted notions of ‘honour’ that follow the rampant ones of girls; for getting into pre-marital (read ‘haram’) relations. Does the simple act of mingling with the opposite sex really justify snatching away the life of your own blood for something you describe as (a vain attempt in) upholding your ‘honor’?

At a recent screening of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s latest documentary, A Girl in the River, at a University in Peshawar, shocking events unfolded as men in the audience actually had the tenacity to cheer & applaud at the part where the girl was killed (To read the story for yourself, head over to: “Honour has different meanings for different genders“). Truly deplorable, n’est–ce pas?! Never have I been more perturbed for my country and its people. Equally, if not more, outrageous is the axeing of documentaries for “negative portrayal”.

Let’s not forget, however, that India too has had its fair share of shameless misogyny – a couple of years ago, a rape scene in a movie was met with applause by men in the audience. But Godforbid anyone should talk about all of this – it is nothing short of social-suicide in the minds of the millions of our countrymen. And here lies the crux of the problem – we are conditioned to repress and withhold our views because being opinionated is seen as something of a disease. I would like to chalk it up to the stark difference b/w the educated and the uneducated, yet even some of our most educated people are hopelessly flawed in their thinking – our people are chained by these staunch ideas and views that have been backed by generations of their families, and so to step away from the shackles of ignorance & chauvinism and exercise their own cognitive processes is fairly challenging, because even the slightest of meandering away from these long-held male supremacist ideas is quite simply chalked up to blasphemy of the highest order. So caught up are we in this current of ‘unquestionables‘ and ‘unspeakables‘, the fear of the repercussions of talking about these matters greatly outweighs all else. And so, all essence of humanity is collapsing like a house of cards as our people cling to their silence and their Orthodox beliefs. We are light years behind, because we severely lack even the bare minimum of humanity – we are allowing these horrors to continue because we are choosing to remain close-mouthed about it all; here lies our greatest undoing.


The Dupatta Symbol


I think, one of the most interesting and (later on) confusing aspects of Pakistani culture was the dupatta. My mother did a splendid job on telling me about its cultural and apparel importance along with its imperative nature in most regions of the country. In her ever subtle manner, she explained to me that as soon as a Muslim girl grows up, she is required to cover her body modestly. Initially it was more like a rag around my neck but as soon I began “blossoming”, I loved my dupatta like a police officer loves his gun. We all know how our Pakistani men are notorious for their staring stamina and I had my fair share of lewd experiences. That is when the dupatta came to my rescue. It’s like, you’re buying clothes in the bazaar and you can feel the salesman visually examining your curves and arches. What does a typical Pakistani woman do? She fixes her dupatta with a scowl.

I’m going to buy a DSLR some day and make a collage of the mentioned scenario. You will thank me. I know you will. But first meet Dupatta.

After accepting the dupatta as my savior, I began taking note of how girls adorned their feminine-beauty-covering buddy. I realized that every style left a message about the girl’s personality along with how the society perceives the young lady. There are five distinctive styles I cannot forget. Here’s an analytical(?)  note on each one of them.

Exhibit A: TRA LA LA LA LA Dupattay Wali


Probably the most hilarious kind to have ever existed. This is the TRA LA LA LA LA Dupattay Wali. She barely knows she’s wearing one. It dangles off her right shoulder, slipping to her right wrist while the left bit goes flying in the air. Sometimes her dupatta is on the floor while other times she’s simply too busy TRA LA LA LA LA -ing to notice where it disappeared. This kind (no offence) attracts the most eve teasers in the bazaar. In addition to that, the TRA LA LA LA LA Dupattay Wali is constantly chased by her worried mother who, in her earnest intention of covering her daughter from South Asian male interest, will end up buying a chadar for her in a week or two.

Exhibit B: Linear Dupattay Wali


Some of us love precision. But nobody loves accurate lines and measurements the way Linear Dupattay Wali does. She studies either in Beaconhouse School System or in Lahore Grammar School and is most probably the Head Girl of the senior section. She will take 4 minutes and 36 seconds to use at least 52 safety pins on her dupatta. And if it doesn’t look straight enough, hell is on its way. 

Exhibit C: Paindu Dupattay Wali


Paindu, a commonly-used term in Pakistan, is the only word that will explain this girl’s fashion sense (or lack thereof).  That’s right. This kind won’t shift their dupatta just a bit here and then there to look presentable. Indifference to fashion keeps them going.


Exhibit D: Bhangra Dupattay Wali or Intellectual Aunty



This kind will always leave a smirk on my face. The Bhangra Dupattay Wali is either a tomboy or an intellectual aunty or *drum roll* a dyke. You’ll find her usually debating the complexities of philosophy and literature. And as soon as she moves her muscle, you’ll think, “BHANGRA TIME” but she’ll explain her take on feminism instead. They’re not well-endowed either. Yeah, I’m a perv whatever.

Exhibit E: Daredevil Stylish Baji

I congratulate you if you wear your dupatta like this because no matter how pretty someone tells you you look, they’re probably calling you “shameless”  behind your back. This kind is, I guess, the daredevil. Their dupatta sticks to their necks and never goes down. So if a guy leers at them, they’ll probably gasp and ask, “Why must he stare like that, you know?!” in their Pakistani accents.

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So what kind are you? 🙂