London in June is like Heaven with tourists. After wrapping up the Board of Governors meeting at the Commonwealth Foundation, and making some humble submissions to justify my presence at the hallowed Marlborough House, its ceilings adorned with representations of heavenly and other beings, gilded pilasters reflecting the light pouring in from massive windows looking out onto the sprawling lawns of this 19th century mansion, I took off for St. James’s Park and watched the many different hues of the human species strolling past, hand in hand, some holding ice-cream cones, others pulling luggage, none of them fitting the description of Rousseau’s Emile.
Let me simplify this for you. Let us call this particular species of human, if human at all, the Butt Factor. By now, after the dust of the latest flight diversion and street protest and baton charge and tear-gas shelling has died down, after panic attacks on the part of the Mian Biradars, the Elder and the More Youthful, had been handled by the Brain of Real Estate Developers, (BRED) Mr Saad Rafique, after one of the world’s leading airlines has been rightfully outraged, after Shaikh ul Islam has been questionably glorified, we can return to the Butt Factor and take a long, hard look at who we are, who we have become.
“Emile, in considering his rank in the human species and seeing himself so happily placed there, will be tempted to … attribute his happiness to his own merit … this is the error most to be feared, because it is the most difficult to destroy”. — Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Emile
When Imran Aslam asked me to appear on my favourite political satire, Banana News Network, (BNN) I had not imagined then that a series of events would be set into motion. I had intended to play the character of ‘Gullu Gulzar, urf Goga Tangey Wallah, Chief Supoke Man of Khadim-i-Aala, CM Punjab’. Fully prepared to take a dig at the many minions who surround Men of Absolute Domination (MAD), I took as inspiration the Mustachioed Chamchas (MCs) who stare at the television cameras when the MADs and the BREDs launch forth on the agenda of development being derailed much as democracy’s sputtering steam-less engine was being forced off-track by these Fire-breathing Purpose-less Zealots (FPZ’s) who were just so jealous of the MADs and their cast of supporting BREDs, most of them a tad ill-bred to my liking.
So I took off to Karachi and thoroughly enjoyed putting on a massive fat suit, dressing up in a man’s shalwar kameez and waistcoat, getting a massive mustache pasted onto my face and adorning myself with a glittering silver taweez. In a matter of minutes I had transformed into Gullu, minus the Butt Factor. For I had not imagined that the MADs and the BREDs would be stupid enough to unleash the Butt Factor onto an unsuspecting public and an exceptionally active and curious media which caught every nuance in Mr Butt’s diligent ingratiation of his bosses, the MADs, the BREDs, and even those whose acronyms have yet to be formulated or are too obscene to be printed. When I spluttered praise on the Khadim-i-Aala’s “veeyun” (vision) of transforming Lahore into Dubai complete with the Tallest Khamba with Jhanda, I did not know then that there was much more to Gullu.
I had initially suggested to the producer of BNN that I wear a pair of knee-length shorts and a tiger-print t-shirt, hockey stick in hand. But that garb was considered too radical for a woman to don. Little did I know that I would have been the precursor to Gullu the Bully; had they allowed me that much freedom. All that was missing was the danda and bottles of Coke, but that could have been arranged had my producer been an imaginative one. Imagine, I had unwittingly stumbled across the Butt Factor while taking the plunge from the straight-jacket of prim femininity to the barbarism of wild masculinity. By risking the departure from convention, I had stepped into the world of sycophancy and unbridled violence immortalised by my name-sake Gullu.
Yes indeed, it was a historic moment when the Real Gullu Butt reconfirmed and validated my suspicion that we have lost our marbles, or perhaps the only marbles we had were the ones we used to play with, and the ones many men still play with. I shall now bask in the glorious English summer, ice-cream cone in hand, reveling in the fact that life is stranger than fiction, that art imitates life occasionally, and that I had no idea that Bilawal was watching when I ripped open my black kurta to reveal the Society
Girl t-shirt beneath it, much before his scintillating, Sindh-titillating performance at the Sindh Fest.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 29th, 2014