SOCIETY: THE HALAAL DAYS OF PAKISTAN

February 10, 2019

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COMPOSED BY SAAD ARIFI
COMPOSED BY SAAD ARIFI

And so, once again, the axe of ‘zaalim samaaj’ (cruel society) fell on Valentine’s Day. Just when we thought we had heard and seen it all, in jumps a Faisalabad varsity announcing what they call Sisters’ Day in place of V-Day. Obviously, simply ignoring an occasion that does not conform to their ideals is no fun. No sir, we Pakistanis like drama in our lives, and when there’s none, we create it. Sometimes the battle is between Mah-i-Ramadan or Ramadhan (or is it Ramadan Kareem or Ramazan?). We spend Eid day wondering whether to wish each other Eid greetings or Eid Mubarak or Eid Mabrook. But Valentine’s Day, the queen of controversies, wins hands down.

I’m no fan of Valentine’s Day myself; to me this is that one day of the year when love tests you in strange ways … let’s face it: it takes a lot of guts, will power and blind love to spend your weeks’ worth of salary on a bunch of long-stemmed roses that have the shelf-life of a politician’s promise. And the less said the better for those cupid-struck messages making rounds on the occasion that have enough “cheese” to top a dozen pizzas.

To be honest, it makes more economical sense to be single than in a relationship on Valentine’s Day.

Pakistanis are adept at adopting practices from other cultures and repackaging them in absurd ways

But to take a U-turn (how could I not use the word?) and brand February 14 as ‘Sisters Day’ is taking things to heart a tad more than necessary. Nauseating as I find the sight of love-struck couples expressing their ‘true’ feelings for each other one day of the year, the thought of looking at every woman with ‘bhai ki nigah’ [brotherly eyes] is equally laugh-worthy. So basically, it’s sisters one day and every other relationship the rest of the year? And, why wasn’t the day named Brothers’ Day?

Funnier still, the university will be distributing abayas and scarves to ladies to protect the “shareef”, gullible men from committing the original sin. Perhaps somebody needs to inform the innocent people at the university that more girls dress up in abaya and full niqaab on Valentine’s Day in Pakistan than any other time of the year. Also worth noticing is the typical mindset of our society, which believes that cloaking women from head-to-toe is the answer to every sinful thought that crosses a man’s testosterone-charged head. Because telling a man to control his emotions and lower his gaze is not an option. Oh dear, no. Why put men to this trouble when ‘sisters’ are there to take full responsibility of sinful intentions?

Now if I was suspicious of everything (which is often the case) I’d probably imagine this new development as a conspiracy of the abayas and scarves retailers in Faisalabad. When you think about it, these sellers are the ones benefitting from this exercise. Imagine, if the trend does catch on, we might even witness special ‘Sisters’ Day collection’ of abayas and scarves finding their way into stores the same way we see heart-shaped red balloons swaying in shops this time of the year.

At least abaya shop owners will have a ‘valid’ reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day … I mean Sisters’ Day ... even if no one else does. It would be Christmas in July for them.

Coming back to the university that insists on creating a strong sibling bond between youngsters who could potentially end up signing on the same nikahnama, the announcement caught more attention than what it was worth. The Twitteratis had a field day.

But to take a U-turn (how could I not use the word?) and brand February 14 as ‘Sisters’ Day’ is taking things to heart a tad more than necessary. Nauseating as I find the sight of love-struck couples expressing their ‘true’ feelings for each other one day of the year, the thought of looking at every woman with ‘bhai ki nigah’ [brotherly eyes] is equally laugh-worthy.

The fact is, we Pakistanis are adept at adopting practices from other cultures and repackaging them in a halaal wrapping paper. And lo and behold … our very own halaal-certified, locally customised event is born.

Let’s also have a moment of silence for those who insist on calling one certain Friday ‘blessed’, because calling it Black is a big no-no. This was a Eureka moment for yours truly who grew up with the impression that every Friday of the week was a blessed occasion for Muslims. But it turns out that there are some Fridays more blessed than others, depending on their retail value. Now Muslims can sleep in peace, blissful in the knowledge that they have safeguarded the sanctity of the holy day, as they trip over each other, while roughly elbowing their way into over-packed, over-crowded shopping outlets to fill their overflowing bags with the day’s largesse. That is, of course, of secondary concern. The real issue was resolved. There, job done. Jannat is ours now.

Like most things original, this occasion of a shopping bonanza was also plucked from the West and disguised to look all innocuous and shareef … and did I mention, white?

Yes, I kid you not, some even laundered that day, transforming it from its Western-maligned filthy blackness to a sparkly White Friday — similar to the petty dislike for a certain colour which is not fair and lovely. We all know that fair is beautiful in this land of dusky lasses, but to extend one’s dislike for an innocent shade of colour and renaming the day from black to white is just over the top.

Sick of the Black Friday-White Friday-Blessed Friday discussion, I asked a shopaholic friend what she thinks of the scenario. Her answer pretty much put things in clear perspective. “Dude,” she said, “I don’t care what colour you name the day, so long as the sales keep coming, it’s as blessed an occasion as any other for us.”

Oops.

On this note, I think I’ll call it a day.

Published in Dawn, EOS, February 10th, 2019