Tag Archives: culture


19 Dec

Your hair says a lot about you. And what other people say about your hair says a lot about them.

Today, while waiting for my turn at the salon before getting my hair washed and blow dried (or blow fried which is the more appropriate term) I decided to run a small poll on bbm about how to get my hair done. I messaged everyone on my list and asked, “straight or curly?”

Now I’ve done statistics 101 and know a little bit about opinion polls and samples. So let me admit at the onset that the sample polled was not statistically significant or representative in any way but they were really interesting and merit a blog post.

 The sample polled were adult men and women all under the age of 35. They all own blackberries and are predictably upwardly mobile young professional types. Since my methodology was not as robust as I would have liked it to be (read: it sucked!) I will not present you with numbers but analyze the trends that emerged and what I – in my infinite wisdom – concluded from them.

Pakistani boys said straight hair

Gora (read foreign) boys said wavy.

Pakistani girls were split in their decision, however those from Karachi unanimously and, I might add, immediately voted for wavy.

Gori (read foreign) girls and Samar said curly.

So what does this tell us about Pakistani society at large?

Pakistani men are largely still wedded to the idea of some naek parveen type with straight hair and fair skin – they like it safe.

Goras boys and Karachi girls embrace the idea of the more unpredictable fun and flirtatious wavy hair. Note that they also picked an option (without being prompted) that was not given. They pick the road less travelled.  They also like to be non-committal and keep it interesting – choosing between the best of both worlds (straight or curly) and not really committing to either.

Feminism has made much more of a mark on women in the west then it has on women here. My sisters abroad were all about getting rid of the straight and going with the curl – defying convention and standard notions of beauty – they were all gung-ho about curls. They like it curly, less contrived. They are done with boring and straight and fake.

Pakistani women were predictably divided. And it’s not surprising. We’re not sure whether we want it straight or curly. Some of us are definitely more in line with our foreign sisters and are emancipated and riding the third wave of feminism. The rest of us are still trying to fit in with what society expects of us so after we get done with our high-powered job, we go to the salon and get our hair blow dried straight and then expect to meet man of our dreams at the wedding party that will be populated by nothing but predatory aunties and their not so stellar sons. 

But till we figure out our identity crisis – we will continue to poll our friends and get hair styling advice and keep hoping for prince charming to show up and tell us that he doesn’t really care if its straight or curly!


Dancing in the Streets of Pakistan (once more!)

6 Apr

There is dancing on the streets of Pakistan. In markets, in malls and in restaurants, groups of young people are breaking out into dance. And it’s wonderfully choreographed and spectacularly synchronized. But what are we dancing for when there is so little to be happy about?

The dancing is part of Coca Cola’s new advertising campaign in Pakistan. The phenomenon is called a flash mob and has been used as marketing gimmick in Western countries but I believe it is being done for the first time in Pakistan. The company has hired groups of young people both boys and girls (yes girls too!) to dance to the new coca cola jingle in crowded public places. It begins with one person breaking out into dance and strategically positioned “onlookers” joining in. Towards the end there are about ten people dancing. The dancers seem to be in their twenties and urban middle class youth, probably belonging to the more privileged segments of society given their trendy clothing.

The dance is fun and I cannot help but tap my foot to the upbeat music of the jingle. Also, I cannot help but be amazed at the courage of these young people dancing on the streets in such times. Yes, it’s a corporate gimmick and yes they must be paid for it but given the rising levels of intolerance in our society towards things like music and dance (especially where it involves a performance by both men and women together) it’s still pretty brave.

The locations are carefully selected. So far it’s been performed at more upscale locations in Lahore and Karachi where the crowd is more likely to be accepting of the co-ed dancing. But a group of performers performed in Liberty market in Lahore where there was no crowd screening or control. It takes courage to perform in public. It takes even more courage when there are small but violent segments of society that are opposed to such artistic expression and have exercised violent means to put an end to such performances in the past.

What is heartening is that so far there have been no reports of any kind of violence or aggression against the dancers. Lots of videos up on you tube show, surprised Pakistanis looking at the dancers with amazement and then some even joining in with clapping or nodding or tacit smiles and in the rare case by joining in the dance!

Indeed there will be segments of our society who will claim that this must be stopped as it’s against our culture and this is an exercise in corrupting the morals of our society. There will be those who claim that this is hindu-zionist propaganda. But I believe it is an expression of our cultural evolution. The popularity of music and dance from around the world is evident in Pakistan. And while we might deny it, music and dance remain deeply entrenched in our historical and cultural legacy as well as in our displays of happiness at festivals even today.

As I see these talented young Pakistanis dance with such skill and gusto and enthusiasm, I cannot help but feel a sense of pride. The numerous complements of non-Pakistani friends on the sheer creative genius of Pakistanis and their dancing abilities also did wonders for my Pakistani ego. After all, whoever these young Pakistanis are, they do a pretty good job and would put even top Bollywood dancers to shame. And the effortless and carefree joy with which they dance makes me nostalgic for gentler and happier times in Pakistan. But as I watch these young people break out into dance I cannot help but smile as I look to those around them. There is something strangely heartening in watching people letting go of their fear of expressing joy in public and joining in the fun. It reminds me that our spirits have not been entirely crushed by the recent years of terror and violence. It makes me proud that we still have the courage to view with tolerance a form of expression that we might not approve of. It gives me proof that we are more tolerant than the world makes us out to be. It gives me hope for a better future.

Published on All Things Pakistan April 06, 2010

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