The French love their fashion. The British love their royal family and their ‘we ruled over the world’ history. The Americans love their junk food and their young Hollywood starlets that drop into rehab every other day. The Indians love cricket, Bollywood and bashing Pakistanis. This brings us to one important question: what do we Pakistanis love? The answer is pretty simple, really - conspiracy theories.
Walk into any drawing room and more often than not, you’ll definitely hear raised male voices droning on and on about some big power in the world hatching some super-secret plan to bring destruction upon the Pakistani people. It might be the great western conspiracy that has caused cell phone rates to fall so low that it is spoiling our youth, making them talk and text late into the night instead of concentrating on their studies. The great American/Jewish conspiracy that has them controlling our news and other media channels. Or that story about how Osama bin Laden was already dead and that attack in Abbotabad was just a staged one for show. Then, the Malala story. No way was this young fourteen-year-old promoting education. Nope, that can’t be true. This one was an American/British/Jewish agent out to corrupt the minds of our girls and destroying the reputation of those holier than thou, never done a thing wrong or killed a single innocent person in the history of their existence – the Talibaan.
My particular favourite incident in this saga was when a writer writing for the blog of a local newspaper (that which shall not be named here since they are, well, our major competition) wrote a cock and bull story about how a doctor had figured out Malala’s Italian links by finding pizza remnants in the DNA of her ear wax. The writer had meant it to be funny (and he did succeed), the only problem was that a highly intelligent section of our audience actually took it seriously. And if you’re one of those people by any chance, sorry, but you need some serious professional help!
Can we really blame these men, though? Because all this had to start from somewhere. All the second guessing and reading way too much between the lines and never ever taking anything at face value stuff has to have its roots somewhere. Some might disagree with this scribe but methinks that it comes from within our homes and our day-to-day lives.
Let me elucidate by this shining example.
(Dinner time at the XYZ residence)
Husband: What’s for dinner?
Wife: I made some pulao, and your sister dropped of some haleem.
Husband (having tasted both dishes): Pulao is a tad bit salty but this is some amazing haleem. My sister always did cook well. I remember this one time she made ...
Wife listens patiently, all the while gritting her teeth and turning a brilliant shade of puce.
Post dinner - wife on the phone with her sister: You should have seen him go on and on about his sister’s supposedly brilliant culinary talents. I know why she did this. It wasn’t because of some Mother Teresa like need to do a good deed. I know what this was. This was an attempt to show my husband that I can’t cook as well as she does. Does she think I am stupid or something? This was probably out of a packet. She just wanted my husband to compare me to herself. God, my in-laws are impossible!
Pakistani women have an amazing talent to turn a simple thing like haleem into a bid to start World War Three. Most women have this highly ingrained habit to never take anything at face value. They are always looking for some deep, sinister underlying motive.
A newly married friend was recently relating how she tells her in-laws that she has to go to the hospital for a check-up whenever she wants to go for a night out with her hubby. Reason: her in-laws believe that outings like these will help her get closer to her husband, which will make him fall under her spell, which will make him get out from under their thumb, which, in turn, might lead to her making him leave his family and setting up and independent household with his new wife and family.
Wow! This just gave a whole new meaning to dinner. It should probably be classified as a weapon of mass destruction now.
Believe it or not, this is not a problem that just involves in-laws and bahus. It could be anyone. That divorcee is talking to my husband; she must be out to snare him. Or, that lady in the office that I don’t get along with has been talking to the boss for the past fifteen minutes. She has got to be talking about me. Lady, get a grip! They might be discussing the weather for all you know!
Reading this, some might ask what is so wrong with a little bit of supposition here and there. So what if I share my assumptions with my sister or mom or children. It’s all harmless, isn’t it? Well, it could be harmless. Or it could be the very thing that’s shaping our community. Most habits start small.
They only affect a tiny bit of our daily lives and slowly and steadily they grow. They affect our homes, our work places and our communities. We are fast becoming a nation that simply loves to point fingers at our enemies and to pile on our faults and shortcomings onto the Americans or the Indians or whoever we feel uncharitable towards. We are so focused on what others are doing or capable of doing that we never quite look at ourselves and see where we are going wrong. We are so engrossed in the danger that the haleem represents to us that we totally forget to take care of that salty pulao! Maybe we should take a step back, analyse and see what we’re up to and maybe, just maybe, we’ll realise that that finger needs to be pointed in our own direction.