Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

The funny side of... obscenity

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I must be going blind. Or just stupid. How else would I fail to see things that should send a lecherous old fart like me going hubba, hubba, hubba?

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a small marquee on the side of the road by the roundabout outside Wapda Town. The flex sign on the marquee said, in Urdu, ‘Come join us in our battle to eradicate obscenity and nudity.’ Now these two nouns (fahashi o oryani in Urdu/Persian) have been flogged to near-death in Pakistan since the auspicious day of 5 July 1977. And since that day, I have been on the lookout to join in the fun and games. Sadly, with singular lack of success.

It was predawn darkness when I read the sign and the roads were deserted. I naturally presumed fahashi o oryani were not due to begin until sometime later and duly returned at a more reasonable hour. Agog, I peeked into the marquee holding on to my eyeballs from keeping them popping out of the sockets. But nothing. The tent was empty and forlorn.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am a lecher. There was no tamasha to my great disappointment. The inimitable Ghalib was similarly let down for he said, ‘Dekhnay hum bhi gae, pur tamasha na hua.’ His case seems to be very like mine because now, since Ralph Russell’s seminal work on the poet’s life, we know everything about the man: he was a libertine.

Coming back to the Wapda Town show, it was a short one. By nightfall, the marquee was gone. It was clear who had won the battle against obscenity and nudity. That having been said, the forces of evil choose battlegrounds of their own liking. Within days a letter appeared in all English language dailies. It said that some park in Islamabad was no longer a ‘family park’. That ‘immoral’ young couples visiting the park openly engaged in all sorts of unmentionable activity. They being immoral, and young to boot, we can expect little else from them, can we?

How I wished this new oryani o fahashi show were taking place in Lahore to save me the tedious four hour journey to the capital. But wishes so far have not turned into horses or I would have ridden a first-class Arab steed to Islamabad.

This takes me back to the time when a famous political mullah’s brother became the minister for tourism of this sorry land. With nary a clue about the trade, he concerned himself with oryani o fahashi, fulminating daily against its excess in the country until I began to believe that it was us and not good old Bangkok that was the biggest bonking house of the world.

National dailies, especially Urdu ones that thrive on the business of fahashi o oryani, carried his outpourings twice, sometimes more, every week. He called down fire and brimstone on PTDC motels for being nothing but houses of harlotry, declaring that in his tenure he was resolved to cleanse them. I don’t know what the mullah sahib did, but the result is very clear: PTDC stands on the brink of bankruptcy, currently with up to eighteen months default in payment of staff salaries. What’s more, the institution, unable to run them, is leasing out properties.

Obviously, tourism in Pakistan was running on fahashi o oryani. Once the mullah eradicated the evil, tourism died on itself. Rewind to poor me again. Why on earth have I always missed the fun and games? And there is hardly a PTDC motel that I have not stayed in! Since I cannot see the tamasha, I must be going blind. QED.

PS. There is a television (misre)presenter who also authors Urdu columns to bandy about all manners of lies about our history to an ignorant audience. He too is overly concerend with oryani o fahashi. His parents, sagacious folks, knew what their offspring was going to be one day. They very wisely named him after oryani.

This also appeared in February 2014

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 14:22,


At 10 February 2014 at 21:42, Blogger Nayyar Julian said...

Watching orya ni right now :)

At 11 February 2014 at 10:22, Anonymous Mahwish Shaukat said...

It's an Irony .... enjoyed the article !

At 10 February 2015 at 05:30, Anonymous Amardeep Singh said...

Serves you right Mr. Salman the lecher...‘Dekhnay hum bhi gae, pur tamasha na hua.’

At 10 February 2015 at 13:12, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

What to do, Amardeep. We are like that only.


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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days