VIEW: Phatoo Lohar —Syed Mansoor Hussain
The interim minister of load shedding has not been heard from since his appointment and deservedly so. Our poor, poor interim chief minister of Punjab who wanted to be brave and bring back Basant has failed miserably
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again.” Aha, let us not Google that one and then see how many of my readers know where that quote comes from. Perhaps women of a ‘certain age’ among my readers might have a vague remembrance of it. Alright, I’ll let you in; these are the opening words from the book Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. When I was a very young person, my elder sister, a Rebecca fan, would go around quoting these lines to me to the point where it became for me an equivalent of what Beethoven’s Ninth became for Alex in A Clockwork Orange (a movie based on a novella by Anthony Burgess) after his ‘aversion’ therapy. And I also had an older cousin living with us who had spent many years trying to get her Masters in English Literature and kept reciting the likes of Keats, Shelley and Shakespeare to me.
Scarred at that young age I resolved never to read any of du Maurier’s books or any of the ‘classics’ in the English language. Being a voracious reader I, however, did go through all of Erle Stanley Gardner, including his books written under the pseudonym A A Fair, Edgar Wallace, Sapper, not to mention Agatha Christie, Brett Halliday and, of course, Mickey Spillane. But it was Raymond Chandler whose novels almost reached the level of real literature. And yes I did read all of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and a lot of PG Wodehouse. Along the way I consumed much of Georgette Heyer, Denise Robbins and other such ‘fluff’. And then I moved on or up to science fiction. No dear readers I will not bore you with details of those writers but Frank Herbert’s Dune and the Dune Series will always be my favourite.
But I never did read Dickens, the Bronte sisters or any of the ‘great’ English classic writers including Shakespeare. I did, however, read five books that are arguably considered classics; Eliot’s Silas Marner and Stevenson’s Treasure Island since they were a part of my English curriculum in high school; Hardy’s Tess, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (that was a hard slog) and George Orwell’s 1984 round out the list. I must admit that in spite of never reading the greats, ‘Classics Illustrated’ (comics) allowed me to get to know the likes of Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, and the book, Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, which I got as a prize for doing well in some subject in school, helped out a lot.
As far as Urdu literature is concerned, I read much poetry, some of the classics like Ratan Nath Sarshar’s Sair-e-Kohsar, the abridged version of Tilism-e-Hosh Ruba (all 3,000 pages of it) and, of course, Mirza Muhammad Hadi Rusva’s classic Urdu novel Umrao Jan Ada. And Colonel Shafeeq-ur-Rehman’s absolutely hilarious books were a highlight of that time. Here I must admit that it was the historical novels written by Nasim Hejazi that piqued my interest in Muslim history.
Why all this? The real reason I will come to a bit later but it does sadden me tremendously that a teenaged student today probably has never read much of what I mention above and that the present ‘Pakistan Studies’ that has replaced Indian History leaves most students entirely bereft of any knowledge about much of Muslim history. But then that is a story for another day.
So now to the real reason for this rambling recollection. I started with the opening lines from Rebecca that instil in me the sort of ‘anxiety’ that Alex has when he listens to Beethoven. When I have a nightmare I wake up in a sweat and the words ‘last night I went to Manderlay again’ keep reverberating in my mind. And I am having frequent nightmares these days that I must attribute to prolonged load shedding.
Almost every hour the lights go off, the generators kick in, strange noises permeate the night and being a light sleeper, I wake up and it takes me a while to get back to sleep. And by the time I get back to sleep the cycle repeats, the end result being that I wake up sleepier than I was when I went to sleep, my nerves jangly and over the day, the cycle keeps repeating itself till I reach the point where I cannot keep any concept in my mind long enough to write an erudite, intellectually brilliant and politically pithy (or should it be the other way around?) column. Therefore, the best I can do is submit this for my next column.
But I must also admit that I had three different columns almost ready, one about writers quoting stuff out of context, another about newspaper people taking part in politics and the third about the stupidity of having an ‘interim government’. About the first, the most recurrent quote for the last five years was about the Ides of March. Of course, all the writers that ‘warned’ of the Ides of March had no idea that Cassandra, the person warning Caesar about the Ides of March, was destined never to be believed.
As far as newspaper people becoming involved in politics, Mr Ayaz Amir has been allowed to contest elections. Bravo? But I still have no idea what his politics are besides his appreciation of the best that Scotland has to offer. And no, neither he nor Najam Sethi is comparable to Hasrat Mohani. As far as interim governments are concerned they are a stupid idea. Two examples will suffice to prove my point. First, the interim minister of load shedding has not been heard from since his appointment and deservedly so. And second, our poor, poor interim chief minister of Punjab who wanted to be brave and bring back Basant has failed miserably. I think he should resign immediately. Indeed if he was replaced by ‘Phatoo Lohar’, nothing much will change. To know who Phatoo Lohar was, one must have read M D Taseer’s Atish kadah.
The writer has practised and taught
medicine in the US. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org