19.2.08

Jemima does Mush

Since I am not a Pakistani journalist, I need not worry about Jemima Khan’s oh-oh lookie here, what I got…so here is an attempt at deconstructing THE interview…

“Much to the justifiable fury of every journalist in Islamabad, he has now granted me an exclusive half-hour interview despite or perhaps because of the fact that I have recently described him as one of the most repressive dictators Pakistan has ever known.”

Dear me, she thinks he is into masochism. Sweet.

After an hour I am shown into a huge sitting room, divided in the middle by a latticed wood screen to segregate ladies from men at more formal functions.

Really? This lattice screen thing is there also at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, and ladies are sitting with men…the screen is to facilitate keeping an eye from the other side.

Musharraf enters. The last time I saw him in the flesh he was in his full army regalia. Somehow his civilian clothes have diminished him. I find his brown business suit and dainty penny loafers which have replaced the sturdy army boots almost unsettling. He seems to have lost both height and swagger. And his body language seems just a touch defensive.

So, she is playing the stereotype…army swagger, civilian clothes diminish him, blah and blah…but then she likes the swagger type.

The immaculate hair also troubles me. Boot-polish black, artfully grey at the temples, it shows signs of some work.

Yes, some men work at it, others on it, still others with it…ask the “ex”, who she mentions like a punctuation mark throughout.

Often he fails to see the irony in his own words, which can be unintentionally comic. Several times I have to suppress a smile. When confronted with the suggestion, for example, that he will have to work with a coalition government consisting of some the most infamous crooks in Pakistan, he responds with great sincerity, “I’m not running a martial law here. What can I do?” He adds, “My role as a president is simply the checks and balances – the seatbelts … a sort of father figure to the Prime Minister but I won’t have to see him for weeks.”

I am afraid the lady does not see the irony of his delicious last line.

A uniformed bearer offers fruit juice and warm roasted almonds. I down my juice in one gulp, then worry it may have looked unseemly. In the past four years I'd forgotten that Pakistani women are expected to overplay their femininity. I'm lounging like a bloke and downing pomegranate juice like lager.

Oh, cut out the act. As though you down lager at Annabel’s like a bloke. Honestly, the readers in the UK may get awfully charmed by this, but we know that the only ones who overplay their femininity are the ones who are dying to play to the gallery. Have you met the Red Bull mixed with rum ‘bibis’ in Lahore? They’d drink you under the table.

The President, it turns out, is very disappointed in me. For a moment I think I have been called to his office for a sound ticking-off. “I was disappointed. Very disappointed,” he says. “I was disappointed because you ought to be knowing our environment … what Pakistanis are like … what is our society. Well, it’s acceptable if a person has never visited Pakistan and doesn’t know Pakistan to have ideal views [presumably, he means idealistic views]. But I thought you ought to be knowing what Pakistan is … This is not an ideal society.”

Presumably, ideal also means archetype or idyllic…Also, I don’t think any head of government or state has had the courage in recent times to openly say this about his country.

As I leave he presents me with a clock inscribed "from the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan". It seems an inauspicious gift from a man whose time may be up.

I wish she was more graceful about it. Is it inauspicious for him? What if he still believes in himself? Is it inauspicious for her? Like, she would want the swaggering, powerful one to present it to her and not someone on the way out? Then, a clock is just a clock. It shows the time. It isn’t quite Cartier, but Ms. Jemima you may write for The Independent but how independent are you?

11 comments:

Mask said...

"...the Red Bull mixed with rum ‘bibis’ in Lahore."

Methinks a few introductions are in order!

ana said...

Pakistani women are supposed to overplay their femininity. . .

HaiN? Ye kis cheez ki bala hai? Of course she learned that from her ex-, aur kya?

I do not even have to preface this by my own objections to Musharraf, this interview/commentary reeks.

***

Not only introductions to the Red Bull mixed with Rum "bibis" but downing down whiskey neat ones as well. :)

Pune S said...

FV:

She is writing for a western audience and playing to the gallery. I am certain it is not translated into Urdu and published in the local newspapers in Pakistan.

She has actually become a "newsmaker" now.

Anonymous said...

This was such a no-issue interview. I am amazed that she had almost nothing of substance to ask.... almost everything in the article was stuff people talk about Musharraf anyway.

Secondly, it is Jemima who always overplays her femininity. Look at any picture of her at a London gala with Hugh Grant... she stands with her shoulders stooped, usually stilting to one side, like some weak and submissive housewife. And yeah, she would walk ten feat behind him.

Also, why is imran khan mentioned so much in the article? Maybe because in another article she wrote after this piece she said that she was in Pakistan as an "ex-wife and observer." Does that sound like the definition of an independent and modern woman?

In fact, it has to be said that it is Indian and Pakistani women, especially the older generation, that sort of sits and talks raucously and freely like a man, unlike British socialites, who are confounded to the stereotypical genteel bearing.

Anonymous said...

Jemima is such an attention seeker. Oh, Imran this, Imran that...yeah, only because you can't be taken seriously by the British reader without mentioning your Pakistani connections every five minutes! Everyone in Britain sees her as a bikini-clad, wealthy socialite and she is so desperate to be taken seriously she underplays any connection to her other ex, Hugh Grant, in public.

Sorry Mrs Khan, it isn't working. If you're so obsessed with darling Imran, get back to live in Pakistan full time, won't you?

FV said...

Ana and anon and anon:

Yes, stereotypes...what else?

PS:

"I am certain it is not translated into Urdu and published in the local newspapers in Pakistan."

I would be surprised if it is not. They like her in a funny way...she is the 'bahu', na...

"She has actually become a "newsmaker" now."

She always was. Wish she'd stick to that.

FV said...

Mask:

"Methinks a few introductions are in order!"

Sure. Here, this is Red Bull; Red Bull meet Mask...and hello, is that Old Monk? And there...Nelson's Blood? Meet Mask. Mask does not like 'exotic'. Perhaps Exotique?

Btw, the 'order' is on the house...

Mask said...

Come come now...be not such a Zombie.

And on the contrary, I happen to adore 'exotic'. How can I not, an Iron Mask being very much so?

FV said...

Zombie? Oh, how I fail thee!

Let's talk Dumas.

Mask said...

Sure.
Add half a pound of coffee liqueur and half a pound of orange liqueur to some cofee, top with whipped cream...voila!You have your Monte Cristo.

FV said...

Oui...

And not to forget the chocolate flakes...

Albert Mondego: May I ask who you are, Sir?

Count of Monte Cristo: For the present your friend, tomorrow your host, for the short time formality stands between us, the Count of Monte Cristo.