Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Diary of a Social Butterfly

Meet Butterfly: She's a socialite, party-goer, shopper and acute observer in Lahore, Pakistan. She is married to Janoo, who went to Oxford University and now rakes in the big bucks. But other than paying for her lavish shopping sprees and holidays, he is a bore-bore with a social and political conscience who spends two hours watching the news. Poor Butterfly, the things she has to put up with. Not only is Janoo a bore-bore, he has a conniving mother (the Old Bag), two awful sisters-in-law (the Gruesome Twosome) and friends who will do anything to upstage her. What with their holidays in London or New York, their husband's's a wonder Butterfly manages to look as good as she does and handle everything with such grace and aplomb. Or does she?

I came across this book recently, and didn't think anything of it, expecting the usual empty-headed drivel that passes for chick lit. The cover looked interesting...and having just finished a biography of Wordsworth (most of the books I seem to read nowadays tends to veer on the heavy side), I was in the mood for something light. I didn't quite expect to this to make me laugh as much as it did...

Here is a page from her diary...

May 2001

Guess what? The Old Bag has gone and had a heart attack! Last night only, while Janoo and I were sitting in the lounge, eating strawberries and watching TV, the phone rings and who should it be but one of The Gruesome Twosome, Janoo's younger sister Saika. (I call her 'Psycho'.)

"Ammi's going," she wailed like a mad dog howling at the moon. "Tell Bhaijaan."

I said, "Bhaijaan's busy watching TV and in any case, where's she going?"

Psycho howled louder and louder until I couldn't hear a word of TV, so I put the phone down and reached for the strawberries.

"Who was that?" Janoo asked.

"Nobody," I replied. "Only Psycho."

"You mean Saika," he said. "What was she saying?"

"Nothing," I said. "Only that your mother's going."

"Going where?"

I shrugged. Just then, stupid phone rang again. This time Janoo picked up.

I was lying back on the sofa licking strawberry juice from my fingers when his colour flew out of his face and he started shouting into the phone, "When? Where? How?"

Then he banged the phone down, turned to me and announced, "Ammi's had a heart attack!"

"Must be gas," I muttered. She's always leaking gas, like an old boiler.

"Get up!" he snapped. "We're leaving for her home right now."

"At least let me finish this programme," I protested. "He's just three questions short of a crore. And the servants will eat all the strawberries if I --"

Janoo didn't even let me finish the sentence. "Come on!" he snapped. As if I was his servant or something.

You can imagine the rest. We sped off to The Old Bag's house with him muttering away.

"I'll have to take her to London. I'll fly her out tomorrow. Book her into the Cromwell Hospital. I'll call Dr Khalid Hameed. There's bound to be a direct flight tomorrow."

Between you, me and the four walls, my blood really boiled. Here I am begging every summers to go to London, and all The Old Bag has to do is get gas and she's flown out immediately. And probably biz class too. Fat cow.

"What's wrong with Akram Complexed Hospital next to the Gulberg Drain?" I asked. "She'll feel so at home on the Gulberg Drain. And anyways, I think so you're gushing to conclusions here. No offence but heart attacks happen only to those who have hearts, I mean caring types like me. Mummy always said that when food went bad in the fridge I never allowed it to be thrown away, even as a child. I always gave it to the servants and insisted they eat it there and then, so caring I was..."

Anyways, we got to The Old Bag's house and there she was lying on her bed like a collapsed hippo with her eyes shut and muttering, "Hai, hai." Her legs were being pressed by The Gruesome Twosome and all her three maids. The minute they saw Janoo they all started bawling like Bollywood film extras on a death scene. The Old Bag immediately sat up and grabbed Janoo's hand and, with tears pouring down her face, started banging on about her "dying moments" and her "last wishes". I couldn't help noticing, however, that respite claiming to have had a heart attack she still hadn't taken off her heavy gold bangles. They were still jammed on to her fat wrists. I swear, what a tamasha! And so bore also. I tau sat down on the sofa and helped myself to some fruit. Nice plums, but not as nice as at Mummy's house.

Doctor came and did a check-up and then he asked her about her signs and systems. Apparently The Old Bag had been feeling some tightness in her chest. And breathlessness also. Naturally. If she will wear her shirt so tight what does she expect? All she had to do was to let out some seams and darts in her poplin shirts but no, she had to go and fake a heart attack. Anyways, doctor took Janoo aside while I was having my third plum and told him that she'd had a vagina attack.

"See," I said, "it's only vagina, not heart."

"Angina," Janoo said loudly.

As if I'm deaf or something. This is the thanks I get for abandoning my TV and my strawberries.

(The Diary of a Social Butterfly, Moni Mohsin)

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