From a Humid
By Shaoib Hashmi
Methinks 'A Connecticut Yankee
in King Arthur's Court' had it easy, compared to
a red blooded Lahori in White Plains, New York.
Mine host's house in Westchester County is set among
wooded hills on a quiet country lane, but is within
twenty minutes of Manhattan and the bustle of Seventh
Avenue. Also he drives off to work early, and comes
home too exhausted to argue, so it is a restful,
and joyful sojourn.
Woke late to catch the news on TV, then I perked
up when Westchester was mentioned. It's a nice proprietary
feeling when the news is about where you are. The
news was not nice; the day was going to be a scorcher,
with humidity, and they were admonishing people
not to venture out!
Then there were three more items, all about Westchester!
There were murders and robberies and lost dogs.
And the thought that all the world was at peace,
and everything was happening out my door was about
to send this unsuspecting alien into blind panic.
How was I to know there was a local Westchester
channel which focused on local news? Host was not
At the Metropolitan Museum they agreed that my face
was my fortune, and gave me a cheap 'Senior' ticket;
at the Museum of Modern Art they wanted identification.
My new, computer generated Lahori ID card is all
in Urdu and had them nonplussed when I noticed that
the birth date is in English numerals! Odd, because
after all they are still called 'Arabic Numerals'.
Even more heartwarming, displayed proudly among
the half dozen latest acquisitions of the Museum
was a wonderful work by Shahzia Sikander. She is
a young Lahori painter who has taken the international
art scene by storm, and one look at her piece showed
why. Her work is wonderfully delicate, and yet with
immense power and sensitivity.
Also one had a proprietary interest in it because
Shahzia is the child of old friends, and an old
pupil. When she was about to pass out from Lahore's
National College of Arts, she charmed and cajoled
me into offering to frame all the works for her
final thesis. There were about fifty works, but
they were miniatures, hence the expansive offer.
Except the thesis painting. It was a marvelous piece,
and even in my uninformed view, was the landmark
which initiated the storm in miniature painting
which is the pride and joy of art work in Lahore
these days. And it was a foot wide by ten feet long,
and one had to invent a whole new technology to
Some time later the friendly curator of a museum
in Leeds came by, and wanted to see her work. She
saw forty-nine, and then she wanted to see the 'piece
de resistance'. I said, "Ask the man who had
to frame it, its not the piece de resistance, it
is the piece de painindeaounce"! Ho ho! (Courtesy