From a Humid New York
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 amused!
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 frame it.
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 The News)


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