By Shoaib Hashmi

Not many old style Lahoris will dispute that for some time now, Lahore's favorite pediatrician has been Dr. Anwar -- of his own fame. Any number of people who live in Gulberg habitually quote their formal postal address as 'Four houses down from Dr. Anwar' or 'up the lane down from Dr. Anwar's'. This despite the fact that his lady, Surraya,is much the better half of the family. The reason is obvious. If you have any children in the house, or in the neighborhood, you must remember a time when the infant suddenly stopped eating, grew cranky and came out in purple spots.

That sent the parents into a blue funk and utter panic, and lunging for the Doc's. He barely looks up, mutters, "It's a virus that's going the rounds, it'll clear up in four days. Keep him warm, give him lots of liquid; and you take two aspirins and get out of my hair." The panic evaporates and you can go home. The result is that parents of young children acquire a habit of kowtowing to the Doc; sending him presents, and generally sucking up to him whenever they meet him socially. Then the kids grew up, and when I ran into him at a friend's, I thumbed my nose at him, and blew a raspberry, "Yah! Yah! I don't have to suck up to you any more.

My kids are teenagers now, and can go to a Proper doctor!" He was as smug as a meanie who knows something you don't, "Watch your mouth and wait a few years, until you acquire grandchildren. You'll be back at my doorstep, and on your eyelashes this time round!" It burns me up no end to admit that he was right! Meantime there are the minor irritations of life in the boondocks, like wearing a watch. If you wear one, and not one of those fancy gizmos with a metal clasp, but a proper he-man watch with a leather strap, and the strap ever wore out and you had to get a replacement, you will know that the manufacturers in this land of the clever have never bothered to find out how thick the human wrist is.

They invariably make the strap too long so that the watch knocks against the knuckle until you get a wart. All it requires is that they get hold of the first five adults who pass by, wrap a tape round the wrist and read the inches, but they cannot be bothered. So you have to live life with the timepiece riding up your elbow. Or they make it so short you can squeeze it on and get gangrene of the wrist before the batteries run out. But this inability to measure the average length required seems to be a national habit which functions all the way up to the multinationals who crow about their international clientele and credentials. Like the two shoemakers who have red logo signs and always get showrooms right next to each other.

They make pretty darn good shoes, and you get along fine -- until you give one tug too many and the shoelaces snap. Then you have to get replacements, and you go to the self-same showroom and get a branded replacement and thread it in. They are either so short that even if you thread them only through alternate holes, there are only the two ends with metal sheet wrapped round them sticking out, and you shatter your nails trying to put a reef knot into two pieces of folded metal. Or they are too long, and you can take them twice round your ankle and once round your waist, and there will still be long ends left over trailing behind you in the cow dung. The odd thing is that when you buy a new pair of shoes, they do have laces of a proper length threaded through and obviously made by the same people. Immediately after, they burn down the factory, fire all the people who can read a tape measure or know their inches from their centimeters, and never again make a pair of laces the same length! If you are still not daunted, remember that these people also make socks.

They are the most wonderful sophisticated designs and come wrapped in their own individual cellophane envelopes. They have these fancy labels telling you exactly how much cotton and rayon have been mixed into the fabric, and give detailed instructions about washing them in warm and soft water to get years of service out of them. And they fit perfectly. Except that they have top ends which are threaded with elastic, to hold them up, but done by people who have never seen a naked human calf in their life and do not know how big it is. You wear one all day and your foot falls off like an unwanted corn. Happy shopping!

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.