Jun 222008

I sometimes feel sorry for politicians because half the world thinks they are crooks. Whatever one might think, one has to admire their tenacity because despite the rotten eggs and tomatoes thrown at them, they remain wedded to this oldest profession of all

I simply had no idea men blacking their hair were such a hot ticket. In the one week that the column has been in print, I have received more complaints than land on the WAPDA complaint desk in Sheikhupura, asking why my list of Kala Kola Klub members is so sparse. Why have some of the most eminent Knights of the Black Order been left out? And why have others been included? What follows is an attempt to make amends.

The big miss — and there is popular consensus on this one — is Chaudhry Nisar Ali. The first time I saw him from up close was fifteen years ago to the day. He had a thick head of hair on him and I had no reason to suspect that not a single one of those hair belonged to him in the sense that they had not grown out of his noggin. Also, now that I think of it, I may not even have taken a close look at his hair. There he was with his full black mop and that was good enough for me.

Also I have learnt to be careful when staring at hair, having once inadvertently made Riaz Qadir, Manzur Qadir’s even more brilliant brother, explode with anger, much like the Hulk does when he gets upset. Riaz Qadir, who wore no wig, but his head, which was full of the purest intellect, including the scintillating English verse that he wrote, was not so generously endowed when it came to hair. As a matter of fact, he had few, but what he had was carefully combed one by one over his scalp. But woe unto the mortal whom he caught staring at his head.

This happened at Vogies, across from the old Ciro’s cinema in Rawalpindi Sadar. Vogies was the hangout of writers, lecturers, time-wasters and those who dropped in to check the place out. Riaz Qadir spoke impeccable English and he spoke it with an impeccable, ultra British accent. “What are you staring at,” he roared. He had caught me looking at his bald pate though I was doing so absentmindedly. I was just looking. “Nothing,” I stammered. “Then look at nothing,” Riaz Qadir roared like a lion. I slunk away. Next day, if I recall, I apologised to him but it did not turn out to be a good idea because it reminded him of the day before and how I had been caught ogling his head. Once again, I had to slink away in sackcloth and ashes.

But to return to Chaudhry Nisar Ali, when I saw him next, in person that is, more than a dozen years later, his head of hair looked exactly what I remembered it looking like back in 1993. The question was: Had he been able to discover the elixir of youth? Did his village of Chakri have the fountain of eternal youth playing in some secret back garden? Had Chaudhry Nisar Ali become the first man in the world to reverse the process of aging?

Sadly, one was constrained to conclude that he was wearing the same head of hair. One also had to admit that originally his shimmering locks had belonged to someone else, may be an Indonesian or (God forbid!) an Indian, perhaps a member of the Bajrang Dal. How can one tell! I like Chaudhry Nisar Ali because when he speaks, his words flow like a stream. As such, I forgive him his wig, which is no guarantee Admiral Ardeshir Cowasjee will do likewise. The only hair-blacker he has not riled against is President Pervez Musharraf for whom, inexplicably, the great Rantier of Karachi has a soft corner in his heart.

Then there is Raja Zafarul Haq. He may have a golden heart and a silver tongue but the black in his hair and his Mughal court moustache is not his. What is it with Pakistani men — and the Saudis — that regardless of their years, they insist on coating their hair jet black! There are other colours that nature and chemical labs have gifted us with.

Why not, for instance, a salt and pepper mix of white and black, but second not third degree black? Or why not just leave it as is? If hair turns white, it is how the nature’s rhythmic cycle runs, just like the seasons but there is a difference. Spring turns into summer, then autumn then winter, and back to spring. That alas is denied to human beings. Once the hair turns grey, it remains grey, and, in fact, keeps getting greyer till it acquires a yellowish tinge, which may not look very nice, but at least it looks natural.

Nothing can be done about sagging skin. There are things like Botox that rejuvenate the skin but only temporarily. Wrinkles like greying hair refuse to be beaten back. Raja Zafarul Haq, whom Gen Ziaul Haq used to call “the opening batsman of my team” is well respected, which makes him a rare bird since politicians and used car salesmen enjoy the same kind of reputation. I sometimes feel sorry for politicians because half the world thinks they are crooks. Whatever one might think, one has to admire their tenacity because despite the rotten eggs and tomatoes thrown at them, they remain wedded to this oldest profession of all.

My friend in Canada, Dr Arshad Majeed, who married the delectable Musarrat Nazir, who is still looking for that sparkler that flew off her pert nose as she ran over the tree-lined path to get home before being discovered by her suspicious family, used to say whenever he would see a man with painted hair, “Satrangla kabootar” or “There goes the seven-coloured pigeon.”

While this description does not apply to Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, President Pervez Musharraf, Kaptan Imran Khan and others because they like their hair black as sin, there are others who add a touch of red to the mix and do remind onlookers of Arshad’s seven-coloured pigeon.

Maybe someone should put together a directory of Pakistani males in public life who colour their hair with a foreword by Admiral Ardeshir Cowasjee. In conclusion, I ought to share a mail someone sent me asking if Mushahid Hussain was already a member of the Kala Kola Klub. All I can say is that at the rate at which he is losing his hair, he would soon follow the lead of the man he used to call “Made in Pakistan prime minister”. Or he may join the Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed Wig Rig Klub, which should be no more difficult than changing parties.

Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent. His e-mail is khasan2@cox.net

Source: Daily Times, 22/6/2008

 Posted by at 9:46 am

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: