Bring You Glad Tidings
I have stopped reading the newspaper
while eating lunch as doing both activities simultaneously needs
the nerves of a Robocop or the non-existent nerves of Mr. Spock,
the long-eared alien in Star Trek, a Vulcan who has no feelings.
The mention of Mr. Spock brings back mournful memories. I had
a tremendous crush on him as a teen-ager and had debated on
whether or not to write him a soppy fan letter. But my friends
had dissuaded me. What's the point, they had said, he won't
write back, he has no feelings. So I hadn't, and I still get
a certain sad sense of unfulfilment when I watch old episodes
of Star Trek with Mr. Spock always remaining the ultimate doer
of the right thing, unfeelingly.
As most people are polar opposites of Mr. Spock,
it becomes impossible to eat and at the same time read about
Mr. Bush saying it is the world's responsibility to protect
the American soldiers in Iraq, the WTO talks collapsing because
the rich want to get richer, the wrong umpiring decisions costing
the Bangladesh Tigers their deserved victories, Madam wanting
Madam to apologise and/or resign, suited booted lawyers trampling
photographs of the Father of the Nation or kicking a young boy
suspected of being a pickpocket, the latest bits of the Buriganga,
Ashulia, Gulshan Lake being filled upů there is no end to bad
news. The appetite is ruined. The depression index goes up.
It is therefore our collective national responsibility
to find good news from whatever source and share it with as
many people possible. I have some very good news and I am coming
A friend of mine, newly hajj-performed, sported
the hijab. After the requisite forty days she still had it on
and then just smiled mysteriously when asked what exactly she
was thinking of. What she is exactly thinking of has become
clear recently, which is that she is not planning to take it
All of us have of course read our Jean-Paul
Sartre, if not every word which it turns out even he wouldn't
because he refused to re-read, the bit where - and this is 'existentialism'
in a nutshell -- at any moment we are free to make of ourselves
what we wish. We don't have to see ourselves as victims of circumstances
or accept other people's stereotypes of ourselves. Decide what
sort of person you want to be and be he or she or even, it,
as long as you are not bothering others.
So my friend has decided to wear the hijab,
which is her existentialist right to make of herself what she
wishes without bothering others. But I am very bothered; just
like another friend who was here from Singapore on a short visit
and went back to find her previously mini-skirted daughter wearing
the hijab. She got so bothered and embarrassed she put on the
hijab herself because mothers, the older women, are supposed
to be donning the hijab and not daughters, the younger women.
This is incorrect and that is the good news.
We,as usual, have got it the wrong way round. It's when you
are young, alluring and a source of temptation to the populace
(male) around you, it's then that you should have the hijab
on. And when you are older, your allure rating is low, you have
no desire to get married (and more to the point, very few have
the desire to marry you) you are allowed to throw away your
hijab (and wear what you like, such as the short and tight kameezes
of the sixties which should further discourage any man to want
to marry you).
I'm not saying this off the top of my head which
is the usual place I say things from but this is knowledge garnered
from a scholarly treatise I borrowed from the said mini-skirted
young woman, pursuing a career in journalism, married happily
to a literature teacher of similar religious inclinations. She
is still hijabed and carefully keeping her considerable allure
So I had a terrific argument/ discussion with
my friend, fresh in the hijab-wearing brigade. My friend has
a PhD in Physics, wrote her doctoral thesis in German and defended
it in Austria. She is somebody whose opinions I respect.
So what are you telling us, I asked her, what
is exactly your message? 'I am alluring; I am a source of temptation;
I have not lost my desire to get married' is that it? Does your
husband know (or care)? She laughed loudly and said that it
is not the woman's desire to get married which is the point
of the argument. You cover yourself because by looking at you,
someone may get the desire to marry you. And you being the cause
of such a wish (death wish, if you like), you have the responsibility
to cover yourself.
Now what sort of an argument is this? If looking
at my car, somebody gets the desire to hijack it, is that my
responsibility? Also with the chador round my head, my face
remains uncovered and my face is what should lead a man to propose
marriage (slightly optimistic hypothesis here) and so why am
I allowed to keep my face uncovered? And what should I do about
How about a big frown or an angry expression
to ward off potential suitors, my friend suggested, humorously.
At this point the waiter came in with the dessert
menu and so we had more important things to think about; the
argument was abandoned, to be resumed at a later date.
The important point in this article, which I
have been trying to make to a particular section of people but
keep getting interrupted, is that there is yet some good news
during these bad times. The glad tidings that I bring, never
mind my friend with the PhD, is that after a certain age you
can abandon the hijab. Or if you have never worn it and while
approaching your sojourn in the twilight zone you are feeling
guilty, then unlike James Bond who said Never say Never, you
can say Never! and never wear it.
But please to keep in mind you are also saying,
'I am of a certain age, I am no longer alluring, I have no more
desire to get married.' Saying the last part is not so difficult
but saying the rest of it is not always easy. Unless you are
Ms Spock and have no feelings.