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    Volume 9 Issue 29| July 16, 2010|

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Book Review

The Life of the Rich and Frivolous

Shahida Rahman

“I live in Lahore. In a big fat garden in Gulberg, where all the khandani khaata-peeta types live. And don't listen to the newly rich cheapsters who live in Defence and say that 'No, no, Defence is Lahore's best locality,' because they are liars. They are just jay-jealous, bhai!..." Meet Butterfly, Pakistan's hugely entertaining answer to the urban new rich. The Diary of a Social Butterfly, published by Random House, is a satirical look at the inane life of the nouveau-riche in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi's high society. The protagonist is a shallow, inspired, misspelling air-head whose life revolves around money, fast cars, Botox, property, shopping, designer wear, divorce and Bollywood as well as parties, charity balls, society weddings and such social events where one has to be seen to attend.

"So many decisions I have to make these days. Like whether to have my floors pulled up and central heating put in.....gas heaters are soooo last millenium...and whether to tell Mulloo that her maid is having an affair with Fluffy's driver......and whether to have my eyebrows lifted and my neckline lowered....and what to wear at the Good Times magazine party launch for which Mira Nayyer is coming,....uff, taubah, so much to think about. And then Janoo says I never think."

The bane of her life is her in-laws, who she considers far inferior than herself. The only worthy and equally superior people in her life are Mummy. Aunty Pussy, Uncle Cock-up(Kaukab) and Jonkers(who is twice die-vorced). Her socialite friends who also are her competitors are Fluffy, Flopsy, Mulloo, Twinkly, Tony, Bobby, Baby, Bobo, Nikki, Tammy. and Sammy. Her life is balanced by her level-headed husband, Janoo, who Butterfly insists is suffering from puerile dementia because he doesn't share her interests and appears apathetic to her needs. Janoo is more worried about the ramifications on his country brought on by world events and couldn't care less about her parties and social one-up manship. It leaves one to wonder why he doesn't die-vorce her.

"I'm so fed up, so tired, so sick to deaf of Janoo and his kanjoos makhi choos ways, na, keh pocho hi na.....Bhai, it all started with a tiny-si request from me. You know how down to hearth I am, how I crave the saaf-suthri simple zindagi, deep in my hearts of hearts. So into fresh air I am, so much a lover of green lawns and big big trees and long long driveways and huge huge farms-no, no, I mean simple se farmhouses. So I said to Janoo...how nice it would be to have a chota-sa, cosy-sa farm. We could invite all our friends from Lahore and have open house and casual GTs with barbecues and born fires. Bas, I said only this much and he blew a phase."

As Pakistan goes through a politically tumultuous period affected by major world events such as 9/11, our protagonist appears untouched and unfazed and is only really affected when she has domestic maid issues to address, when her mother-in-law (Old Bag) and her sisters-in-law (the Gruesome Twosome) come to visit and her darzi (tailor)disappears.

"He's left me! Dekho zara! Imagine, after all these years, after all I've done for him, he's gone without even a backward squint.......I made him famous. And this is how he replays me. Mummy was right: never trust a man. He'll always double cross you in the end. Leaving you hanging high and fly....Darzi? ....Darzi? Master Bashir wasnt just my darzi. He was my shrimp. I used to tell him everything and he used to advise..."

The only times Butterfly registers a political situation is when it conflicts with her travel plans and obtaining visas.

Her strong belief is that all her efforts to be very "socialist", accumulate property, clothes, jewellery etc. are for her son, Kulchoo's, future...wedding!

Author, Moni Mohsin, was a columnist of the Friday Times in Lahore when she came up with the idea for The Diary of a Social Butterfly. She has successfully put together a hilarious compilation of the frivolous life of the rich and inane protagonist, who personifies all the neuroses and insecurities which people in her position are prey to, in contrast with events during Pakistan's most turbulent years.

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