Posted in Books and reading

Of those who ‘sell love and save dreams’

I always feel bereft when I find myself in the purgatory that exists between the finishing of a good book and the search for the next. It is a refractory period. The imagination pulls itself out of the world it was immersed in, the neurons regroup and only then can they begin to respond to a new stimulus, a different author, a different world.

I was browsing through heaps of books in an old book store, when I came across a well preserved, hard bound copy of ‘The dancing girls of Lahore.’

Dancing Girls of Lahore

It isn’t as if the topic is a new one, or that I haven’t watched documentaries about prostitutes in Pakistan. I suppose the reason I was tempted to read it was because (a) the book was in REALLY good condition (always a temptation to pick up in an old book shop), and (b) it was written by a non-native, a British academic and anthropologist called Louise Brown.

It tickled my imagination to think that this woman, this pretty, red-headed, long-maned ‘goree’ actually spent four years on and off, living with and documenting the way of life of the inhabitants of the brothels in the seediest areas of Lahore: Heera Mandi….(arguably) the source of most of the actresses in Lollywood.

I expected the book to be educational, but I never imagined it to be quite so entertaining, even hilarious at times. I loved the perspective of the author as an observer, the way she presented our culture and our people back to us, but in a carefully unskewed way. The places and the events she describes could very easily become sordid, not that they aren’t, but somehow the reader manages to transcend the sordidness and the poverty and see things clearly for what they are. Sad, funny and overall, inevitable. We’re all faced with similar survival struggles, some struggles are just more epic than others. And the homosexuals and the drug addicts, the prostitutes and their children live a marginalised existence in our society, denied the compassion and the understanding of those born in different circumstances.

Now when I see billboards with some well known faces associated with our film industry, I almost feel as if I know them, and where they’ve come from. I am struck by the awareness that these women have escaped their fate and come out winners. It’s weird, but I actually feel they deserve to be applauded; they have worked hard and suffered and survived and what’s more, they have achieved fame. They exist, and they fulfill a need, and if they can make some money out of it, why the hell not? Why the derision and the censure?

If you don’t agree with me, read the book. Then we’ll talk. ๐Ÿ™‚

10 thoughts on “Of those who ‘sell love and save dreams’

  1. My two bits. Heera Mandi, like the Galapagos Islands, acts as a microcosm in bringing larger Pak power and sex relations into sharp focus. The humanity is identical, but the economical divide somehow makes the Pak-haves (middle and upper-middle) blind to the shared sensibilities. This denial in turn shrinks our emotional space.

  2. It’s great to see someone who supports the business that Natalee Holloway was engaged in. But, imo, you should post some disclaimers that they might end up dead. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. ??? how do you know she was a prostitute? i thought she just mysteriously disappeared. poor thing.
      but hey, you know what, we’re ALL going to die one day, whether we sell our bodies for sex or not! and the majority of prostitutes meet a fate much worse than death. they become old. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      1. It is a job hazard and comes with the territory. Boxers, football players and many such, face similar fates – early professional death. If they are lucky they become legacy and live on forever!

  3. Munee, what is the source of this statement:
    “…the source of most of the actresses in Lollywood…”

    The book itself or idhar udhar kee baat?

    1. arrey Hussain bhai….haven’t we seen enough of our movies to make an educated guess? ๐Ÿ˜‰
      the book does mention that if the Heera Mandi girls are lucky they will get a chance to work in Lollywood…but only the prettiest ones, and the best dancers…..

      1. Chanda, then the prudent thing to do on this forum is to always include a disclaimer….safe thing to do in these sue-ing times. Bhai

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