(See in particular ads for, Binaca, Naurus and State Life where little girls cajole fathers; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrRNV9oYhkE&p=ED7168D9401F1D23&index=16&playnext=5)
Then why would we want to revisit that time? We've spent the last decade unlearning some of the stuff -- we the survivors of the Zia years -- unliving some of those awful memories. I am not sure I can see these ads as anything but representative of a certain stagnation and lack of imagination that was so prevalent in that time.
There was an urban legend that one of the girls in the ABC Newnit wool ad had terrible things happen to her. And that she was now dead. In the decade of Zia, things were generally oppressive. There were dictators training mujahidin, enforcing a strict dress code for women, and banning kissing.
But of course of details and politics we knew nothing as children occupy that timeless and geographically unspecific space between home and school with alternate peripheries of reality. All we knew of politics was the constant plastering of this moonch wala, ugly, cock eyed army general of a dictator wearing a sherwani and looking downright conniving and haraami.
Our world was school.
Aunty Steven, god bless her, would slap us on the head if we could not spell right. My brother reported that his teacher would pinch them. Islamiat teachers had been seen by students reading Harold Robbins concealed by school registers, and then declared only muslims would go to heaven, and non muslims had the choice to convert.
And at home, the problem (not the biggest, yet formidable) was the fridge. It had seen so many years, it was now tired and seeking retirement. You had to open her very delicately as she gave off currents. My father devised a strategy and placed a wooden rod next to it. And gingerly, we would pry it open praying that we had averted a shock.
Our house was haunted, anyway. It was a creation from the 1930s, and had eight rooms, and a name. I believed there were ghosts that resided there. One specifically was that of my maternal grandmother, and although theoretically I agreed, she would be quite pleasant to talk to if I ever encountered her, the prospect of her being a corpse (and transparent) was quite frightening. I do not think I have ever recited as many qalmas and ayats in my life as I did then, going downstairs after the lights were out to get a glass of water, hoping that I would't get electrocuted or accosted by a troubled ghost.. And then my grandfather died in that house. He was a sweet man who would give us money. But I ran away from him the day that he died, and I really didn't think he would be nice to me posthumously.
As kids we had an unspoken affinity with the servants. Its the closeness of social status I will always remember Zuleikha sadly -- the emaciated Baluch woman who was so very poor, my aunt hired her out of sympathy, and then she hired her husband to butcher a goat for her. Also unforgettable was the 12 year old girl driven mad by beatings by men driving the jinn out of her.
We spent a lot of time in a warehouse for second hand clothing next to our house. And one of the smells that permeated those years is the pungent smell of lunda. Proudly providing socks, sweaters and bras for the masses -- lunda. Cheap clothing with a secret and a stigma. The used clothing trade was dominated by pashtuns -- wholesalers and retailers. My father imported and through him I saw a glimpse of business that was resonant of bygone era of the East India company and ships called the Peerless, bills of lading, telex machines, Marilyn Monroe and Benhur, and European business women who were built like tanks.
It was as of the times were conspiring to pull us back, when all we wanted was a little modernity and hipness. So yes, as others will testify, Nazia, Zoheb, Vital Signs and all the first wave musicians were highly, deeply exciting as was Thriller and Rambo. My father's world was old. He knew Anglo-Indians and indigenous Sindhi fisherman, and he was extremely impressed with the English and the clean and Victorian Karachi of a long time ago. It all sounded so civilized -- but we didn't care for it, and we couldn't escape our present where our behinds got pinched at Funland, Empress market stank of blood and vomit, and everything was prohibitive.
We were praying for a miracle.
And miracles did happen. Karachi witnessed a hail storm. I remember we were headed to a half uncle's daughter's wedding at another haunted house and the lights went out. The entire wedding was an omen for the future, held in pitch black, and if I recall correctly, our family were the only guests. As children were delighted in a game of chupan chupai with half cousin girls who seemed to have an edge. I got impressed easily. Women who showed cleavage were also highly impressive. Yes, surprise! I too happened upon pictures of the racier 70s when our parents went for cabaret shows. What planet did we inherit?
And after the hail, there was no snow. Never any bloody snow.
But there was a katchi abaadi off lyari nadi right down the street.
Every year children would emerge for eid decked out, and in full make-up. We would look at them in awe, and wonder how they got permission to wear rouge. As a child I did not have my class politics figured out, and shared in my cousins's sneering. But if I may revise my judgment now, they were rather fashionable in a ghetto kind of way.
Well they officially became villains when Billu got stolen, and was later recovered in one of the juggis chained to a wall. Somehow that betrayal was perplexing and hurtful. Why would any take a non pedigree, ill tempered dog who was neither pretty nor friendly? But we loved Billu, and this was a major affront. Although I have to admit, there were times I wan't sure if he was coming at me to chew me up, or receive a pat.
In a period of zero entertainment, and bad pets, I looked forward to Thursday night films. Urdu movies were so deliciously sinful. The drama was high pitched, and to top it all, they were so very long, and so very sexy. I used to peer from under the blanket as my parents had decided these films were strictly off limits. But there was so little to watch on tv, and the singing of the national anthem signified the end of transmission, the end of the day. And that very idea was horror and death. (My Saint Patrick's husband wholeheartedly agrees it was horror and death.)
Those were terrible times. Why the hell would I want to remember a jingle about Funland? Can't we just erase that time from our histories altogether? Disclaim it and cover it with roses or something and read a fateha for it? Really.