Looking forward

Hold on to your seats, Fayes T Kantawala is about to break some news

Looking forward
Every two weeks or so, the world gets a new “Oldest Person”. This is due mainly to the fact that the old one (haha) tends to die shortly after being crowned, and frankly who can blame them? There isn’t much left to do when you’re told you have outlived every single person who was alive on the planet the day you were born. If you look closely at the pictures of these people (mainly women) who are made to suffer the indignity of posing in front of a bonfire of candles while wearing a sparkly party hat in front of a banner that reads ‘117!’ in a child’s handwriting, you can see a particular expression. They are not making eye contact with the camera, they do not smile or engage with what’s going on around them. It’s a carefree look (or deeply medicated look, the two are quite similar), like they just don’t give a rat’s ass about anyone or anything anymore. They have mentally checked out, moved on and are going through life as if they have already left it behind.

“Dear Lord, I know that look,” I said to myself while staring at one of these pictures the other day. The epiphany scared the hell out of me. It’s a look I’ve begun to notice in the eyes of people all around me and most disturbingly in my own selfies. It ain’t pretty. It’s the same look I saw in philanthropist Abdus Sattar Edhi’s eyes in another selfie that began doing the rounds on twitter. In this picture, someone called Komal Rizvi (A singer? An actress? A former pop star who went to work in India but came back to Pakistan like so many others?) is taking a selfie with Mr. Edhi as he lies on a bed. The old man is clearly unwell and displeased with the situation. But Ms. Rizvi is undeterred. She holds the camera high above the supine saint (his eyes closed and his hands settled demurely on his chest), and proceeds to smile her high-wattage, look-at-me-I’m-a-celebrity smile.

Ayaan Ali
Ayaan Ali

It’s the kind of picture that makes you cringe involuntarily. What was she thinking? How could she do it? Mr. Edhi has been very ill for some time now, and you can tell that the man lying on the bed clearly doesn’t wish to be documented in his decidedly inglorious moments. It’s like those photographs of would-be hunters posing tastelessly next to dead game. There is a macabre air of performance about the whole thing.

But we do not, I hope beyond hope, look to our celebrities for moral instruction. And with that I come to my favorite subject: Ayaan Ali, ill-described ‘supermodel’ (does the cover of Sunday make you a supermodel?) slash criminal slash financial mastermind, is still in jail for trying to get half a million dollars out of the country. Because Ramzan is a slow month for news and pretty much everyone is either comatose or gasping for electricity, I have followed her latest shenanigans with much interest.

Her case has taught me a lot about the judicial system in our country. Did you know, for example, that if you have a bachelor’s degree you can get a nicer jail cell with a servant? That’s the biggest incentive for higher education I have ever encountered, and it should be printed out on billboards for all to see. Ayaan’s defense has been epic. It has included, but has not been limited to a) that she charges that amount of money for performing in fashion shows abroad (no Ayaan, no you do not); b) that she can’t be charged since she was arrested before customs and therefore had not yet committed a criminal act; and c) that she was never intending on taking the money out but rather it belonged to her brother who was flying in from Dubai and that she was merely going to hand it over to him at the airport ‘cause, you know, that’s how she rolls.

It’s the kind of defense you might see in a Monty Python movie. Ayaan and her lawyer routinely and vigorously decry the rumor mongering that she is connected to anyone in politics at all. It is a big conspiracy to discredit the fair Ayaan in open court, they say, and she intends to sue the clothes off anyone who says otherwise. I would just like to take this opportunity to point out that the indefatigable Ayaan’s lawyer is a little man with a big title: Sardar Latif Khosa, the former Governor of Punjab. I’m just going to let that percolate in your minds for a little bit.

You can add Ayaan’s case to the list of ongoing farces that you encounter every day and from which I daresay we all need a break. And here I declare, with some relief and much gratitude to the editors, that I am freeing you from the strain of my column for some weeks. That’s right: I’m having a hiatus, taking a little leave of my own to concentrate on other projects. Don’t be alarmed (or elated); I’m just asking for some special me-time of Oprah-level self discovery. When I come back (and rest assured, I’ll come back) I hope to be a whole new person with a whole new outlook and maybe even a new nose.

I want to thank you (and the academy) for being there for the last four years; I really do. It’s been my privilege to be able to vent to you every Friday morning, about scandals and neighbors and heat waves and travel and politics and art and everything else that can pass for the subject of my column. I hope you’ve had as much fun here as me. If nothing else, I hope I’ve been able to give you some good bathroom reading and a chuckle, because both are hard to come by these days.

I hate drawn-out goodbyes, so I’ll say so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen and adieu. In the words of Edelweiss: may you bloom and grow forever!

Write to thekantawala@gmail.com and follow @fkantawala on twitter