Get off my lawn!

Sohail R. Bhojani has witnessed a level of competition at lawn exhibitions that put to good use could propel Pakistan to the top of the comity of nations

Get off my lawn!
Pursuing a desperate itch to understand the meaning of the word ‘investment’, this columnist discovered that the Oxford Dictionary defines the noun as “a thing that is worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future”. Despite having a reasonably solid professional grasp of finance, the fact that I still had this urge was a direct consequence of a breakfast-table conversation with my good lady who reported that a fellow school-kids-group mom chose the same word to describe her recent (and apparently tri-annual) cash splurge on procuring the best ‘lawn’ money can buy.

As the venerable dictionary defines the noun ‘lawn’ as “an area of short, regularly mown grass in the garden of a house or park”, you may inquire, dear Reader, as to what was wrong with spending wisely on a piece of real estate? Allow me to draw your attention to another definition of the word, again as described by the same bible. ‘Lawn’ is also defined as “a fine linen or cotton fabric used for making clothes” and it was in this context that the lady’s comments are to be evaluated.

Women inspect lawns at an open air stall
Women inspect lawns at an open air stall

So while the famine-starved children of Thar welcome their elected representatives, scrapping to feed off the scraps from their Chief Minister’s fried-fish dominated feast in celebration of his own visit to the stricken area, ladies across the length and breadth of the Land of the Pure roll out their own collective red carpet to welcome summer, signalling the annual commencement of the Battle for the Lawn. The strategic objective of our version of the Gettysburg is simple – be the first one to adorn oneself with the season’s best from one or many of the plethora of constantly mushrooming labels on offer. With ethnically-inclined brand names loosely translated into phrases such as Ecstasy, Flower of Ahmed, The Loom, Generosity, Paradise and Lady Sania of Muscat, and increasingly backed by high-profile designer names, there is enough variety to keep even the most demandingly discerning fashionista satiated till next spring.

I use the comparison with the famous 1863 battle for the free world with due reverence, for the Battle of the Lawn, to the protagonists at least, is every bit as epoch-making and the victor’s spoils accrue only to those prepared to shed blood, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids underpinned by toil, precision-planning and a healthy dollop of low cunning.

It involves weeks of tracking sneak previews and advance catalogues of forthcoming lawn launches, feigning hypocrytical indifference to BFFs and other loved ones towards this season’s lawn rat race, queing up at establishments like Messrs Salim Sons of Liberty Market Lahore or Sana and Safinaz at 5 on the morning of the launch (ala US visa queues of yore), pretending to ignore the aforementioned BFFs and other loved ones upon finding them in the same queue, making a mad dash for the fabric at the crack of the starter’s gun upon the opening of the doors at 10 AM, out of the same doors at 11 AM armed with bagfuls of the said fabric having handed over a fistful of Dollars and Rupees to Salim Saheb’s male progeny, revving down the well-constructed boulevards of the capital city of parha-likha Punjab to get home, soaking the merchandise in water and drying it in physics-defyingly swift time, sprinting to the tailor master for urgent stitching, having the finished product collected by the chauffeur 3 hours later and ironed by the maid while visiting a salon to get ready for a lazily elegant 5PM arrival at our ex-Foreign Minister’s fine restaurant to discuss and finalise plans for similar lawn assaults over the course of the next few weeks. Mission Accomplished.

[quote]At least the aforementioned maid is a worthy beneficiary of trickle-down lawn economics[/quote]

At least the aforementioned maid is a worthy beneficiary of trickle-down lawn economics. As no self-respecting Maym Saheb will be found dead in an already worn lawn suit, the discarded apparel becomes a key perk in the female domestic help’s remuneration package – a happy side effect. The economics also extend to the aforementioned catalogues, highly marketable commodities for which there is a thriving second-hand as well as stolen-goods market.

There have been eye-witness accounts of certain enterprising, grab-the-lawn-by-the-horns ladies bringing along tubs of water in the back of their bullet-proof Vigos to conduct the pre-stiching ablutions, get this, on the way to the tailor, in an effort to be able to flaunt the apparel absolutely before anyone else can. Eat my Vigo-generated dirt and keep up with my Spring 2014 Volume 1 SS, you Jones-es, if you can. This columnist’s take on the misguided race to get ahead – please make sure you’ve definitely got it before you decide to flaunt it!

[quote]This season's most bizzare lawn ad has Pakistan's very own version of Mr. Bean taking a day off his duties selling banking dreams[/quote]

Lending a helping hand (and a shapely body) to the lawn purveyors is a battery of A-List Bollywood babes, aided and abetted by our very own top female models. With the likes of Kareenas, Katrinas and other Big Kahunas attracting millions of eyeballs, the simple fabric, actually quite cheap to produce, suddenly acquires fantastic desireability and, with that, astronomical prices. It seems now to be as important as Jerusalem is to the three original faiths or the amber nectar is to the Australians. By the way, is it only your columnist or is there general consensus that lawn can now only be advertised through models photographed in various states of highly suggestive prostration and a matching glazed look in the eyes? Meanwhile, in yet another indication of Ridiculous steadily winning its fight against Sublime, this season’s most bizzare lawn ad has Pakistan’s very own version of Mr. Bean taking a day off his duties selling banking dreams, explaining the virtues of a particular lawn brand to a bevy of ladies at a construction site! Only in Pakistan...

No wonder the brands are prepared to pay, what is at times as much as a million Rupees a month, for a single choice billboard erected at a prime location. These rentals continue to be driven up by a mindless battle of my-ad-is-bigger-than-yours between the brands, the most sorry gallery of which is situated at Karachi’s Submarine Roundabout (this citizen continues to call it by its armed-forces given moniker, despite there not being a submarine, or indeed a roundabout, there for years). As I approach the junction, it is in equal parts amazing and depressing to see the mile-long, several hundred-automobiles-worth queue of vehicle-owners awaiting their refill of CNG, trying to improve their lot by protecting their hard-earned incomes against rampaging inflation at the cost of sacrificing a couple of hours of their life every other day. What makes the scene truly surreal is the imposing shadows cast on these fuel-seekers by the massive lawn billboards inviting them to dream of ‘living a beautiful life’, ‘feeling fresh’ and spending big. But hang on, is that a Jofa or a Mausummery tastefully draping the well-proportioned arm extending out of the bullet-proof window of the Land Cruiser in front, delicately connected to the well-manicured hand giving a 10 Rupee alm to a street urchin? One can be certain that the poor child’s dreams are imminently more practical and short-term, revolving around the securing of her next meal and completely oblivious to the fact that the charity is probably worth 0.1% of the cost of the dress being worn by her benefactor.

For a country that lags behind every other country in the region in spending on the social sector, invests a measly 2.25% of its GDP on the health and education of its 190 million citizens and offers virtually zero safety net to the most vulnerable segments of its populace, the 50 billion Rupees being ‘invested’ annually in lawns by a small fraction of its 86 million females should be a disturbing statistic for the nation and a real eye-opener for its various lords, masters and rulers. Pay heed, or the emperor(s) might find that they, literally, have no clothes when the inequality-fueled revolution arrives on their verdant lawns

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