Tuesday, June 16, 2015


(this is an unpublished post)

My daughter who lives in the US has a 16 oz measuring jug (473 ml for the rest of the world) in each washroom, and after spotting one in the powder room the following conversation occurred between two much loved American relatives:

American relative: 'Why is there a measuring jug in the washroom?'
Wife of American relative, warningly: 'Harry! We've been through this before!'

At my son's house there are bottles of Trader Joe's (cold pressed) green juices in the washroom cabinets (without the juice), except for the half bath downstairs where its organic carrot.

A sister has some innocuous plastic mugs that cunningly conceal their fell purpose behind a diminutive size, while a cousin sports plastic watering cans with a long spout like a lethally curved scimitar that must give rise to unpleasant conjecture amongst the uninitiated.

You'll understand my reaction therefore when in a niece's washroom in Ann Arbour I came upon a 'muslim shower'...but I'm getting ahead of myself. Before Anne Arbour our grandchild arrived, born in Virginia. The room next door at the birthing centre sounded like a stadium following a football touchdown, with about fifteen people screaming 'Push! Push! Push!' at intervals until a lusty cry signalled cheers and celebrations. It was an entirely different experience to the birth of a child in Pakistan where even fathers are on the periphery and other members of the family weep into their respective handkerchiefs (or Rose Petal Tissues these days) in the next room. The Americans have devised an elaborate support system that includes both parents, with prenatal classes, advice and support groups for young fathers and mothers before and after a baby is born. It functions as feverishly to foster breast feeding as it had once worked to discourage it, and nurses, doctors, lactation specialists, an entire industry occupies itself with doing everything in its power to promote the practice, while supplements containing fenugreek and aniseed are very popular for increasing lactation. We come full circle, yes.

Insurance plans under Obamacare also cover the cost of a breast pump per child, as well as support and counselling for the period required. The US still lacks a decent official maternity/paternity leave policy for young parents in which respect it lacks far behind those countries held to be civilised in such matters.

Baby showers are an integral part of the process of having a baby and the practice is catching on among the Pakistani 'elite'. But while here people vie with each other in giving more and more costly gifts, in the US people order gifts according to their ability selected from an online list drawn up by the young parents. The list consists of things the parents require for the child, and may include inexpensive plastic spoons and boxes of nappies. It is also common practice for parents whose children have grown out of their clothes and other things to loan these things to friends expecting a child. The reaction of a begum living in DHA or Gulberg being offered used clothing for her precious new child would be entertaining if it weren't so sad.

Let us therefore go back to that far more entertaining subject, the 'muslim shower'. We had reached that point earlier as a result of orderly progression from measuring jugs to Trader Joe's bottles, camouflaged and scmitar wielding lotas to washrooms in Ann Arbour.

It had been a wonderful trip, but I had been away for more than two months. That fact came home to me in that washroom in Ann Arbor where I stifled the odd but understandable urge to hug the muslim shower, pondering instead on the tremendous impact unexpected things have on people, and how that impact can be used in constructive ways. Can militant extremists be persuaded, for example, to print their fiery speeches on toilet paper and export the rolls? Imagine the impact, a rather less physical one in certain ways, of a roll of tissue that says, 'You uncircumcised infidel! I'll dry you!' I doubt this would ever replace the fire and brimstone issuing from the the mosques, but it may help by being somewhat less scorching. You see, different things could be noted on each unwary square of paper, providing writers with a relief similar to that obtained by the user, a catharsis otherwise provided by bombs, guns and bullets. It is a potentially win win situation, and the mind boggles at the possibilities. The impression that extremists wouldn't think in terms of toilet paper because they all belong to the uneducated mullah class has been recently overset, at least apparently, by men charged with violence in Karachi so I shall leave the idea out there and wait for suggestions. Any takers?  

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