Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Seminar on Women and Development, Lahore, 2003

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Seminar on Women and Development, Lahore, 2003

Article excerpt

In the grand auditorium

next to Shirkat Gah

off Ferozepur Road near

Kalma Chowk in the

city of my birth, Lahore

I tore my hair out

whirling whirling

playing the mad dervish

poor dancing girl caught

between the sufi saints and

military dictators with

religion on their minds

Dictators, fundamentalists, call them

what you will, men all

snatched my character

dancing at her sufi's shrine

beat her

cursed her

raped her

threw her in prison for her sinfulness

dancing

prancing

free as a bird

on an empty stomach

how dare she be so in an Islamic state

where only mullahs and military mustachioes

may drink and dance at private parties

the public mustn't find out about

And so;

twenty years later

here I am

at a seminar on

Women and Development

in the city of my birth

playing

the same old whore I did then

Lahore hasn't changed much

I see

the same familiar faces in the

audience

older

grayer

still clamoring for Human Rights

for themselves and their daughters

for the poor

for the minorities

Pakistan is still in debt

to the IMF and the World Bank

another military dictator in thrall

to the mullahs

has replaced the one

from twenty years ago

both blessed

by the Greatest Secular Democracy

in the world

So you see

we still need these seminars

on Women and Development

on my trips back home

to the developing world

I can count

on playing

the madwoman role of my youth

what a comforting thought

for an aging actress

[Author Affiliation]

Fawzia Afzal-Khan is professor of English at Montclair State University. …

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