05 April, 2010

The great Mirza Malik Hullabaloo

It seems that 63 years after Partition Pakistanis and Indians have still more in common yet than they’d care to admit: plenty of ignorance and bigotry, for example.

On one side of the border you will find tribal ‘jahiliyya’ perverting Islam into a Stone Age dogma, on the other you will find a caste system which, though politically and legally banished, is alive and well in the psyche of the common man. And common man came to the fore last week on both sides of the border, burning effigies of Sania Mirza, a mediocre tennis player but veritable Muslim Indian pin up girl from Hyderabad with millions earned in product endorsements, though not prize money. It seems that in both countries there is a sizeable cottage industry attached to the production of effigies: paper mache’ figures, portrait images, pitch forks are readily available at the onset of the slightest ‘moral outrage’. Side by side with sweets and sari shops, ‘Angry Mob Supply’ stores line the streets of bazaars from Rawalpindi to Ahmedabad.

Sania Mirza of course courted ‘moral outrage’ before by wearing tight T-shirts and a pleated tutu - as is par for the course for female tennis players. The TV audience-raising and endorsement contract-inviting hint of nipple under the T-shirt stirred self-righteous souls in both India and Pakistan and further afield the Muslim world. Nationalist Hindus thought that she besmirched the traditional Indian value of not wearing tight T-shirts: apparently she ought to have played in a sari instead, with a tilak on her forehead. The Muslim man on the street - who, in the religious sprit of the Ummah likes to claim everyone else’s daughters as his own and consequently, as their spiritual father, sees it fit to lecture them on proper ‘moral behaviour’ - pronounced Sania’s T-shirt un-Islamic for obvious nipple-related reasons.

This time, the reason for the 'outrage' was that Sania Mirza and the Pakistani Shoaib Malik, a former cricket player, who are both considered role models in their respective countries (by people who consider youngsters who throw balls around for a living role models), had announced their intention to wed each other and live in Dubai. Unsurprisingly this whipped up a huge storm in the water glass that is the UAE print media. The ‘street’ in the UAE may be a bit hot for effigy burning and I doubt the authorities would allow it, so the ‘letters to the editor’ pages had to do.

Whilst some sent letters to the '7Days' newspaper in support of the two individuals’ decision and urged their respective compatriots to respect this as a personal matter, many Indians went on record condemning Sania’s choice of a Pakistani man as un-patriotic and detrimental to Mother India as a whole. Apparently, she should first have tried to find an Indian cricketer instead, as they are better with their balls and bat (and the population growth in this billion strong country seems to prove this argument right). Then, failing to find an Indian cricketer, she ought to have sampled some bright IT engineers in Bangalore, as one man helpfully suggested. And failing that she should have burned herself on a pyre rather than marry someone from the ‘troublesome’ neighbour country. The ‘saving grace’, as one Pakistani commenter put it, was that both are Muslim, as if marrying out of faith was, by reverse definition, somehow disgraceful.

I am watching with interest how this pans out. Perhaps we will see demonstrations of single brain cell creatures in Karama or Deira after all. Effigies of tennis racquets and cricket bats being doused with petrol and stamped on by angry sandals. Pakistani taxi drivers refusing Indian passengers, Indian chefs adding lethal doses of mirchi chilli to Pakistani customers’ take out orders - that kind of 21st century cosmopolitan behaviour.

If Sania and Shoaib thought they’d escape narrow-minded bigotry by choosing Dubai as a place of residence they might want to think again...


Dubai Jazz said...

Glad to see you posting, Nick.

Umer said...

Who is opposing this marriage in Pakistan? They are celebrating it! Watch Pakistani TV Channels and you would know.

You have not done proper homework before posting this article.

I am not an expert, but marrying out of religion is forbidden in Islam (religion of both the individuals involved in this case). Although there are certain waivers given for people of the book (i.e. Jews, Christains etc), but not for Hindus.

hemlock said...

yes nick, i know. we are practically family now. heh.
Mullah Omar wants you to visit for dinner.

Anonymous said...

I live in India. And the only 'nationlist', 'hindu' party commenting on this is the one without any votes. The 'common man' recognises this as desperate attempt to get attention and so does the media in India.

She has said she'll continue to play (and lose) for India. She does not even have a visa for Shoaib's hometown.

There is no accounting for what expats think - if you are right.

The bigger story here is that Shoaib, the great banned Pakistani pin up cricketer is perhaps already married to another girl from Sania's city. He has been busy denying it. She has filed a complaint against him and his passport has been seized.

And no hindu extremists ever suggested Sania wear a tilak or cover up - she's a muslim and only some (Indian) muslim extremists were watching her hemline. The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, which is the most influential islamic org in india, said it has no plans of disrupting her game.

I don't think criticism is bad, but its usually good to be sure of your facts.

Anonymous said...
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rosh said...

"..- that kind of 21st century cosmopolitan behaviour."

LOL! Thanks for the chuckle Nick. It's true, there's a TON of the narrow minded/stone age bigotry in Dubai/UAE. As much as it's sleazy entertainment, the clowns at the letters forum could give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

Comment deleted

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

05 April, 2010 18:02

I fail to understand, which part of my original comment was deemed offensive that warranted this intervention by Blog Admin?

Posted by Anonymous that posted 5 April, 2010 at 18:02

BuJ said...

after the dubai wedding for the love birds, i wanna see their kid grow up here and i want the real nick to post another lovely article about the kid growing up in this perfect city

ohh i can't wait !!!

so can't DJ!

the real nick said...


This was and is not about the wedding.
I thought the reactions this non-event of two individuals getting married provoked among Indian and Pakistani residents in Dubai were enlightening: A catalyst for small mindedness.
And I think this is of interest to everyone who lives in this fragmented society. No wonder some anonymous subcontinentals got all huffy about it. It must be embarrassing for sure.

Anonymous said...
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Hammad said...


There may be few dozen (or few hundred at max) sub continentals protesting/condemning on Shoaib-Sania marriage, billions are indifferent about this.

I have always found Pakistan/India media to be far more dramatic and issue creating then Indians and Pakistanis I have met in real life. I know at least a dozen Indian/Pakistani (some are even cross religion) couples living in and nobody bothers to make it an issue.

Stupid in Gulf fight over Persian vs. Arabian gulf name, stupid in US makes Transformers a block buster movie, stupid in sub-continent makes Sania-Shoaib marriage an issue. Life would be far more difficult for intelligent in absence of these stupid.

Gargoyle said...

Ah. I read with relish, vaguely thinking "familiar style". And so it proved to be. I echo Dubai Jazz - glad to see you posting, Nick. Was horrfied to find your blog had disappeared off the face of blogger.com.

And yes, if you wanted to escape the Indo-Pak social swamp, Dubai's a strange choice. For that, you'd have to go to.... nope, can't think of anywhere free of it! Might as well be Dubai, then - at least they'll get your pictures in the papers often and the public will have no hope of forgetting them.

the_fat_dark_madrasi said...


Why the sourness towards the letters. That is the first place I go to when I open the newspaper. You can glean the color and caliber of the millions of clowns who inhabit this place. I seriously wish the UAE would do some kind of psychometric test with the emphasis on the psycho before they let people in here. Whats alarming is these types are allowed to breed and create more of their ilk. Eventually you have a generation full of bigoted, fanatical and copiously affluent subcontinentals who care nothing for other people from their own country because they are of another caste/religion/clan/tribe. While I agree with your article in its entirety, I would be cautious about using broad strokes and painting all as such. Like you said, we are after all a nation of a billion people; surely we can't all be the same.

Keep tapping on that keyboard !


the real nick said...


Isn't it handy to have 'billions' of 'indifferent' people who are not like the mob?
It's just that, being indifferent they do not counteract but are just being indifferent, sip chai and tsk-tsk away and hand the front pages to the mob...

Which seems to me a pretty accurate reflection of politics in India by the way.

the real nick said...

Too busy lately to maintain my blog but I can always vent my spleen here...or on others' blogs.

To escape Indian-Pakistan tittle tattle or so-called mixed couple 'issues', London would be a good choice. Nonone there ever gave my wife and me a second glance; In Dubai, stares! Come to think of it, when we are in India we face a lot less interest from onlookers than in Dubai. It must be the distance that brings out the worst in epxats...
Hence, the post.

rosh said...

LOL @ the_fat_dark_madrasi. Nicely said!

Nick, I hear you. 2 fils, I don't think you can fix 'stupid' because, some things never change.. or perhaps take a millennium and a half. The stares aren't going to stop. You know, it wasn't bad 20 years ago.. and then, there was this huge influx, somewhere past mid 90s and as the Madrsai said, brought along all their ways.

Anonymous said...

A little off topic...is anyone facing problems with the internet. For the past few its been really slow and some site don't load. :(
Btw nice post.

Anonymous said...

Having problems opening youtube, anyone else in the same situation???

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