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  • Female Flyting in the Raj? August 17, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern , trackback

    It has been a long day and Beach has not had time to look for this in all the normal works of reference. However, this story (or fiction?) rang no bells and as Beach has – disgrace upon disgrace – never had a Pakistani story before he thought he’d take a risk.

    A curious custom, a Lahore paper remarks [in 1897], is observed in these Shraddh days by the woman folk of many families belonging to the higher castes in the city. At about three in the morning they – the ladies – congregate near a well in Vachowali Bazaar, and dividing themselves into two hostile parties, bombard each other with the ‘choicest’ and most telling abuse that their ingenuity can invent. Sometimes this party wins and sometimes that. A vast crowd of awe-struck males assemble even at that unearthly hour to witness this unique warefare [sic]. Five out of the total fifteen Kanagat days are set apart for this purposes. Now peace will be proclaimed till next year. The worthy conflict continues till about daybreak, when the exhausted dames, ranged on opposite sides, mingle again with the utmost cordiality and proceed together to the Ravi, singing suitable songs, for the usual matutinal ablutions.

    Beachcombing has so many questions that he doesn’t know where to begin. (i) Did this really happen? (ii) Were the insults ingenious or just plain dirty? (iii) Is there still, pace the Taliban and their ilk, flyting today in the city? (iv) Was this a Muslim custom? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Beachcombing’s source also has a legend that should be quoted as it may help searchers after the truth. Or it may, if this is all cobblers, be the explanation behind it.

    There is a legend that once upon a time an Afghan invader was stealthily approaching Lahore to pounce upon it unawares. It so happened that he approached Aziraband a good two hours before sunrise…. They heard sounds as of elephants screaming, horses neighing, camels gurgling, bulls bellowing, bow strings twanging, wheels rumbling, drums booming, warriors roaring, and trumpets tooting. They thought that the capital had got scent of the invasion, and a vast army was coming out to meet them… So they mounted again and retraced their steps to Cabul with all possible speed. But think of the feeling of the Afghan leader when he came to hear afterwards that it was no opposing lashkar, only Lashore ladies engaged in their annual five days’ exercise fifty miles off that had frightened him.