Author Maheen Usmani gives her take on lawn season

Lawn mania is upon us again. This time I would rather give it a miss. Having been subjected to the rough and tumble and single minded determination of women on a mission is enough to make my steps falter in shopping malls. No one stands in the way of women bent on acquiring lawn suits, not even men, who leap aside like terrified deer in front of hunters with shotguns.

It has to be said that lawn designers are becoming rather adept at coming up with tablecloths and curtains dripping with embellishments which would make Elton John salivate. And then they sell like hot cakes. Wearing one of these shiny kurtas is now a status symbol; so what if every second women here looks like a clone, with their boat necks, scrawled pen sketches and dotted diamantes drawing attention to body parts best kept hidden.

Once upon a time I ventured to the much anticipated Sapphire Sale at Dolmen Mall, having been instructed by my mother to pick up a shirt for myself and my sister who lives abroad. The first inkling that something was amiss happened en route where cars were packed bumper to bumper with zero parking space with harassed men and curiously elated women. On the escalator, I puzzled over the distinct buzzing overhead like that of excited bees hovering over honey. Nearing the designer stores, the buzzing increased to auditory overload levels.

The Sapphire Sale a few years ago

Rounding the corner, I stumbled knee deep into masses of women thirty rows in, whose laser focus was the closed glass door behind which salesmen were waving frenetically. Stock finished!! They were yelling if you lip read. And this was fifteen minutes into a 50 % sale.

The crusaders were not falling for it.

“Stock finished! How is that possible?” was the incredulous exclamation amidst sniggering and elbowing.

In fact, the baying for the kurtas outside went up a notch much to the despair of the salesmen trapped inside. Then they had a brainwave, reappearing with hastily scrawled signs proclaiming “STOCK FINISHED!!” An almighty groan outside, but not one woman budged because after all how could they go home empty handed?

The stock finished in fifteen minutes because the first triumphant customers pushed their way in, sweeping entire racks of clothes into their sturdy arms, hugging them close to their ample bosoms. Some of these women inside the store appeared next to the glass entrance trying to make their out with their prized purchases in tow. But every time the salesmen tried to open the glass door, the mob tried to push their way in. A battle royale ensued with the door reverberating, the screaming sweaty men wobbling from side to side as they clung to the side of the door trying to stay upright. The bedraggled salesmen begged, they pleaded, they cajoled, they folded their hands, they shouted but the women outside were not to be deterred, like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.

A little boy with his hair standing on end was stuck with his mother inside the store. Every time the salesmen cracked the glass door open to let them through, the hordes of women rushed forward like maddened beasts without waiting for anyone to exit and the boy was in danger of being trampled. He finally managed to make his way out with his frightened breathless mother, but not before he was hoisted on a salesman’s shoulders to avoid the frothing at the mouth crowd.

Meanwhile a customer climbed into the window display and started showing her choices to her friends outside for their review. A lady inside the shop started stripping the mannequin of her ensemble; two salesmen came to the aid of the mannequin and returned her clothes while shooing away her harasser who started shouting at being deprived of her catch. Eventually, the crazed salesmen started yelling for mall security to help them who set up rope barricades to bring some order to the chaos.

Being the fly on the wall, I noted the fallacy of the sad stereotype that only elitist women fight over clothes during sales. This is one event that cuts across all barriers so there were women from all strata of society who were part of that mob. Jeans, scarves, sheer blouses, lawn outfits, burqas, chadars, abayas, hijabs, niqabs, they were all well represented. They were prepared to wait one, two, three, four hours outside the shop for the stock to be replenished because they were not leaving until they had bought the discounted kurtas.

After the circus of the Sapphire sale, I went to Generation which was like the Black Hole of Calcutta. After being nearly ambushed by the madding crowd, stepped on in a queue and made faint by the rank air inside, I raced outside to gulp in oxygen.. Being a stickler for punishment, I then dared to step into Khaadi which looked relatively less crowded. But there was carbon dioxide percolating in the innards of the shop where a sizeable crowd was milling around snatching at kurtas from a carton like dogs wrestling for meat.

On the other side were empty clothes racks and a contented customer squatting over a mound of multi coloured clothes on the floor. I couldn’t help staring at the picture of contentment she made. She smiled and said she was sitting down to catch her breath after grabbing the clothes resting under her sizeable backside and now she was ready for the next stage. “Chaanti! i.e. sorting out.

She was magnanimous enough to say that the clothes that did not meet her high standards could be purchased by me, but since I would rather not wear ensembles that have to be peeled away from other womens’ sweaty bums, I beat a hasty retreat.

Much as I detests clichés, hell hath no fury like a woman at a sale. Any obstructions in the path to glory are mowed down faster than you can say Mamma Mia. After all, what could be more pleasurable than being the first to snatch discounted outfits out of the hands of others?

Bio: Maheen Usmani is the author of the book ‘The Mercurial Mr Bhutto and Other Short Stories’. She tweets @MaheenUsmani Email: [email protected]

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