As a print and TV reporter with extensive experience with both Expressive News and Aah News, and a surreally bilingual stint at Yawn News as well, I had the privilege to cover the most intimate contact ever between long-time foes India and Pakistan. Yes, I am referring to the Shoania wedding, specifically the couple’s brief sojourn in Pakistan. I was not part of the rabid media frenzy many of my colleagues subjected the travelling wedding circus to, heckling and cajoling the couple for a mere word or two from their prized mouths. No, I adopted a more innovative approach.
I bugged them in the other sense of the word.
With the help of some sophisticated gadgetry I managed to tap into some of their most intimate and revealing conversations during their stay in the country. The lack of a suitably exorbitant price for the transcripts prevented me from revealing these earlier. With that condition now satisfactorily met, I present before you some of the exchanges that took place in a multiple-star Lahore hotel suite during the couple’s first night in the city. I will release the audio clips of the same soon, once arrangements with the highest bidder are finalised. Here are some excerpts:
Sania: Oh Shabby, Shabby! Pakistan is so backward, so insecure! And the crowds…ugh! You just had to bring me here! Of all places!
Shoaib: I’m so sorry Sunny-honey! I agree with you totally, but darling, really, it’s not my fault the country is the way it is; I had no idea the journalists would be so intrusive and the people so loving.
Sania: Of course it’s your fault! It’s your double fault! We could’ve easily had the whole wedding in Hyderabad. Why did we have to come to this hellhole!
Shoaib: Well, I was born here you know, darling, this is my home ground, after all. Please don’t make such a racket!
Sania: (Grunt!) I don’t make rackets, I break them! In any case, home ground or not, I’m really fed up with Pakistan and Pakistanis! The whole lot. I mean, remember that weirdo that came to Hyderabad...that minister of population or something. What a horrid man!
Shoaib: Er...honey, that was a woman.
Sania: What! Are you sure? With a name like Ashiq and a face like...oh never mind! But can you imagine...she brought us a contraceptive kit! As a wedding gift from your government!
Shoaib: We do have a serious population problem, darling.
Sania: That’s ‘cause that’s your national pastime. I mean with all the loadshedding and the boring long dark hours....what do you expect?
Shoaib: But darling, India has a larger population than...
Sania: Oh shut up Shabby! I’m never ever coming here again! (Half a sob). And I’ve had it with your media-wallahs too! They harassed me so much! I wanna serve them with big lawsuits, the lot of them.
Shoaib: Honey, to begin with, you are not known for big serves. That’s more Serena-like. Second, maybe if you’d just smile a little in public, show some appreciation for all the attention and love we’re getting…some acknowledgement...
Sania: Shabby! How dare you! Don’t ever, ever talk about the Williamses to me. And let me remind you, I’m not here to show appreciation; I do that in India only. Besides, it serves your media and others right…they made such a furore over that Ayesha affair…ugh!
Shoiab: Precious, let’s just forget that whole Ayesha thing for good. Let’s just say it was…a big unforced error of judgement on my part! I’m so over it.
Sania: I hope so! Otherwise I’d just…lob you out of my life! But Shabby, tell me one thing, were you, like, ever in love with her?
(Long non-dramatic pause.)
Shoaib: Ow! Don’t pinch me! I’m telling, I’m telling!
Sania: Tell already!
Shoaib: Well, let’s just say, in the beginning, she just bowled me out. I was young, I was inexperienced. I was a cricketer, for heaven’s sake!
Shoaib: Look darling, I really was young, I didn’t know left from right back then. That’s why I got hit for sixes so much. All I knew was cricket. I devoted all my energy to winning and fixing matches. She just caught me off guard, really. I miscued. Let’s just…drop this whole thing.
Sania: Ok, Shubby hubby. Consider it dropped.
Shoaib: And please, please be more receptive to the doting crowds. They really like you. The Urdu press has already dubbed you Bhabi-e-Millat and Malka-e-Racket. If you showed just a little…
Sania: Shut up, Shabby!
Shoaib: (Whimpers) Ok Sunny.
(Long, pensive silence.)
Sania: Shabby, when are we going to Islamabad again?
Shoaib: Why honey? Do you like the place? It’s really pretty isn’t it? Scenic, peaceful…
Sania: No dumbo! I wanna go to the Indian High Commission again. It’s my favourite-most place in your country.
Shoaib: Our country, darling.
Sania: Your country, Shabby.
Shoaib: Ow! Ok, ok, my country. Don’t pinch me! It hurts! We’ll go to Islamabad soon, don’t worry. I’ll book a suite in Serena Hotel…
Shoaib: OW! What now honey? Please don’t pinch me I tell you it really hurts!
Sania: I told you, don’t ever, ever mention the Williamses!
Shoaib: (Whimpers) Roger, darling. Whatever you say.
Sania: Oh yes! You can mention him all you want! Yes, oh yes, anytime, anytime! a
Published in the Express Tribune, June 20th, 2010.
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