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Madame Butterfly: A biting satire on Pakistani society

Sunday, 3 August 2014 - 6:31am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Amy Fernandes reviews Moni Mohsin's biting satire on Pakistani society caught in middle of political turmoil

This Butterfly, she's so dumb, so dumb, ke pooch hi na. The first time I met her was in Mohni Mohsin's book The Diary of a Social Butterfly, she was dumb even then, but a lovable-si, Pakistani babe who gave us a pitcher of of Lahore's, Isloo's and Karachi's social cirkit and with it, a sketch of the political life there, and I thought, chalo, this woman can't think straight, but look what Moni Mohsin her spin doctor has done for her. She's made her into a delightful entity who flits in and out of parties, (not political) rallies (political), has politically incorrect thoughts and views, and is a breath of fresh air for people who only thought of Jinnah as Pakistan.

In The Return of the Butterfly, I toh don't know how her husband Janoo has bothered staying married to her. How does an 'oxen studied' (Oxford, she means) quiet, intellectual tolerate being married to a loud woman whose only interest is parties, weddings and shoppings? Tell me na? Every sentence is deliberately illiterate. Consider this, from the mouth of Butterfly: "Turkish Prime Minster, what's his name, Astrakhan or Ardogan or something, he arrived in Isloo just then. Now the guvmunt as you know is scard skiff keh about where Talibans will strike next and fearing keh Sri Lankan cricket team waala haal Turks ka na ho jaye, they have closed down hole of Isloo to protect Turks ka PM..." and so on and so forth, until you want to pull Butterfly by the ears (or is it years?) and throw her into a class for remedial students for a refresher course in education!

It's tiresome for the reader to watch the protagonist regress from a convent educated back-bencher to a bimbo who believes Wimbledon is Wimbledong and pathar kay kebab is a patty made from stones and gravel. At the same time the reader is happy to note (knote?) that she hasn't lost any of her street sharpness, for instance when she says, "Chalo, it's official now. Us and the Indians, we are at last equal, equal. If they won Oscar for their slump kids then we won Oscar for our acid victims." Despite her growning illiteracy, the book makes you smile and want more of Butterfly's idiosyncrasies. She is still able to paint a colourful picture of her country, its people and above all, of herself.

Chalo bhai, is book to toh read karna hi chahiye.


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