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Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan: 'That mansion in Phase VIII is pretty grand'

Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan: 'That mansion in Phase VIII is pretty grand'

There is something about those dog-eared classics on my bookshelf that keeps bringing me back to them time and again.

I’m a die-hard Janeite, and while I don’t mind a bit of Bronte and Hardy, it is to Austen that I shall always return. So whether it is Elizabeth Bennet’s thrust and parry with Mr Darcy or Catherine Morland’s wide eyed adoration of Mr Tilney, I always feel like I am in the company of old friends.

But sometimes I wonder, what would they be like if they existed today?

In fact, what would an Austen novel be like if it could transcend time and place (as all good classics should) and the scenes of rural England could be transported to suburban Pakistan?

So with due apologies to Ms Austen and all Janeites out there for the liberties I am about to take, here are portions of Pride and Prejudice re-imagined — Pakistani style (PS. any similarity to real persons is purely coincidental).

Born on the wrong side of the bridge to Punjabi parents transplanted to Karachi, Elishba Butt is the second of five beautiful and occasionally silly sisters.

Her mother, Mumtaz, is an interfering auntie of the highest order. Her reconnaissance missions into the neighbourhood have one objective: to find rich husbands for her daughters.

When it comes to the headstrong Elishba, Mumtaz has her sights set on Shafiq Cheema. Cheema is Butt sahab’s oily third cousin twice removed but he has a singular advantage — he’s rich and owns the house that Mumtaz and her family currently live in… so if Elishba marries him, the house will stay in the immediate family and mummy and daddy can live and interfere on happily ever after.

So what if Elishba thinks Cheema is repulsive vermin? Who said marriage had anything to do with love or happiness, hain jee?

Lekin beti jee has a mind of her own.

Elishba’s not planning to marry a pauper but chipkoo Cheema is certainly not on her wish list. If only she could be so sure about the annoyingly arrogant Fahad Darr — sure, he’s cute and that mansion in Phase VIII is pretty grand, but why does he have to act so entitled?

Also, does he think his millions can cover up his sordid past?

Rumour has it that Darr has bribed certain top officials to keep the details of his machinations regarding his expired father’s money hush hush.

Khair, be that as it may, but if he thinks he can act fresh with Elishba, he’s got another think coming. And why does he continuously stare at her? After all, didn’t he refuse to be paired up with her in the dandia at Rakshanda’s brother’s sister-in-law’s mehndi?

Barra aya.

If that wasn’t enough drama for one family, elder sister Jamila’s beau, Chaudhry Barkat, is suddenly getting insecure. He thinks Jamila’s not really interested in him, just aisay hee playing along for the sake of his grand fortune, so he’s gone off in a huff to his ancestral lands in Sahiwal.

When he plans to return is anybody’s guess, no point in trying to contact him via phone or email — I mean do they even have WiFi or Internet over there in pind?

Then there is idiotic sister number three, Laila. Elishba loves Laila because they’re sisters but the girl really needs to stop being such an outrageous flirt, and could she please do away with those hipsters and tight t-shirts?

I mean everyone knows that guys will want only one thing if she continues to dress and behave as she does. But poor girl, subtlety is just not her strong suit.

What do you think — could Pride and Prejudice work as a great Pakistani novel?

I believe of all of Austen’s novels, this one was absolutely written for a sub-continental audience. Think about the ending…

Elishba marries Darr and goes off to live in the grand mansion in Phase VIII and Jamila takes off to Sahiwal to be the malikan of Chaudhry sahab’s land and jageer — sure, she has two b***y *nands but then, doesn’t everyone?

And Laila, despite bringing shame on the family has been hastily and quietly married off to a man in uniform — of course he will flirt with anyone he meets but as far as Mumtaz is concerned, he is handsome and therefore the best thing since sliced bread.

It’s about as happily ever after as a Pakistani story is likely to get.

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