The Capital Vulture: The hills have eyes

Published: July 12, 2011

Staring is the collective problem of the whole of the Indian sub-continent

Sociology majors ought to consider doing their dissertations on behavioural patterns indigenous to Pakistanis. One of these genetic predispositions is a constant irritation to those on the receiving end. In fact, this applies to the entire Indian subcontinent really.

As a collective, we suffer from an acute staring problem; it can make life awkward to the point when you start developing social disorders (me) or bloated egos (so many girls in the city).

Uff, it’s because some of us are fair, hardy, har, har.

I’ve grown up in Islamabad and the unabashed staring is something I’ll never get used to. I think many of my readers will relate.

The habit is ubiquitous. The obnoxious stare in many variations of gaping eyes, crooked side-glances, and once-overs belongs to all classes.

Case in point: recently we decided to haemorrhage some hard earned cash at a local cafe. One walked in and the air felt thick with lawn, which could only mean one thing: the aunties had returned to their weekend watering hole. We barely made it through the door when those basilisk stares started turning our souls into stone.

As we walked to our table mustering all the swagger we had to look cool and collected under the intense scrutiny, I took the liberty of checking out the looks coming our way.

Some were downright invasive: these infrared beams that stripped you down to your underwear; made you feel like you were walking around in your birthday suit. Others were dull and bovine, originating from personages busy gnashing bits of Caesar Salad.

I had to exercise so much self-control to keep myself from glaring back, puffing out my chest and yelling:

 “Kya, kya? Phada karna hai, auntie pepsi?”

Yar, what is this?” asked my friend Khadija as we escaped for a smoke.

 “They’re full on eating us with their eyes.”

Any other country and the staring would’ve been considered unseemly (the rest of the world has mastered the art of subtle voyeurism through the use of peripherals) — people will come up to you and ask if there’s a problem.

So what had we done that warranted so much ogling?

Were my jeans too tight?

Is the way I walk a little too behooda for the masses?

Although the answer may be yes to all the above, it still doesn’t make the staring any less rude when it comes from people who are well-off enough to know better.

It’s not like we were glaring in muted shock and horror at the family sitting near us that brought along their fat infant and maid or the patina of foundation that made some of the aunties glow neon.

There’s another hotspot for aggressive leering: ‘the walk of shame,’ as a friend calls it, ‘at Gloria Jeans.’

You’ll find yourself flanked on either side by a veritable sausage-fest – these usually all-male tribes of hormonal teenagers or dubious looking older dudes will eye-molest you with a mixture of murder, spite, and suppressed eroticism.

If the general populace were better looking, at least this would’ve been less troubling.

Not the case.

Then there’s the routine staring from people on the street. This I find less intrusive, more endearing because these are looks of genuine curiosity- the bachas plastered on the windows of oncoming traffic and Daewoos are only trying to make sense of pasty Burgher hipsters in outlandish garb. This I don’t hold against them.

I’d like to move that citizens who’ve afforded the rare luxury of an education, solid upbringing and manners should either face criminal charges or have to go through a mandatory course in social etiquette to keep their nasty glaring in check.

Something like what they’ve got going in Saudi Arabia: a tap from a stout danda to avert those menacing eyes.

Published in The Express Tribune.

Rayan Khan

Rayan Khan

A reporter for the Life and Style and City pages of The Express Tribune in Islamabad. He contributes to a column "Culture Vulture".

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Pez

    Ahhhhh so true! People here have a serious problem. Recommend

  • Gene Masseth

    Very good article. The writer truly has his finger on the pulse of this great nation.Recommend

  • Well Man

    i have a staring problem as well. i love people, but when I look at them, they complain that I stare. I am called ogler, looker and wanter. I hate my habbit, but I just want to look at people. why are most people so paranoid? I’m just looking guys…Recommend

  • pabno

    this article is yummm,…Recommend

  • Raheen

    Relevant topic and humorous read! The South Asian staring phenomenon definitely requires some probing. Recommend

  • Ali

    I’ve lived in the US, Hong Kong and Pakistan. This problem is universal, not just restricted to South Asia as you stated in such a generalized manner. Everyman stares, every woman knows; and some even invite stares (especially in the West). On the streets, in bars and clubs, staring is a language of sorts. They (men) communicate their intentions and many are wooed back. In a society like Pakistan, where you know such problems exist. This problem exists in men, as an inherent part of their nature. I wish it could stop but its naive to believe that it would . Women should either walk proud without giving a damn, or wear something more decent to try and curb these gazes. Recommend