The way it was: Impossible to please anyone —Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan

Good intentions are great but they do not entitle a person to appropriate the rights of others. As I said everyone has the right to drink the poison of his own liking. Socrates drank hemlock. Cleopatra had herself bit by a snake

The rain should either have come a month earlier or ten days later. Just when paddy is being harvested, making way for the sowing of wheat, it should not start raining. This is not fair. ‘God knows what is best,’ say the poor peasants who have may have been hurt the most by this untimely downpour. Ten days later it would have been a windfall. Any way this is what is always expected. Farmers are made to sweat for their bread, even in winter. But it doesn’t matter. They are used to it. Aren’t they?

It might interest you to know what a Jat friend, who has never farmed in his life, but who loves to pontificate, had to tell me. ‘Paddy is planted and you sow wheat.’ Did you know that? Now don’t you go about telling people that you were sowing flowers in your garden, because they are planted not sowed. Looking at the positive side, the winter showers have washed the sky clean of wanton dust, smoke and toxic gases, farted by motorised vehicles. At last we will be able to see blue for a few days, before the viscous coat of filth obliterates it again.

Actually clean air has given some people a headache. It is true that inhalation of extra oxygen can actually make you dizzy. I know of a person who almost died after having a fresh glass of milk — he spent a whole week flushing the commode.

We are a generation, which has been raised on blended spirits and values. That is why they never cease to blend the Constitution to please different needs. I sometimes wonder if there is any difference between blending and adulteration. I am sure there is. Blenders are men of taste whereas adulterators are men of power. However, both get away making lots of money. Now there is no harm in that if the consumers are kept happy and given some choice. No one likes to be poisoned against his or her will, by a blender, adulterator or for that matter an adulterer.

If everyone is kept happy and everything is executed discreetly, logically speaking, no one should have cause for complaint. In that sense no one should even have anything against adultery if it is conducted with voluntary deception. The element of free choice must remain operative at all times, under all circumstances and in every situation. Committing suicide, you will surely agree, is a question of personal propensity — a matter of personal choice. It is not the same thing as getting oneself killed. The latter jeopardises the right of individual choice.

The whole mystique of suicide, and for that matter the very purpose of democracy would be debased if any one else did it for you. That is the principle reason why adultery is spurned by civil society. Imagine Brutus doing it to Cleopatra for Antony. Brutus being executed by Augustus for treason would not be the same thing as Brutus impaling himself on his rusty sword.

For the same reason when a person, with howsoever a noble passion, takes on democracy, on behalf of the people, it is not the same as people choosing themselves. Good intentions are great but they do not entitle a person to appropriate the rights of others. As I said everyone has the right to drink the poison of his own liking. Socrates drank hemlock. Cleopatra had herself bit by a snake. I believe rat poison is ideal for the Rats.

Everyone has the right to spend his penny the way he likes. It is his penny. Presumably a hard-earned penny. No one has the right to take it away, even if in the past, it has not been judiciously spent. Pennies remind me of muscle. Can you think of anyone who has muscles, but is without pennies? At least I can’t. It is amazing how often one thing leads on to another. Pennies make me think of muscles and muscles of the Butts — a noble breed of Kashmiris who have descended from Paradise to patronise the dusty Punjab.

E M Forester in one of his essays on Pans confesses that crowd for crowd if he were to travel in a bus, he would rather travel with the pan-eating Indians than with the garlic-eating Italians. A strong breath of garlic, as you must know, can actually kill a scorpion. Forester was a wise man. If he had visited Lahore, he would have advised everyone, if inevitably one had to enter into altercations, that it was best to avoid the Butts. My friend Fuad is a darling. He can appear deceptively dormant, but flares up like a volcano. He has never hurt a fly, but like all Butts seems capable of killing an elephant.

There is a family of Butts at my village. I have not known people more courteous and true to their word. I have often wondered what they are doing in a village. All the Butts (Butt is used here as a generic name for all Kashmiris) I have ever sighted have been mostly in the cities. I recall seeing in the early fifties Kashmiris loading trucks outside Delhi Gate, but never saw one work in a field. Most of the ones I have known have been bodybuilders, boxers, wrestlers and yoghurt-eaters. Nay, nay, in all fairness there have been many others of different talents and occupations.

Fuad is one of the leading architects of the country. Mhoody (Mehmood) Butt has been a three-in-one, a boxing coach, a cartoonist and a portrait painter. How can one forget the three hockey Olympians, Munir Dar, Zaka and of course Qasim Zia, now president PPP Punjab. Munir Dar was without doubt the best hockey fullback the world has ever seen. Qasim in his own way, with the bearing of a green lad with heart of a lion, would without the slightest concern for personal safety engage the German and Australian Goliaths as though he was playing chequers.

There were many others whom I forget at the moment, including my friend Asghar Butt, Pakistan Junior Body Building champion, who had the privilege of having his forceps felt and admired by none other than the great Chou En Lai. When the Chinese prime minister visited Lahore, he was specifically brought to Aitchison College to see for himself how well we looked after the education of the rich and privileged. The other person — how could I forget her — was one of my own Kashmiri great grand aunts, who was fair like fresh linen and innocent like a dove.

Getting back to my village, Abdul Butt loves spinning a yarn and narrating stories, which have an adverse bearing on people’s conduct and manners. A man who is committed to calling a spade a spade naturally does not go down well with other fellows. Some of his well wishers have repeatedly complained that Abdul Butt doesn’t have to persistently needle people. Occasionally a spade can be referred to as an instrument for digging earth. Similarly a hammer can be addressed as an instrument for encouraging a nail to penetrate a hard surface. I wonder if a scythe can be called a metallic denture? Life has become really difficult these days. It is almost impossible to please anyone.

Prof Ijaz-ul-Hassan is a painter, author and a political activist