In this, the first in our series of photographs from the F.E. Chaudhry Collection, we want to feature this remarkable photograph taken on a Lahore street-side, probably in the 1950s.
A group of four young women unabashedly sitting in a row on a road side in Lahore, picking each other’s heads for lice and so very focussed on the task at hand that they are oblivious to the passersby. The children (probably their own) squatting around and hiding in their laps, captures an age old family ritual that is no longer to be seen, even in the private, lost forever to the glamorous new world of branded soaps and shampoos.
The photograph shows F. E. Choudhry’s penchant for novel sights. The public performance of personal hygiene was not an uncommon sight, even amongst the more affluent. But usually not so for picking lice. Although it was a common practice for women (sometimes men too!) to pick head lice for each other, especially in summer, when head lice breed in great number, it was usually done in the privacy of home. This is clearly an example of poverty forcing people to “live” in the public space and conduct what would otherwise be private acts, in public. This, as we shall later see, was a recurrent theme in F.E. Choudhry’s portfolio.
There is so much that is striking and worth thinking about in this photograph. Do tell us what caught your eye and attention.