The F.E. Choudhry Gallery: Personal Hygiene

Posted on April 21, 2008
Filed Under >Nadeem Omar, Photo of the Day, Society, Women
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Nadeem Omar

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.

Women hygine Lahore lice

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 like the best pine tar shampoo.

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.

Click here for the evolving F.E. Choudhry Gallery at ATP.

25 responses to “The F.E. Choudhry Gallery: Personal Hygiene”

  1. More comments from the ATP Facebook Page where this was recently reposted:

    – “truly amazing!”
    – “sisterhood?”
    – “great pic…this chain might have continued if the last woman had not covered her head…:) alas!!! :)”
    – “nice one…”
    – “nice”
    – “It’s really nice!”
    – “waqat kam aur mukhaballa sakath .. :-)”
    – “Its really a great picture.”
    – “A million Thanks to Allah for giving us Pakistan!”
    – “Do’nt 4get past and think for Future,,,,,,”

  2. More comments from ATP’s Facebook Page where thsi was recently re-posted:

    – “truly amazing!”
    – “sisterhood?”
    – “great pic…this chain might have continued if the last woman had not covered her head…:) alas!!! :)”
    – “nice one…”
    – “nice”
    – “It’s really nice!”

  3. Some comments from the ATP Facebook Page where this was reposted recently:

    – “Charles Darwin fill in the blank…:)”
    – “ya kia hora hay ake dosaray ki joway daki jari hai. hahaha”
    – “ye hamaray ancestors hain….thori izzat karo”
    – “Surprised the fake wannabe mullah brigade hasn’t commented to show how un-Islamic their dress is lol”
    – “so old pics”
    – “very nice picture. Even if you are in a refugee camp you have to have personal hygience. These are smart women, this is far more effecient if you did it barri barri.”
    – “The joo niklna assembly line”
    – “bohat ala !”
    – “ohhhhhhhh my god fantastic……………….”
    – “wow…sweet”
    – “nyc…”
    – “amazing”
    – “rofl :-D….typical ladies”
    – “nice”
    – “Today it is quite easy for us to say words like,
    Sweet, Wow etc. But just imagine the plight of those people who left their homes in search of the promised freedom. These ladies might have suffered more than their share while traveling towards Pakistan. Let us ask ourselves today, “Have we done enough to acknowledge their sacrifices”
    – “Khoklay comments say humari current generate ka caliber nazar aata hai. One will never see any other people making fun of or passing mindless/thoughtless comments on the struggles of their forefathers. Likhnay say pehlay sochna chahyay. The sufferings of these folks shouldnt be taken lightly. Had they not migrated, most of us would be getting a whipping in India right now as second class citizens subservient to a hostile majority.”
    – “very well said! Guess PK is far from doing justice to all the sacrifices of one the enormous mass movement history has seen (and underreported!)”
    – “amazing picture, shows how one can get familiar with those one hasn’t even know. Love is not based on feelings its based on needs. Thats what the picture says. thnx for sharing. No one can understand (until he sees) what life is in refugee camps. No one can understand( until faced) how half crazy people look and search for their loved ones in ruined cities. So if those of us dont have anything good to say, we should rather shut up .:)”
    – “amazing……….”

  4. sam says:

    its not some busy road side, where these women are sitting, its somewhere in their local community, and it has been and still is in rural cultures a common occurance. why so much fuss. i liked the photo for its details, but the discription regarding affluents having a public display of hygine etc. aren’t we getting a bit carried away.

    but very intersting and apt capture by F E Chaudhry

  5. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    @ Aisha,

    don’t you think you are exaggerating a bit !!

    the picture seems very natural and harmless rural
    daily routine, its female desire, useless to
    develop lice picking syndrome complexes,
    Pakistanis have already sufficient.

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