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.

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. Tina says:

    yes, Baraka, apparently some people have such fond memories which have found their way into the popular culture–there’s the American country-Western song, “I’d Like to Check You For Ticks” :) there’s a Bollywood song about picking off bedbugs, and girls checking their legs for fleas was a popular subject for porcelain statues during the time of the French Tuileries–gave the sculptor an excuse to show the girl with the hem of her dress raised, I would guess.

    Dang, I’m starting to itch now, just thinking about all that. It used to be a buggy world in the old days….

  2. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    @ ATP,

    some “distance” strongly recommended from
    ” virus ” on this blog !!!

  3. Baraka says:

    Some of my fondest memories are of my aunts picking lice out of my hair after I played with the girls in the village :)

  4. Tina says:

    P.S> Would like to add, in both technical and aesthetic and human interest aspects, it’s a great choice of photograph, too.

  5. Rafay Kashmiri says:

    @ Do we still have the same solidarity as it was in good
    old 50s, people were more clean or perhaps we saw
    clearer those days, now we have dandruffs, genetic
    “scalptitude ”
    ladies use to wear gorgeous parfumes,
    having their long hair groomed with chambeli, yasmin, johi, motia,
    now they smell ” chemicals ” and sprays :

    If only ATP had a nice and kind lady “administratress ”

    “Aa teray gesoo’aun say, nikal doo’n kuch joouain,
    khalq-e-khudah, kia apka rakhti nehein khayal ?
    Rafay Kashmiri

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