Thy Dupatta

When I returned to Pakistan, I think, one of the most interesting and (later on) confusing aspects of Pakistani culture was the dupatta. My mother did a splendid job on telling me about its cultural and apparel importance along with its imperative nature in most regions of the country. In her ever subtle manner, she explained to me that as soon as a Muslim girl grows up, she is required to cover her body modestly. Initially it was more like a rag around my neck but as soon I began “blossoming”, I loved my dupatta like a police officer loves his gun. We all know how our Pakistani men are notorious for their staring stamina and I had my fair share of lewd experiences. That is when the dupatta came to my rescue. It’s like, you’re buying clothes in the bazaar and you can feel the salesman visually examining your curves and arches. What does a typical Pakistani woman do? She fixes her dupatta with a scowl.
I’m going to buy a DSLR some day and make a collage of the mentioned scenario. You will thank me. I know you will. But first meet Dupatta.

To your rescue.
After accepting the dupatta as my savior, I began taking note of how girls adorned their niswani-hussn-covering buddy. I realized that every style left a message about the girl’s personality along with how the society perceives the young lady. There are five distinctive styles I cannot forget. Here’s an analytical(?)  note on each one of them.Exhibit A: TRA LA LA LA LA Dupattay Wali

Probably the most hilarious kind to have ever existed. This is the TRA LA LA LA LA Dupattay Wali. She barely knows she’s wearing one. It dangles off her right shoulder, slipping to her right wrist while the left bit goes flying in the air. Sometimes her dupatta is on the floor while other times she’s simply too busy TRA LA LA LA LA -ing to notice where it disappeared. This kind (no offence) attracts the most eve teasers in the bazaar. In addition to that, the TRA LA LA LA LA Dupattay Wali is constantly chased by her worried mother who, in her earnest intention of covering her daughter from South Asian male interest, will end up buying a chadar for her in a week or two.Exhibit B: Linear Dupattay Wali









Some of us love precision. But nobody loves accurate lines and measurements the way Linear Dupattay Wali does. She studies in Beaconhouse School System and is most probably the Head Girl of the senior section. She will take 4 minutes and 36

seconds to use at least 52 safety pins on her dupatta. And if it doesn’t look straight enough, hell is on its way. (My sister used to take her dupatta like this). (I’m sorry but it’s true).
Exhibit C: Paindu Dupattay Wali

Paindu, a commonly-used term in Pakistan, is the only word that will explain this girl’s fashion sense (or lack thereof). Wanna know what’s even better about this? Mehreen Ali Kasana is categorized as a Paindu Dupattay Wali too. That’s right. This kind won’t shift their dupatta just a bit here and then there to look presentable. Indifference to fashion keeps us going.

Exhibit D: Bhangra Dupattay Wali or Intellectual Aunty

This kind will always leave a smirk on my face. The Bhangra Dupattay Wali is either a tomboy or an intellectual aunty. You’ll find her at Masoom’s usually debating the complexities of philosophy and literature. And as soon as she moves her muscle, you’ll think, “HOO BOY BHANGRA TIME” but she’ll explain her take on feminism instead. They’re not well-endowed either. Yeah, I’m a perv whatever.

Exhibit E: Daredevil Stylish Baji








I congratulate you if you wear your dupatta like this because no matter how pretty someone tells you you look, they’re probably calling you “shameless” or “haye besharam” behind your back. This kind is, I guess, the daredevil. Their dupatta sticks to their necks and never goes down. So if a guy leers at them, they’ll probably gasp and ask, “Why must he stare like that, you know?!” in their Pakistani accents. You might even hear this if you tell them to, um, lower their dupattas just a little bit:

Sana: Baji, thora sa dupatta neechay karlain?
Shazia Baji: Tumhe kia takleef hai?
Sana: Lanat teri boothi tay.










218 thoughts on “Thy Dupatta

  1. I wouldn’t say that noticing someone’s physical attributes makes you a perv, just observant. The way you’ described the “staring stamina”, that is perverse.

    As always, a very nice blog post, Mehr.

  2. Hehe, it takes an unhealthy amount of time spent people-watching to come up with such an ‘analytical’ classification. Hooray for vehla-pan. Goodshabash!

  3. hahahahahahahahahhahahahahhhah…It made me laugh so cruel that my sides start to hurt. lol. Very nice write up but i figure out some amendments have been made after posting :p Please also discuss religious aspect and coping the religious orders pertinent to this.

  4. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. =D I love you.

    And oh my God. I was just lamenting about the dupatta in the afternoon. The maid next door is blessed with an ample behind and front and she REFUSES to be seen with a dupatta. Because her begum sahiba doesn’t wear one either. Her begum sahiba is a 5″9 model working in the bank. And she’s a 5″1 shorty weighing over 70 kg. =/ What blind conformity? She’s washing the porch and I SO do not need to describe what can and cannot be seen of her. Ufh. What to do? All the mazdoors, chowkidaars and servants are watching. Where is our ‘haya’ (modesty)?!

  5. Sigh! I belong to Exhibit C: The paindu dupattay wali.

    I can relate to your post in many ways, one of them being returning to Pakistan when I was 13.

    Very good post. I enjoyed your sense of humor. And of course, the last line was simply the best.

  6. Mehreen you’re getting better and better..not that you need any encouragement but I have to say should seriously consider writing for a newspaper..or uh a magazine.
    Those illustrations are wonderful ! (=

    1. I already work for iWrite and Newsweek as an internee. That’s how much a 21 year old can do for now, haha. But your words will always give me immense encouragement. Thank you. :)

  7. AHAHAHA!!!
    “They’re not well-endowed either. Yeah, I’m a perv whatever.”

    I must commend your observation there :p

    The little snippet of conversation in the end is hilarious!

  8. I guess it’s time I get hooked up to your blog even though it’s totally not my thing, reading and writing. But Mehreen, this was abso-freaking-luting Awesome. Lovely. <3

  9. Mehreeen, did you make those categories up and dram those comics yourself? :O
    What a laugh I had.
    Those geometric dupattas are so annoying :X
    I can’t even be other to iron mine out. Placing it properly around me is a far off thing.
    As for the scratch crotching, visually molesting, South Asian idiots…. I hope they’re all made to hang upside down until blood rushes to their brains and they die :X

  10. you do know the longer part (vertical) of the linear dupatta wali’s hair and the shorter (diagonal) can NOT both be 1 inches? :) sorry ’twas was bothering my OCD self :p

    anyways. really nice job there with the illustrations and quirky writing. although i don’t understand what you might achieve by mocking other people’s fayshun choice (lol):)

    1. Wow, you have OCD. Mhm.

      I’m not mocking anyone here. If I were mocking someone’s fashion style, I would’ve categorize myself in one of those types. It’s all done in good humor, sir.

  11. Was this the cloth that draped a thousand hips/
    and marred the topless dreams of my tedium?
    Sweet Mehreen, make it immortal with a diss.

  12. OHH MYY GOD. . .! ROFL! I mean seriouslyy. . You don’t need feed-back from tom,dick and harry I can guess that. But I just can’t help loving your posts and m kind of having a fan-ish affection for u now .
    That was A.W.E.S.O.M.E! (:
    and btw most girls are an average of all these five types =P what about that style when women cover their heads ,tugged the dupatta behind their ears with not a single strand visible but their bosoms are uncovered ? =)) ( like some rural women. . )

    1. You’re so sweet to say so, Xehra. I’m sending a big hug your way right this moment.

      You know what? I’m going to make a doodle of the woman you just mentioned. I’ve seen them too many times to simply ignore them.

  13. eeeeeeeeeeeeeek! The dupatta is one of my biggest pet peeves, with casual outfits anyways. I like them with pretty shaadi outfits. I stopped wearing them after, well, I stopped wearing casual desi clothes on a daily basis once I moved away from pakistan back to amreeka (also at 13, kinda like you but reverse, we should really swap life stories sometime)

  14. and i mean its a pet peeve bc i feel its such a hassle, haha and gets in the way of stuff. although being a hijabi i know a hijab can also def get in the way. But I’m always adjusting the dupatta; perhaps I should learn to pin it or something?

    1. You could pin it or you could throw it away. It’s your choice, Sally begum. We really should exchange stories some day. I think I have a feeling my cousin knows your beau. Mhm, mhm.

  15. I used to think I was the only one who thought the bhangra-duppatay-wali was usually the intellectual aunty too.. glad to know there is someone else who thinks the same! Also, loved the linear dupattay wali. When I was in school (Mama Parsi Girls’) they used to tell us to wear our dupattas like that. So that they appeared neat. Did not do it once, I am proud to say. Didn’t wanna look like a police-wali

    1. hey! i went to Mama School too! don’t remember dupattas being part of our uniform though….hmmmm.
      made me self-conscious once i ‘developed’ :P hated the chokidar of our apartment building staring at my tiny pubescent boobies as i waited for my school bus :P

  16. Hahahahah Mehreen, buhat buhat aalaa! I loved reading this :D

    And one more type.. Maybe it can be associated with the ones you’ve mentioned but what of those pseudo-religious aunties who go around in bazaars, wearing abayas, but without dupattas? I mean .. dupattas are with them, but usually around the necks as if they’re about to give them phaansi ka phanda or something.

  17. waist par bhi hota hai at times disgonally and at times circular. and you missed another important one… the one that covers the head when she is dating her boyfriend on his bike.

  18. awesome and well written, you have explained all 5 categories very well i must admire your observation and research on the topic :P
    any ways i think its for the first time i am commenting on your blog post and the reason is that i enjoyed it more then any thing at the moment :)

  19. AOA!
    i would call you a aapi as i liked your post very much and its actually my first reply on such platform or threads( i dun know what it is called. :P)
    aapi what brilliant idea and topic to discuss!
    hats off to you!
    this is only thing which makes a boy change his mind after looking at a girl if she is wearing it prpperly! (o yaar, ye shareef larki hai,na ker!)
    but this DUPATA is now a days just used to complete your dressing… :(
    its a very good rather a great initiative by YOU to share the importance of DUPATA. if this had been put by a MAN then everybody would be like ” isey check kero,muft mai logo ki zindagi mai dakhal de rha hai. apne kaam se kaam kio nahi rakhte ye log”
    the issue would have been lost and ended before it even started!
    brilliant work AAPI

  20. Brilliant observation…. simply awesome… couldnt stop laughing for a while……conditions are exactly the same in India as well.
    simply loved the illustrations of Exhibit A and D.
    last three lines were really mind blowing. Keep it up Ma’am.

  21. Its by far the funniest thing I’ve read in ages. Am gonna be a fan of your writing and keep coming back. Would like to know your take on duppata less women of Pakistan?

  22. Hahaha! Looooved reading this! I have many crazy stories w/ my dupatta too. I started wearing it sahi tarah sain (read: the paindu ishtyle) at 13.

    Awesome post! <3

  23. haha…this is hilarious and quite true ! The way u hv categorized it is superb. The”bhangra- tom boy- intellect” type reminded me of Durdana Butt, famous pakistani actress who was the Head of student affairs in my Univ…She used to wear the Duppata like that and suprisingly had all these above mentioned 3 traits in her:P

  24. LEGEND!! hahahahahahah brilliant!! i literally shared this with like 20 ppl on my list..postin it to there walls..!!!

    how did u forget the Shareef Bachi or “rishta hunter” …with a dupatta overhead?

  25. quite an observational and informational piece of writing… this should be included in secondary school syllabus for Pakistan studies… good one! :)

  26. I loved reading through this post. Sends a great message..but you missed out a kind of dupatta know..the dignified one who uses it to cover her gold and her head, but is labelled as a *dadi-ama* dupattay wali by our typical Pakistani awam..sadly, a rare kind these days.

  27. Glance, Gaze or Stare so many difficult choice a man has to make uff! what to choose? Spare a thought for that helpless man.
    A T-Shirt once screamed “Ask your boobs to stop starring at my eyes”.
    Thanks for the post

  28. In simple WAR b/w religion vs sensibility vs glamour
    An Amazing read, few hidden truths of our society or may be any society. unfortunately many are still ignoring these facts deliberately thus knowing all the demerits.

  29. :)
    completely unspoken…but EVERYBODY knows it! coz Either they have been at the receiving end…or the…(looking up at the ceiling, whistling like nothings going on..) Glare-giver’s end!

    1. Sana: Dear sis,could you lower your dupatta (as to cover the part that’s meant to be covered)
      Shazia Baji:What’s your problem?
      Sana: May you be forever cursed.

  30. An incisive piece certainly. The bhangra type fascinates me most because the moment i looked at her,i thought of Dr. Arifa Syed with her boy-cut and the dupatta around her neck. You must ve seen her too in Forman.

  31. When I returned to Pakistan I noticed most Pakistani girls were sort of full of themselves, assuming every male they walked past was taking a particularly long look at their tits, arse and other girl bits.

    That is really not the case, and this obsession with eternally ‘protecting yourself’ from the ‘male’ resembles a paranoia of the worst kind – and sadly it is here to stay.

    I don’t blame you girls however. It’s just how you were born and raised. Your mum did it, your grandmum did it and so do you. It’s an exercise in self importance – an invisible bicycle pump that inflates ego’s to the extreme.

    Here’s a representation of what goes on in a Pakistani girls head (relatively little, but here it is nonetheless.): ‘That guy is checking me out’ *shuffle shuffle* *put dupatta on head*

    Nobody cares about your flabby, pancake tits, love. I guess Pakistani women only realise their true place in society when they get married, have three kids, get fat and cook and clean for the rest of their lives. Not that I support it, it just wholly puts them in their place and I love every second of it.

  32. I stumbled on this today, thru the Blue Rickshaw. Love your take on the Dupatta situation :) Looking forward to reading the rest of your scribblings.

  33. Very nicely written, I must say. I would also include another kind of style in this..The “no-dupatta shupatta” kind – the chicas who don’t even wear a dupatta and have lost any “sharam” they had due to the high demands of modernization.

    But truly a nice share. Thanks! =)

  34. a keen observer you are and a great writer….mashALLAH….a piece of information shared in style and comic way…and very true that there are miseries in our society that we do not know how to solve and most of us men do not know how to resspect women and also most women do not know how to carry our own splendid culture with ourselves.

  35. mehreen this is pure genious, move aside carrie bradshaw we have our very own paki pop culture anthropologist

  36. Enjoyed every bit :).
    LOL! I was always the Linear Dupattay Wali LMAO!!! WAS till I minimised wearing shalwar kameez to only occassions.

  37. Hilarious read. I couldn’t agree with you more on the linear duppatay wali. Although in my experience the ‘jaali walla dupatta’ stirs up quite a controversy sometimes too.

    Maybe you should do the next post on ‘kameez ki tameez’ featuring ‘kurti ki bachi’?

  38. the point is after this much research, did you start wearing duppata properly or not? :-) if not go for Veil, woh kya kehtay hai afghani or shittle wala, i think it will suit you and your looks ;-)

    oh yes amazing pictures to illustrate yours point (Y)

  39. Loved your post!! And what really made it interesting was your drawings. Just shared your article with my hubby…had such a good laugh and he also agrees with the linear and Daredevil stylish baji duppatay wali. BTW which duppatay wali are you?? I’m the Paindu one :0P

  40. Mehreen,

    A really good read, I must say. I really enjoyed the Tra_la la la part and the bhangra one. Absolutely hilarious :)

    Keep up the good work.

  41. Very well observed and stated. Another thing i’d like to add is the new phenomenon of kandhay takrana. Apparently the guys were into this in the bazars but the tables are turning. Honestly what pleasure does one get via this.

  42. well done mehreen! nicely described!
    but u actually forgot one major and emerging category, girls wearing shalwar kameez withOUT any dupatta! how cool is that?!
    its like a guy wearing a three-piece suit without socks! i know it sounds pretty weird but i swear it looks twice as weird as it sounds!
    u havent seen any girls like that?.. go grab a cup of coffee from CTC and keep ur notepad ready!

  43. Neat, apparently no matter how much you try avoiding this blog. Someone somewhere is always linking you to to this. Very well done mahreen, though I might not agree with your opinions often but still would have to admire the topics and the writing style.

    Should be proud of yourself, have a good one.

  44. This post has become a hit, I saw it several times on facebook on different pages. Ha…. But guess what? I LOVE IT! Its neat. Although if I were to walk on the streets of Pakistan, Id go with the duppata on head, Id feel safer that way.

  45. hahahaah :D it was succh a good laugh!!

    Really interesting display of observations esp the bhangra dupattay wali–I am quite amazed the way you pointed the characteristics along with the styles :)

    Sharp observation which though humorous left a message on my mind which you wanted to say. Its quite a Talent. Appreciated :)

    Good job!!!

  46. the way u categorized the things is pretty awesome….i hope people get to understand that true beauty lies within decency…the thing which confuses me the most is that a lot of aunties actually tell their daughters to wear dopatta the wrong way…..i wish these aunties could get some sense that actually they are exposing their daughters rather than actually giving them a decent attire….

  47. my dear whoever written this its a mixed thing
    u tried to make it funny
    nut i think its nothing funny at ALL
    its not part of our Pakistani culture
    Its part o ISLAMIC CULTURE
    n its been recomended by Allah subhanahutallah in his holy book Quran.
    so every girl who is a muslim should wear it

    1. Hi Mehreen,
      Do you routinely sanitise the comments?
      I was wondering what took Mr. Bilal Mehmoods so long?

      But keep up your writing. It was a good read.

  48. Haha! I love this! I’m a mix between the paindu and the bhangra dupattay wali. My sisters threatened to disown me because of the former, my friends because the latter, so I solved the problem by avoiding shalwar-kameez entirely and switching to tees and jeans instead, with a convenient white overcoat to use as necessary. (It works like magic even if you just drape it across your arm. Most Pakistani men seem to find it very daunting.)

  49. You shouldnt forget the Pregnant Lady type. The one that hangs down one side of the shoulder and drapes itself across the body more commonly used by women who are self conscious of their body weight. Also known as fat aunties. =]

  50. Laughed out loud – and that’s a rarity when I’m reading. I’m also the Painddu Dupattay Waali & I vote to have that name changed!!!! But you know they still freaking stare. So now I wrap it around (chaddar sized) over jeans. Wish I could draw you a doodle :)

  51. Sana: Baji, thora sa dupatta neechay karlain?
    Shazia Baji: Tumhe kia takleef hai?
    Sana: Lanat teri boothi tay.


    That is EXACTLY how the A level girls of Kims are.
    I feel like stabbing myself in the eye, most days.

  52. LMAO!!!!! my Godddd THAT was funnnnnnny. I laughed hard enough to pee myself. I am definitely reading more of your work now :)

  53. Hilarious – your consumer market segmentation of Dupatta! But how would you describe the ones without Dupatta? Also two points: (a.) I think it was a bit unfair to generalize the “staring stamina,” as if all men were eve teasers or perverts, and (b.) How do you rationalize the usefulness/uselessness of Dupatta when it’s close by-products namely smaghs, stolls, and scarves are worn by much aplomb by the women (youth, professionals, celebrities, upper class) in the West? Is it OK to have another product around the neck instead of the ‘traditional’ ‘char mom’ or ‘georgette’, or it’s just cool if it’s Isadora Duncan and Rachel Ray??

    Any ways, interesting read… thanks! so… part-2 to this piece? ;)

  54. Hi! Is it Okay if I ask anything kind of off topic? I am trying to view this page on my new iPad nonetheless it will not show up properly, do you may have any options? Thanks in advance!

  55. Awesomess!! :D
    This post was shared with lots of girls. Your humor is my kind of humor :)
    What about chicks who cover their head with see-through dupattas? You should so have a part 2 for this!

  56. i ‘ve no reason why i found this blog so late ,just been through a few topics you have covered ….i think this is the first time in my entire life that i have fallen for someone because of her writings (dont get me wrong though)u are awesomely talented writer mehreen keep up the good work

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