I will not watch cricket. In fact, the resilience that I’ve developed to the undeniable allure of cricket matches for any young Pakistani - the Imagined Community that is almost palpable during Pakistan versus India - is of such a degree that it may occasionally elicit admiration from die-hard cricket fans even. However, there’s something that transpired just recently that has caught my attention. Apparently, Shahid Afridi is encountering some backlash after certain comments he made in an interview. I’ve studied it. Those who feel for the national hero can attribute the afore to a case of misinterpretation all they want, even Afridi may revise his comments, but we’re not falling for it: the man has undoubtedly, unequivocally proffered something to the effect that women shouldn’t be playing cricket and should be found in the kitchen.


Oh Afridi. Oh dear oh dear. What have you brought upon yourself. Not to play ‘blame the victim’ - but for future reference, please do note that wise men do not voice their opinions, even when asked, without immediate reference to the works of celebrated scholars of past.

Does someone have Afridi’s postal address? Let’s please mail him a copy of sociologist Stanley Cohen’s Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972.) He would benefit to know what he’s experiencing is being the lone star in a case of a nationwide ‘moral panic’, a phenomenon previously studied and defined. Moral panics are the controversies that erupt when a person, group or entity become viewed “as a threat to societal values and interests”; the ‘folk devil’ is, you guessed it, the target of the backlash that invariably follows. (Cohen, 1972.) 

Back to making references to celebrated scholars. Now, Mr. Afridi, I know you must be fully, fully convinced of the validity of your beliefs regarding women, on account of your life experiences, and I empathise with that. But great minds discuss ideas, remember? I think it may help your cause for us to belatedly refer to the counsel of Family, Socialization and the Interaction Process (1955), a book by one Talcott Parsons.

In this book, Parsons argued that the functions of the family, one of which is ‘the stabilization of adult personalities’, are best served with men and women specializing in certain roles - a ‘clear-cut sexual division of labour.’ The husband takes the ‘instrumental’ role: he would spend his day locking horns with others in the stress-machine that is the modern-day achievement-oriented society, competing and even fighting to bring home a handsome pay cheque. The wife takes the ‘expressive’ role: when the husband comes back home - exhausted, battered and about to resign - she nurtures him with her love, companionship and emotional support. The more excellent her expressive role, the more he can heal from. ‘Like a button and a buttonhole,’ they are each one-half of a functioning unit, greater than the sum of its parts, and they recognize that and love each other for it.

In other words, the heights a man can expect to attain in his professional endeavours are essentially limited to the ragra he can take without breaking, and that ragra-threshold is premised directly on the recovery that the women of the house provide him.

It’s the same thing that a really good coach will probe when you join a gym, skin and bones, and say you want to bench press 220 pounds in three months and look like it too. “Boy, you can be as much man as you have woman behind you.”

It’s the same thing, Mr. Afridi, that everyone (I think rightly) suspects you were implying. For future reference, just make the appropriate citation.

Also, since we’re speaking of threshold to great stressors being a man’s forte, consider this: psychologist Daniel Goleman in his book Social Intelligence identifies that the most stressful experience a human being can go through is to be humiliated infront of peers (such as through perceived incompetence.)

Well, if I heard something about a gentleman bravely apologizing to the people after losing a cricket match of some importance, eyes moist, saying on behalf of his men, “We have let the nation down,” you probably remember exactly who it was. That’s not quite a mama’s boy, breaking under pressure and justifying failure to ease the pain, that’s a man and a half.

And, to anyone who’s read Parsons, it would be altogether expected that this man and a half gets treated to some stellar roti-salan when he goes back home, likely quality-inspected by the begum first (who may even allow some romance after that degree of ragra), while the rest of the (not-so) manly half of the public ‘drive-thru’ McDonald’s or eat at the nearest hotel, their next few days a honeymoon with the toilet seat.  

And, on top of that, this man and a half has now drawn a parallel with one of the preeminent scholars of the 20th century, a man who was the backbone of the Harvard faculty for 47 years and is regarded by most as the greatest American sociologist of his time.

If Shahid Afridi were a sociologist at Harvard, his name would be Talcott Parsons. And the intellectual elite of the world would flock to be his dedicated students, reading his works on the sociology of the family, at length, in one of the most competitive social science arenas in the world.

It may remind you of the Peshawari chappal that reportedly sells for a few hundred rupees here and for a few hundred pounds in England. It reminded me of what Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince: (in what holds sway over the hearts of the masses) the appearance of virtue is more important than virtue itself.

I never quite believed it before when people remarked, ‘We are Pakistani and hum kissi say kam nahein.’ No, actually, I used to hold back derisive laughter.

As it turns out, you can do without Harvard just fine when you have the NWFP School of Sociology!

No, actually, I need to confess something: I accept it, we are Pakistani and hum kissi say kam nahein.

Thank you for that reminder, Shahid Afridi. And may God bless you.

n    The writer is the head of Scholars by Profession, a local research-initiative.