You don’t need to be a women’s rights activist to see the consequences of an honourable man’s aversion to a lota. When someone came up with the idea of a frivolous but entertaining lota-laden MPA protest in Lahore in March 2011, it was the ever-available women who ended up performing the dirty job for the benefit of their bosses.
It was a great leap from the bangle-throwing assignments inside the assembly: Eve and ewer guaranteed good coverage. Some rather sheepish male MPAs did join in, if only out of party compulsions. But with colourful lotas in their hands, it was mainly women members of the Punjab Assembly belonging to the PML-Q and PPP who came out of the char deewari shouting against the Unification Bloc ‘turncoats’ the PML-N had accepted back into its fold.
The original lota, in its early form, was a useful earthen pot with no spout or base, which allowed it to roll over and spin every which way. In Urdu this is called ‘lotna’, leading to the expression ‘lot pot hona’ — a phrase that defines a state of extreme happiness. It is this truly revolutionary trait that leads to the tagging of politicians with a mind of their own and an ability to make the right turn at the right time as lotas.
In its more developed form, the earthen or metallic or plastic lota has a base and a more settled presence than a classic restless politician, even though, like the politician, it has not yet gotten rid of its unsavoury reputation. No respectable and clean man in the country can do without the lota, yet few want to be caught with one in their hands. Our latest experiment with purity, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Imran, is an example.