By Rida Akhtar Ghumman
John Bradshaw in Creating Love insinuates that deracinating patriarchy is a step in the direction of love. Uprooting the mental hegemony of patriarchy: a system that gives a larger proportion of everything to men, even the roads; most of the roads of our country belong to them: to drive on, to stand on, and above all to feel safe there. This essay does not intend to deter the idea of men, as such. This essay will not, in fact be talking about men, at all, again not for political reasons. Here, we are talking about love, roads, flâneuse-ing and the joy that they brings- to a soul that determines anguish more, given the circumstances of the world, it was saved, sometimes, through wandering on the roads, talking and munching on cheap food with friends.
Flânuese-ing- a term supposedly coined by Dr. Laurin Elkin, derived from flâneuse, the slang female noun for the flâneur: a male aimless wanderer- symbolizes the instance of wandering by females as flânerie. This idea of wandering, from the early nineteenth century, when accentuated under a psych-geographical lens, grows into a modern definition of loitering. Loitering is an act of resistance against the patriarch: the capitalistic limbo of playing along. Amna, Tehreem, Tayyaba, Akifa, Sheeren, Samavia and me, we have walked on the roads of our alma mater and cajoled joy from the soot stricken lanes lined with miles of trees, flowers and nature of all kinds but often ignored for embracing a materialist debauchery that the 21st century has become.
Psychogeography, originated in the 1950’s as a separate division of spatial humanities, is often catenated with Guy Debord. As an amalgamation of Psychology and Geography, Psychogeography as an educational tool denotes the identity making of a person or populace in connection to a geographical settling. Ambiance molds and simultaneously scolds identity making. Psych-geographically decoding our educational experience especially as women, University of the Punjab and her 1,800 acres of land germinated an experience, one of its kind, for us not-so-lost wanderers. Today I am quarantined at home, by choice if explored legally but emotionally my feet yearn for the roads, especially the Jannat Road of Punjab University, and above all the soothing company of my girl friends as we tried holding on to our umbrellas in the monsoon rains of Lahore, equally trying to keep our tea cups safe while huddling for shade: seven women running on the Jannat Road with only three umbrellas and jovial hearts. We tried but never found why it is named Jannat Road. Google Maps says so and four years of exploring her shades and seasons, perhaps it is a Jannat, a heaven of a kind.
For urban observers, but the resistive kind: women who don’t just settle for the hubble-bubble of university life but women who derive joy from their dérive- the French word dérive means delving into the soul of the city, it is a psych-geographical experiment where wanderers collect their emotions for geographical locales by exploring- Jannat Road is an interesting site for flâneuse-ing experiences. It’s a straight road that starts from the Gate 8 of Punjab University, that looks out to the Canal Road and if you dare look down from the over-head bridge of Gate 8, the Lahore Canal is right there, hiding from the foreign-ness of the city which once enrolled the canal as a part of its spiritual experience but now has somewhat meandered afar as a home to commercial ideas. Outside Gate 8 is our fries-guy. It’s not very healthy to consume potato fries from a roadside stall but that’s not even all that there is, Samavia loves gol-gappas, and we support our girl by walking along equally enjoying a hideout under the little bridge, an oasis of laughter while turn by turn we juggle to eat the rounded delight full of a cold spicy juice. When women support each other on simple cuisine adventures, by hastily walking away from a boring class to just relish an eating experience, the lack of vocabulary to define their loitering, their sisterhoods, the behenchara, seeks solace in cold repositories where perhaps women don’t aren’t even supposed to want their own customized verbs and nouns that could simply construe their ameliorations. If a male wanderer can be a flâneur, Dr. Elkin argues in Flanuese: The Women Walk in the City, the female wanderer can be a flâneuse and groups of females enjoying each other’s company can be flânerie.
With several departments on both sides, a walk on Jannat Road after a Gate 8 siesta takes you to the book seller uncle. My girls and I, we love books, even if Amna forgets to read them or Akifa ends up watching a dramatic adaptation instead. Post scrolling, we walk, and we pass by our department, Tayyaba makes a loud joke and we all have to run now, for some class fellow or worst-case-scenario a teacher might have spotted us roaming around, that too on the road under the sun while some Pragmatics class is underway. We walk and laugh- today these long begone days amuse me- while the bougainvillea bloom of Jannat Road enhances her colors in the Monsoon Season, seven women walked around, laughing, aimless, and almost un-extraordinarily poor but the near-by dhaba tea is not too expensive so we always ended up buying it. The dhaba hides next to a parking lot and that too conceals a graveyard. The geographical vastness of Jannat Road is a thing of beauty.
Jannat Road ends in front of a sprout of a botanical garden, an agricultural experiment really, while two roads diverge from it, but we take back, on our Road. Samavia was watching some off-shoot of Vampire Diaries, that I never saw, Tehreem and Amna had to do a grocery run while Akifa had to catch a bus. Me and Tayyaba, we have always been vagrants, no place to go, a psychgeographical exile is what hostelers get anyway. It rained and we took a picture first, but then we ran again to return to “normality” away from the respite of flâneuse-ing; to fulfill duties and only look for vicissitudes when the viscous cycle allows but through little defiance, we skipped the beat for some time and walked around, down the lane, for joy purely as urban sisters.
I am Rida Akhtar Ghumman, a writer, a wanderer and a not-so-bad cook. I recently finished my dissertation on Urbanism and Flânuese-ing and am working in corporate creative marketing. I can be reached on Twitter and Instagram at @RidaAkhtar_