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Demi-monde of Lahore

The year 1965.
Lahore Race Club.
The Pakistan Derby.

Grandstand Dress Code:
Gentlemen must wear a jacket and collar. Ties are encouraged.
Ladies are asked to wear a formal day dress.

I am still on the balcony.

A white Toyota Corolla drives slowly through the gate. The driver’s door opens. I glimpse a pair of dainty feet in pink sandals. Pale pink satin move in gentle waves above it, rippling sinuously on the dusty floor. As I watch in fascination, another pink cloud unravels itself from the passenger side. Arm in arm, the two ladies in pink gharara suits, with lightly edged dupattas balanced provocatively on their heads, walk towards the main enclosure.

More white cars drove up and very soon the entire main enclosure was an enchanted garden of ladies in whites, aquas, lemons, lilacs and pinks, promenading in ones and twos and threes.

The grassy enclosure, bare just a while ago, had transformed. Almost as if an electric force had passed through the enclosure, causing it to move in a circular motion around the paddock (the small circular enclosure where the hoses are walked before the race).

I am roused from my reverie by a voice, “Beta are u okay?”
Me: “Uncle do women in Lahore always dress like this?”
Uncle: “Beta you better come inside.”

I have to, at this point, give you a little history of the Lahore Race Club. The club was established in 1924, when Lahore was part of the Punjab Province of British India. The Pakistan Derby gets its name from the Epsom Derby, founded by the Earl of Derby in 1834 in England. Before independence, it was known as the Punjab Derby.

Going back to the ‘ladies of the evening’, let me just say the one word that describes them: elegant. These ladies understood the wise words of Coco Chanel more completely than any of us can imagine.

“Most women dress for men and want to be admired. But they must also be able to move, to get into a car without bursting their seams.”


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