Monday, September 03, 2007
Naan, Keema, K2, and Cricket in Pakistan
In love with Pakistan.
[By Merium H. Kazmi; the Lahore-born author presently lives in Bahrain; picture by Umar Mohsain]
This is the 12th article in the Proud, Powerful and Pak series.
I love the Food
Much of the subcontinent owes it culinary flair to the Mughals. If stretched further back - to the Ottomans of the sixteenth century. Local Pakistani cuisine boasts everything from the finest rotisserie meats, stews, pilafs and piping hot breads to the creamiest desserts. More emphasis has been placed on meat-based cuisine than anything else.
Serving a meat dish to family and friends is a sign of social status and if you happen to have a hankering for a salad – mostly tomatoes, cucumbers and onions marinated in a tangy dressing of lemon, salt and pepper (a mere condiment) – I recommend you leave your leafy sensibilities at home. Jalapeno peppers (green chillies) are used liberally. In other words expect everything to be spicy.
I love the Scenery
Pakistan has a multitude of landscapes that stretch across its majestic curves. From the second tallest mountain in K2; to the lush green valleys of Gilgit and Skardu; to the rolling plains of Punjab; to the rugged and dusky mountains of Balochistan; and finally to the beaches of Karachi, Pakistan has it all.
The weather subtly accompanies the landscape everyone. Each season brings with it an ambience that gives us ample excuses to stay in or out of doors at a whim. Kite-flying over Aunty Zebu’s uneven “chatth” (roof-top); eating mangoes and watermelons while the perpetually-on-the-fritz portable AC blasts tepid air; walking with your significant other through Islamabad’s leaf strewn parks during the coming autumn (only to be interrupted by the creepy dude in the green shalwar…sigh). Who can forget eating oranges and dried fruits during the winter months while cozied up in your granny’s duvet that smells faintly of onions and sheep?
Notice how much of our pastime revolves around eating. We eat for sustenance but mostly for pleasure. Of course admiration for Pakistani landscape cannot exclude the trash sculptures on roadside corners, and the sight of those plastic bags swaying like victory flags from every possible protrusion. Who can ignore the sun-dried patties of manure that you’d find tattooed by Michelin’s finest in most cities. Yes, watch out for the buggy on your right!
I love the Cricket
This from a nation where the national sport is hockey - not cricket. Then again, in the US, more people watch Monday night football than Sammy Sosa using oak to hit horsehide.
It’s the fans who give sports their real claim to fame. Each visitor carries a head and heart full of such love and expectations that if this emotion were bottled for retail, it would be the elixir of life. Of course, let’s not forget the player/coach/team/captain/PCB-wala bashing that ensues when the team loses. Like all rabid, fickle fans it’s all good when victory is in sight and sad losers when a loss is imminent. Everyone is an expert on cricket these days. Ask my great aunt, she’s hitting 90.
I love J
Can we really forget the man who made it possible? The Quaid. Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This man embodies all that I love about Pakistan: determination, passion, grit and patience. Too bad he couldn’t stick around to knock some sense into the overcompensating baby boomers in whose hands the nation went from being a victory for Muslims to…to what it is today.
And what is that? Still a homeland for Muslims, to be sure but anyone whose got a couple of bucks to rub together is jetting out faster than their tiny legs can carry them. Islamis not to blame but when it becomes a political tool for the ignorant, you know the federal budget is not allocating enough on education.
Dear reader, you noticed that I have written only four things. I couldn’t come up with a fifth although I was tempted to give Ras Malai (a creamy, cheese based, cardamom infused dessert, served chilled of course) its own category. This alone should tell you I’m a Pakistani. We love to eat.
[Pakistanis from all walks of life are invited to share what they believe are the five best things about their country. You too must be a part of this. Send your favourites to firstname.lastname@example.org.]