I moved to the desert last year. I didn’t know the land’s history, or the shades of its people, or the ways in which the dialect twists and curls when spoken.
I never knew sandstorms and I’d never seen so many beige buildings. And then I met them: the Pakistanis who had grown up in this country. I know them, and I cannot relate.
How can I relate when they haven’t seen Lahore with child’s eyes like I have?
They’ve never had a paratha roll from the tiny yet prolific Karachi Barbeque in food street. Steamy garlic chicken filling wrapped in chewy paratha and lathered in mysterious white brown sauce. And an ice cold Coke in an ice cold glass bottle with a straw.
I have a bucketload of aunts, grandmothers, cousins and uncles in Lahore. Our laughter spills over like rainwater when we’re together. And then there’s always a Pakistani wedding. How many people here have attended a shaadi? The weeks of prep work before a dance can be prepared, clothes can be stitched and tantrums can be thrown. Also, it is very halal for male and females to dance together.
How many people here have had the chance to almost dislocate their shoulders with a bhangra? A good bhangra with family can keep you happy for days. There is nothing like Punjabi music and people who love to dance.
When I was in school, I would take my modest five or ten rupees and ask for greasy rolls (rumoured to be fried in motor oil), naan kabab, and juice. Sometimes, when I could wrangle more money from mom, I’d get a small carton of icy Milo or an ice cream.
Where I live, if we see a Ferrari whoosh by, there is one of two invariable reactions. Either people’s faces pool into reverence, or they start making fun of the car and its driver. We subsist on Toyotas and the occasional motorbike.
People here have not had real falooda. There is no fruit in falooda. Let me reiterate that. No fruit. That is the Indian version. Falooda in Lahore is a clay bowl filled with cold noodles, milk, cream, ice chips, and a kulfi on top.
Lahore is laughing with family when there’s no electricity for hours on end, going out with cousins and pooling money because we never have enough for a McDonalds meal, seeing junkies sleeping in public parks and entire families loitering at the airport, talking your way out of speeding tickets, collecting Eidi by the handful, having to speak in Punjabi with grandparents, listening to their political ravings, getting days off from school because strike or rainfall or too much heat, seeing trees everywhere imaginable, sharing food, laughter, and affection.
That is my city. What is the Pakistani way in Qatar like?