How many of you young adults remember what it was like to live in your home city when you were young? Our parents have told us millions of times of their experience when they were young; how they used to go to the markets, how their homes were like how was their neighborhood, etc. As a young adult, we are at an age when we can tell our generation how our experience was like; because Pakistan is facing modernism fast, and traditional norms and cultures are becoming memories and events of the past. For Mira Sethi, she remembers the Lahore she grew up in, and before 2017 starts, it tell us just how much the world around us has changed.
Here is what she feels:
“What is it about the combination of wearing your mother’s jewellery, red lipstick, and a shawl draped protectively over your arms, that makes women giddily content? Lahori women become invincible in December. They eat moolis in the morning sun, mutton korma in the perfumed heat of a shaadi tent. The salons are crammed and buzzing and fluorescent, hair stylists in gauzy sweaters yanking and steaming the innocently-lank tresses of 17-year-olds whose mothers have brought them in for their first blowdry.
Dry fruit carts pop up all over Main market, their fare illuminated, at night, by the single white glow of disposable Chinese light. Driving home at 1 am, the snaking blue light under the new bridge – you know which one – swells the heart with dark reassurance. (Let’s promise never to tell S. Sharif).
I find myself thinking of my late Dadi and the Lahore I grew up in. I think of my dadi’s sloping pink nails, bright without varnish, and how much she cherished going to Fortress Stadium to buy cassettes for Raja Hindustani and Dil Tou Pagal Hai. Madhuri in her black leotards. Chak-dhoom-dhoom.
I think of the chipped metal swing-set in Dadi’s garden from which leaked cold. The way in which the iron filigree gate in her home remained always open–to dogs and cats and raddi-wallahs and, in the forlorn afternoon spell, to the tinkling chimes of the ice-cream man whose dry-knuckled fingers retrieved, from the refrigerator, shiny silken lollies. Apple was never available. It always broke my heart.
Playing in Dadi’s garden, a piece of glass once sliced right through my toe. But we had “laal dawai” and bubblegummer joggers (not sneakers) and nothing else mattered.
I think of the time when the walls in our homes were short–so short you could hop over and be in your neighbour’s lawn to steal the unripe mangoes on their tree. At home, a cousin had laal mirch, nimbu, and namak waiting on a floral plastic plate.
I think of Polka Parlour (now a securities exchange company), the sweet-stale smelling dodgem cars in Funland from whose poles flew real zappy sparks; I think of Off-Beat (the making of the perfect ‘selection’ years before the word ‘playlist’ invaded our upgraded ambitions). There was Kebab beesh, the only open-air restaurant at the time. Under the tables wild cats flexed their tails with prickly mongrel pride.
I think of the excitement of seeing the Pirate Ship and ferris wheel in Joyland from miles away. These were the beautiful, uncertain 90s, when we boasted to people from Karachi that Lahore’s roads were never congested.
And, long long ago, there were the flower clocks on Mall road. I always turned back, my knees on the scratched vinyl of dadi’s car, to look at the wreath as our car rumbled by. I miss the Lahore of my childhood, but I think of the Lahore of today, its twinkling billboards, its profusion of bakeries, its boxy, dull-gold wedding halls. The red carpet at the entrance still rolls, still makes me trip.
Happy new year to everyone, celebrating everywhere. May our hearts be filled with clarity and gratitude. ”
For some reason, old memories always tend to have a golden touch to them. Something that makes us want to live them once again. However, time keeps on moving forward and as the year 2017 dawns upon us all, let’s hope that we shape a positively eventful future.
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