It is, I suppose, a matter of over stretching the truth that I call myself a Punjabi (cynics, spare me the “we are all Pakistanis first, I KNOW that and consider myself a Pakistani first too). I’ve barely lived here, and my Punjabiness only comes out when faced with a “How many lassis can you drink in a row” competition and speaking rudimentary Punjabi without faltering when faced with anyone who refuses to speak Urdu. Also, I can’t remember for the life of me what khabbay and sajjay means.
But that doesn’t explain the goofy grin on my face that lasted for four hours [trust me, I looked at myself in the mirror and I looked like a moron but I couldn’t stop smiling] when I was on the bus from Islamabad to Lahore. Being back at home, where malai toast and aloo ka parathas taste sublime, where the paranoia in the air and the sight of the numerous policemen patrolling the streets is offset by the simple pleasure of sitting on a verandah and looking at an ancient tree. A dog allows you to nuzzle his ears, and commuting in the city means you get to pass through tree lined streets and ancient lanes. Pigeons take a dip in the pool in an ancient mosque, and refuse to acknowledge your presence. Names of areas that sound like they came out of a novel; “Baghbanpura, Mughalpura, Infantry Road,” and the generosity of your friends and family.
Then there is the calm, which belies the tension in this country. At the shrines of the Sufi saints, some of which I visited in the past two weeks, there is a sense of serenity and faith, that come what may, there will always be someplace that you can call home, someone you can turn to. Whether this faith is misplaced or not is a conclusion that I’m equipped to make. But it is this that makes the bombing of Baba Farid’s shrine yesterday all the more tragic, because if they take away the spiritual crutches, then many in this country have nothing else to turn to.
Anyway, this post is now bordering on the sappy. In conclusion, all I have to say is this: it’s good to stop running, and just breathe and revel in the simple pleasure of calling a place home.
[P.S: A special shout out to my hosts in Islamabad. You know who you are, and Islamabad would not mean anything to me without you guys.]