Whether you are forced to leave home in search of greener pastures, greater security or plain necessity, the homeland calls out at the oddest of times, inducing a homesickness unlike any other. Below are some of the little things a Pakistani will miss the most while living abroad; all with the potential of triggering a full-fledged cry fest.
So convenient, so hygienic, so very basic. Why does the First world insist on tearing down trees to make tons of toilet paper; all this effort to still never be completely, satisfactorily squeaky clean? If you end up in an angraiz apartment without this handy tool, cue the water bottles, empty milk cartons or even garden watering equipment. The washrooms at Jinnah International must be like a breath of fresh air to an expat!
Fruits and vegetables
Be prepared to dish out a small fortune for a couple of the mirchi’s you would otherwise get complimentary when you shop from one of the ubiquitous carts here; with the prices of these little chilies, you will eventually have to train your taste buds to prefer the bland. If you are in the mood for some really “organic” or fresh veggies, be prepared to leave behind a kidney at Whole Foods. And while you can find all sorts of super-sized blood red and dark green delights, they just won’t taste the same. Pakistan’s farms are unmatched, after all; fresh produce wherever you turn, and at the cheapest of cheap prices! And if it is mangoes, nothing can rival the Anwar Ratols, so don’t even bother.
Speaking of food, you cannot just pop into any old restaurant and order a hearty steak if you’re Muslim and eat halal meat. If you want more protein than you can get from lentils and something more substantial to chew than seafood, you will either be stuck cooking it at home from (think: raw meat) scratch or finding a nice desi eatery to crash. While Pakistani food in a foreign land can feel like a welcome oasis in the middle of a scorched desert, limited options don’t appeal to anyone!
The English might have made tea fashionable, but we are the ones who kept it that way. Tea time in Pakistan is characterized not by scones and sugar cubes but plates of fried and baked goodies and loads of lingering and talking. Tea is not a beverage to be consumed, it is an activity to be cherished and lovingly engaged in. No amount of coffee meet ups and Starbucks instragrams can live up to the simple appeal of an elaichi chai session.
Mosques in every other street and around every corner; one of the great perks of living here! You can be sure to hear the Azaan gently tugging at your heartstrings on your lunch break, or bringing you out of your food coma after dinner. The sound here seems as part of the natural order as that of the chirping birds’.
How you miss the family that drops by every result day and for a month before and after a wedding. Never before do you miss the incessant phupho whining and constant dawat catering, and the never ending house visits and social calls. At this point, you would even welcome the sight of your entire khaandaan taking up half the airport premises in order to welcome you home.
Canned Meetha just doesn’t taste the same. What wouldn’t you give for a hearty sight of jalebi swirls frying and sizzling, cooled ras malai waiting in the fridge or a heavy many-kilos basket arriving at the door? No occasion in Pakistan is complete without a nice dose of diabetes thrown into the mix, and you do not realize how much you love the extra calories until they are no longer readily available. M&Ms and Baskin-Robbins don’t cut it then.
Hellooo, cheap and personalized transport in the form of rickshaws, and friends willing to go out of their way to drop you anywhere, anytime! Cue 7938 people squeezing into one small car without as much as a second thought; if the door closes, we fit! Outside Pakistan, time means money and fuel even more money. Good luck with your metro card, and your Uber rides; it might be a lonely ride.
“Fixed rates” signs are the bane of existence for any shopaholic who takes great pride in bringing down the price of anything to a third of the original. In Pakistan, the price of everything from a dozen bananas to the latest car and from 100 rupees earrings to 80k phones is negotiable, and that is half the fun of buying anything.
In Pakistan, we love to whip up our own versions of every food in existence, with little regard to its roots. Our food is just oilier, spicier, heartier, more garnished and abundant than anything else in the world. Instead of the original bland, our Chinese is spicy and heavy, while our pizzas are crowded with topping unlike the Italian kind. If you’re outside Pakistan, you will have your take-out delivered tasting like nothing, and your pizza consisting of just stringy cheese.
Pakistanis love none of nature’s other bounties nearly as much as they love the monsoon rain. No one minds the puddles or the traffic jams, kids will come out to play cricket while everyone sits out to soak in the smell and feel, while the plate of pakoras keep coming. And nothing beats the smell of dirt right after a fresh shower; like the earth is rejoicing too. Rain can never be celebrated the same way anywhere else.
Plumbing, cleaning, cooking, driving; you can hire someone to do all the things you are especially loathe to do and at the lowest wages, with zero compromise on quality! No scrubbing your own toilets and cooking your own dinner; it’s like you are royalty!
Biryani deserves a special mention because it is the perfect representation of everything we stand for. It is lovingly jam-packed with spices, meat and veggies, all coming together to make something so utterly beautiful. Pakistan, too, is a giant melting pot of sugar, spice and everything nice. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.