I think it is officially winter in Islamabad. We have awakened to cold, dreary mornings for two days in a row and we have been without our craft-while-we-sunbathe on the terrace for three.
Winters in Pakistan are a huge challenge… why?
- You get none of the pretty snow… just lots of cloud, cold air and rain. It is just as well given the amount of dust in this country. Any snow would start looking like grey sludge anyway!
- The houses are built to dispel heat (this country of extremes has sweltering summers, did I mention that?) so you have to contend with bone-chilling drafts. If you have asthma like I do, get your inhalers ready.
- There is no central heating system in most houses. Since electricity is expensive, gas heaters are the norm… they do get you warm and toasty, but you can’t leave them on for extended periods as you might run the risk of suffocation…
- You get huge amounts of laundry and mess what with the sweaters, jackets, thermal garments and such that get trotted out with the onset of the cold season. Since the sun is hardly ever out, they will either (a) end up smelling musty because they take forever to dry or (b) end up smelling smoky because you put them in front of the gas heaters to combat (a).
But ‘nuf said. It isn’t all bad here… We have it better than most, alhamdulillah. In terms of economics, this is also a country of extremes and I don’t have to remind myself of those worse off because they are around all the time.
So… I am not going to RESIGN myself to being content. I will MAKE IT A PRIORITY to celebrate the positive aspects of Pakistan :)
So here are the good things about life in Isloo…
- The cold makes pink tea all the more satisfying. If you don’t know what pink tea is, you have been seriously deprived! It is a brew of Kashmiri tea leaves and fragrant spices that has simmered for ages till it is attains a gorgeous deep colour and flavour. Add some milk, crushed almonds and sugar and you have just about the most delicious beverage this continent has produced.
- Load shedding… what’s that you say? Well, it is the monitoring of electric usage and shutting down certain electric loads or devices a certain threshold is reached/approached. Sounds a mouthful but for the common man, it just means “no electricity”. Wait a minute, you might say, how is that good? It took me a while to get used to it but it has really taught me to focus on the simpler things in life. When my elder daughter, Ms M, experienced her first power shutdown, she ran out of the house and delightedly yelled, “Look at the stars, Ummi. Look at the STARS!” We’ve learnt to slow down and to not rely on electronic gadgets too much. When we get load shedding in the day, we take our embroidery out and sit by the window or terrace. When it happens at night, we take the torches out and just enjoy each other’s company. Rather idyllic, I like to think :)
- Fabrics… this country is teeming with fabrics. In winter you get lovely karandi – a textured cloth much like linen – and in summer, vibrant lawns. There are beads, sequins, laces and ric rac galore! If you are a compulsive crafter like me, Pakistan is a great stop for supplies.
- Second-hand bookstores… I have found award-winning titles, encyclopaedias and lovely craft-books and magazines going for a song. If you are ever in F6 or F7, you will find me – fingers and abaya covered in dust – rummaging through the heaps of old books.
I could go on with this blog post, but I have more pressing matters to attend to… like my stitchery and my cup of… what else? … chai :)