I promised my friend Asrina from Singapore pictures of life in Pakistan. They are LONG overdue to say the least. I thought I would look into my stash of photos and revive “The Chai Files” category of this blog :)

Pakistan is very different from where I come from and the places I have been. In Singapore, I think the favourite national pastimes are eating and shopping. There are numerous hawker centres, food courts and restaurants there and a major shopping mall in every large neighbourhood. You get the same thing in Pakistan…

Well almost :P

There are lots of eateries and shopping areas, but they lack the cultivated veneer and polish of Singapore’s. If you want a brutally honest opinion, they look a right mess. LOL! Oh, there are many upmarket restaurants and stores, but they are little islands in a sea of litter and poorly maintained buildings. Still, what these places lack in appearance, they more than make up for it in charm :)

My kids love going out and are always thrilled to find bargains and curiosities. During `Eid season, we typically go to places like Karachi Company (more on this later) at G9 and the khussa shop at F10. Here are some scenes from last year:

We saw a row of women offering mehndi/henna services. They sat on the ground with makeshift tables made out of boxes whereupon they placed their supply of henna and stamps. This lady has just stamped the girl’s hand with a design. Like the other henna ladies, she was poor and had a little baby that she was rocking to sleep under her shawl.

Just ahead of the henna stalls were the choori stalls – I had written about glass bangles before in an earlier post. You can purchase them in various stores at any time of the year, but I think people have so much more fun buying them during `Eid when there are so many more stalls to choose from.

Here are Mars and her sister (OK, Bear’s a little cut off :P) looking at the bangles. Just ahead is a stall selling children’s clothing – at Karachi Company, the clothes are much cheaper than elsewhere. You just have to have the stamina to fight the crowds and the stomach to tolerate the litter!

Another view of the bangles… they come in all sizes and colours.

I have a headache getting shoes for the kids come `Eid if I am in Singapore – Mars has trouble fitting into kids’ shoes, but is not quite ready for adult sizes (she is getting there though ma shaa Allah!) while Bear seems to have a hard time choosing (I tell her she will be the Imelda Marcos from Islamabad if she isn’t careful). In Pakistan though, I have no such issues. We just head to the khussa store at F10 – the shoes are fancy enough for the ethnic clothes here and so much more affordable than Mary Janes and what not from Singapore! (The kids’ shoes cost between S$5-$10! Talk about sweet!)

OK, these are a little too ethnic for my taste :P I threaten my kids that I’ll buy these for them if they don’t make up their minds quickly.

Here are the shoes that Bear really likes – they are open at the back so they are easy for kids to wear. Matched with the right outfit, they look nice and swanky :) The soles are wooden so you’d have to get rubber ones fixed onto them to prevent slipping. Mars likes the open-toed sandals made of leather, which look nice with both traditional and modern wear, but I don’t have a pic of them.

More pics to come… stay tuned :)