As I woke up this morning to read the depressing news of a mob burning christian homes in Lahore, it immediately struck me how peaceful and basic a life I had spent in Lahore when I was growing up.
Television aired one of the most popular and romantic drama till date “Dhoop Kinarey”. Dr. Ahmer and Dr. Zoya created history in this office romance with their brilliant acting, on-screen chemistry and absolutely heart-warming soundtrack by Nayyara Noor. We would always be in a hurry to finish off our home works so that we could tune in to PTV promptly at 8 p.m. The drama used to be punctuated with catchy jingles of:
“Pyaarey bachon, kiwi ka hai” Showing a class full of students with a Kiwi roaming around and ending with a shiny leather shoe being sparkled by a shoe polish.
Yet another one was “Kaam kaam kaam , din raat karain hum kaam” showcasing young children busy making up their beds, clearing up their rooms and finally getting a deep slumber on “Diamond Supreme Foam”
Another popular one was “Aye Khuda meray Abu salamat rahain” where the father would be carrying a briefcase to work and daughter would be praying for his healthy life ending with a big blue stamp of “State Life Beema Policy”
I have practically grown up in the kitchen of the only “Fast Food restaurant” in Lahore called Salt ‘n’ Pepper. The spicy chicken pocket sandwich, a soft bread loaf with shredded chicken, bright red chili sauce and lots of onion was one if their signature sandwiches, followed by Chicken cheese burger and Mulligatawny soup which to date has not been surpassed by any other.
Before the days of even Polka and Yummy 36 ice cream, Robbiya was the leading ice cream seller. Thick chocolate and vanilla ice cream used to laze out of the small machine onto thin sugar cones and quickly handed onto the customers in the fear of them melting down to milky shakes.
Our birthday parties consisted of frilly frocks, a creamy cake, a handful of friends and a game of “pass the cushion” and possibly dancing on Nazia Hassan songs. I remember all our birthday cakes coming from one shop called the “Pastry Shop” which used to sell the most heavenly decadent round chocolate sponge layered with a thick sweet ganache’.
Electricity load shedding used to be a rarity however, when and if it happened we would always spend the evening outside on my grandmother’s terrace doing funny antics, telling stories and waiting for our turn to blow out the candles as soon as “bijli” came back. It was pure joy to wake up to the news that schools were closed due to rain the previous evening.
And how things have changed since then. Initially the television industry took a nosedive succumbing to the pressure of satellite dish, finally reviving again with teleplays now being churned out on an hourly basis. Restaurants have sprouted up in every nook and corner of the city serving a wide variety of dishes from basic chicken rolls to gourmet Chicken Tarragon.
Polka and Yummy 36 ice cream parlors have been replaced by gourmet Italian gelatos being served at up market restaurants. Patisseries, café’s and in house eateries now bake customized 3D cakes, cupcakes and other desserts in unimaginable shapes, sizes and flavors. Themed birthday parties are now outsourced to “Event Managers” detailing color coordinated crockery, cutlery and party favors to name just a few
Now there is electricity load shedding on the hour, every hour with generators running practically the entire day in anticipation of a greater breakdown. Schools are regularly shut down due to violence, strikes and bomb blasts in the city.
My childhood was spent in a green, tranquil lovely Lahore – I am afraid I will not be able to offer the same to my children. Development in technology, women’s liberation, access to capital and exposure and entrepreneurship has certainly led to a paradigm shift in the way we think, entertain, eat, dress up and carry out our day to day lives. However, there has been an increase in global violence, political vendettas, unhealthy competition and religious intolerance amongst other things, which has led to fear, anxiety, and frustration and sadly spoilt the basic joys of life.
My favourite jingle used to be “Meri muthi (fist) mein bund hai kya bata do na”. I suppose the answer to that now would be an explosive rather than “Naz Paan Masaala”.