I vividly remember, clamoring every year into a rusted white Suzuki van along with my bratty brothers and catty cousins some twenty odd years ago on the eve of 14th August. After the bi-annual Eid festivities this was the third day in the year that our patriotic grandfather made sure was celebrated with the same enthusiasm and zeal.
Daakter (As he was lovingly called by my Dadi) would slide the rustic hinges and shut the lazy door on about a dozen maniacs, sit with the driver in the front, clean his glasses with his white kurta, smooth his black and silver balding head and finally fan his hand backward indicating reverse movement.
“Chal parrwee diya , chal” he would say to the flabbergasted driver
The crumbling Suzuki stumbled to life, drive out of a porch lined with small Pakistani flags and begin its journey in the night from Liberty Market, an affluent shopping area in Lahore and drive towards the Main Boulevard. Dodging between traffic jams, young children running around and young boys selling flags the rickety car moved slowly and steadily towards the Liberty roundabout. Flickering, glittering, shiny – these green lights were the highlight of our trip that would continue from Main Boulevard, to Jail Road, Zafar Ali Road finally hitting the lifeline of Lahore – Mall Road.
Somehow we all managed to find a spot next to the window and soon looked like hungry dogs, drooling and dribbling hungry to take in all the glitter and glam around us. The colonial buildings like Gymkhana Club, Aitchison College and Government House stood proud with faint green spotlights highlighting their grandeur, the trees bowing in the canal were decorated with green ‘mirchees’ and little flags; Pearl Continental Hotel, Alhamra Art Centre and Hilton Hotel (now Avari) stood with pride, sophistically lined with green and white luster; Wapda House – huge, bold and matronly had dim green luminosity highlighting all its floors.
The journey was constantly punctuated with quibbles for the window seat, roaring ‘Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan’ and Dada’s instructions to not even bat an eye and keep absorbing the sights and sounds outside. Often enough a car or rickshaw would zoom by blaring with ‘Watan kee mittee gawah rehna’ or ‘Sohni dhartee Allah rakhey’ and our in-van choir would start ranting that song.
“Warr paandey itch” was the usual loving statement by Dada when he gave in to our ever-expanding enthusiasm.
Often we used to take a U – turn from Regal Chowk (Although I do remember going up to Mayo Hospital once also) for the traffic ahead used to be insane with people, joy, energy and big bold green and white flags – swirling around by patriots. With this addictive energy, a little plastic flag attached to a cane stick in one hand and a Robbiya icecream cone in the other – reluctantly indicated the end of our 14th August excursion.
Memories like these don’t come easy or often – yet I am glad I grew up in a Pakistan that was peaceful, festive and lovely. Depicting the two colors of our flag; a large green surface and a narrow topping of white I have prepared below an easy, delicious, smooth and sublime Mint Chocolate Mousse – two colors, two main ingredients – One Pakistan!