Friday, 18 January 2013

Lahore: Tastes Best When Served Cold

Lahore: Tastes Best When Served Cold

A gray cloud over my city with more liquor than it can contain in its belly; like a drunkard, gags all over.

The first shower sweeps up the streets. A woman whips her washing off the rope. A homebound walker folds his shoulders in and quickens. In dewy school-bus windows, curious eyes behind quashed noses, watch the scurry.

In the bush, a starved kitten mews for its mother.

In coffee houses, showy teens damn the weather; vain college girls parade their frilly woollies; smug entrepreneurs waffle on about the dollar( ruppee? that old thing?); self-conscious juniors in office-suits with coffee mugs in their listening hands, do their best; chairbound fat women devour the great buffet and snicker about aging bimbos in a Kitty tea; the bimbos, easing their time-honored itch of showing off fancy furs, chat like its nobody's business; juicy waiters glide up and down the crammed aisles, carrying garnished trays and clouds of steam around; lovers nestle in dark corners, eyeing the non-lovers distastefully.

Out in the smog, in a parked car, a yawny chauffeur snuggles behind the wheel, and dreams an impossible dream.

Fog thickens and abstracts the kaleidoscopic bazaars. Liberty fuzzes. Shoppers become misty outlines of themselves and shops sit on silent haunches, waiting to be found. On the pavement, the roar of an unseen flame and cloudy puffs of alive steam charm the walkers into veering off course. An opportunist has set up a noodle stall that sells steaming noodles in paper cups. The warming smoothness, the ease of the slurp and the cossetting taste: handy cheap pleasure for all. The outer layer of the noodle crowd keeps shedding away and rebuilding around the old samosa stall where they huddle around the great frying wok and warm their hands on the fire. A hawker with a hot-box slung around his neck evolves from the mist and calls: "Garam aandaa-a-a-y!"

On the walk, the begger curles up under a flimsy blanket, one scraggy hand poking out to cup the rain of coins.

Lahore Sun will soon be back from its short hibernation. Three consecutive days it rises and shines on the shivering city and the fragile winter will frizzle away. But till then, ladies and gentlemen, I offer you Lahore: tastes best when served cold.