Category Archives: Pakistan

Desi food service dishes up nostalgia

One of my goals as a writer has been to bring together my passion for food with my interest in immigrant stories. My recent article for KCTS 9, the PBS affiliate in Seattle, did just that by highlighting a South Asian meal service that provides weekly home-cooked meals to an audience that includes many of Seattle’s recent tech transplants.

Because of companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, so many Indian and Pakistani immigrants have come to the Pacific Northwest over the last decade. It’s one of the most visible shifts that stands out to me having returned here after spending that time on the East Coast. In many cases, the tech workers are here on visas and must wait to bring family over.

Coming from a communal society like that of South Asia, the people I interviewed for this story told me it’s a real adjustment to have to do everything alone. In New Delhi, Priyanka Wadhawan, who works at Amazon, tells me she had her parents and other family nearby and that they often shared meals. She had a cook to help prep food, and she never actually learned howt o cook until coming to the U.S. Now she loves cooking simple Northwest fare like salmon, but she leaves the heavy duty, laborious work of South Asian curries to Turmeric ‘N More, and says that owner Sadia Bukhari is like her local mom. When Wadhawan had a baby, Bukhari even sent her soup spiced with herbal remedies known in South Asia to help mothers heal postpartum.

Check out the story.

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Filed under Feed Me, Pakistan, The Marginalized

On the day of my birth

It’s my birthday today, and for some reason my mind is drifting to another birthday six years ago. Not mine, but Shagufta Ahsan’s. Then 16, the petite, smiling teen was a student in my class. I was teaching computer and English courses at a nonprofit school in a slum outside of Karachi, Pakistan.

She walked into the classroom that morning, announced that it was her birthday and said she would like to share a poem she wrote for the occasion. She asked everyone, and especially me, to close our eyes as she read it.

And then this is what she said:

A precious year has passed of my life.
And I don’t know how many expectations
And hopes and wishes have grown up with me.
And it’s not the foremost wishes because
They are coming from sixteen years with me.
What are my wishes?
Only these that I want to catch butterflies
And then I put them in my peaceful books.
I am to count the stars.
I am bound to the sunlight.
I am always to take flowers fresh.
But these are only imaginations.
And the wishes which were my necessities
That I want to go in Air Force.
I want a computer.
I want to read good books.
My these wishes are too stupid for rich persons.
Because they don’t know about poverty.
But can these rich persons provide me,
My dreamy things?
No they don’t.
So, I think my all these wishes
Will go with me the next year too.

— “A Precious Year,” Shagufta Ahsan, Umer Maingal Goth Class 10

I hope she is somewhere safe and stable, catching butterflies.

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Pakistan’s SMS craze, closeted lesbians

I took a moment today to catch up on Pakistan news and see whether the earthquake has had a sweeping effect. Thankfully not, given that a country grappling with a war on its border, political unrest, and a recent flood can handle little more.

But amid the bleak reports of a semi curfew and ethnic killings in Karachi, I did find some interesting nuggets of news:

Diplomacy galore: Pakistan’s Desk at the U.S. State Department is the largest of any other country, according to The News in Pakistan. Clearly, the nation is of strategic importance to the U.S., but I wonder whether how this information will be received in Pakistan — where so many distrust America and its officials.

Strange landing: A man fell from the sky in Lahore this week, landing to his death on the roof of a house. The AP writes that he fell from the wheel well of the plane during takeoff, possibly because he was hiding in the Dubai-bound plane’s landing gear.

Text crazy: SMS is already the most popular way to use cell phones in Pakistan, but researchers expect the volume of text messages to double by 2014. More than 150 billion text messages were sent in 2009, the Daily Times reports, which works out to about 4 messages per user each day.

Secret love: Lesbians in Pakistan face a social stigma they fear far more than the law. “From the time that I’ve known this about myself, every day that I’ve felt that I’d wish I was just like everybody else,” one Pakistani woman told NPR.

On a personal note, my mom is in Lahore right now. She says people continue to try to live normal lives, spending their days sipping spiced chai, shopping for the latest fabrics, and visiting with relatives.

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Scantily clad in Pakistan

I greatly enjoyed seeing some international coverage of Pakistan Fashion Week in Karachi last week, which coincided with its Mumbai counterpart. While the people who would wear such Western-influenced outfits make up a very small percentage of Pakistani society, it’s refreshing to see Pakistan be covered as the diverse, complicated nation that it is.

Still, it’s irritating that most of the stories ran with the obvious lede: Here are some brazen souls challenging the mullahs and celebrating fashion as their nation incinerates. (Never mind that the event was rescheduled twice because of security concerns.) It’s hard for those of us living in developed nations to understand that life goes on even in the most tumultuous regions. People who lives in places that are constantly in upheaval get used to the madness. They don’t stop partying, arranging weddings, or playing with their kids. (Duh?)

That being said, it’s equally as grating that members of Pakistani high society can be so oblivious of the mass poverty and affliction around them. The luxuries of their lives must be insulting to the many servants employed to maintain that lifestyle. It’s one of the many ironies of the world. It’s worth noting that we well-off Americans are just as guilty of profligacy in the face of hunger, homelessness, and want. It’s just that our society hides those problems better.

I digress. Check out the designer galleries for some enticing haute couture.

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