The dawns I witnessed here while living on this piece of land are pellucidly different and distinct from those I have witnessed in the earlier years of my life. Every day’s aurora cannot be unvaried only because it is the first light of just another day from the same star; it is destined to be unique. Watching the rays of the sun spreading in the skyline of Edmonton has always incessantly reminded me of the many sunrises I have observed in Lahore while lying on a charpoy on my house’s rooftop. Those days were indeed lovely and worth living again; had I known this before I would not have been standing at the bank of a River Valley and watching yet another gloomy and sombre dayspring. Well, many readers would argue about the ‘sombre’ daybreak of Edmonton. My dear friends I am not wrong. No eye can catch sight and relish the blooming spring in the surroundings if the inside is so bleak and saturnian.
My life is full of treadmill activities. The only cheerful moments are those when I see my children happy and settled with their routine, and when I recall my childhood memories. Ah! Such wonderful days they were indeed. I have a wistful yearning for returning to my hometown and seeing all those alluring places and eating all sorts of mouth-watering dishes which made me nostalgic about my beautiful birthplace. Sitting in my air-conditioned room in a renowned multinational firm’s office, I often try to relive my past – my years in Lahore.
My father was congratulated by an accoucheuse on the birth of his second child. My birth was celebrated in a double-storeyed house at Ravi Road, a residential area near Minar-e-Pakistan. So this was my start. Today, I live in a luxurious, fully furnished, five-bedroom house located in a swish area of Edmonton AB. Yet it is not the end. This phase of my life cannot make me contented; I am longing for something more satiating as this dream made me abandon my homeland. I had to leave my country, the land of pure. I had to go from beautiful Lahore, the city of gardens or universities or whatever one may like to say. Most hurtfully, I had to forsake my parents.
Ah! But this all is some serious stuff which seldom haunts me, especially on some of my bad days. Ofttimes I only get beguiled and enchanted by the beauty, picturesqueness and uniqueness of Lahore and its culture. I am madly in love with Lahore not only because it was the city where I was born; in fact there are uncountable reasons. Albeit I am no more a part of the social stratification or culture of Lahore and also I do not practise any of the customs and traditions, nonetheless I am still encouraged by them.
As I have mentioned earlier in this account, we used to sleep on the rooftops on our houses. Well, we never actually slept until the sun had spread its light on the sky above us. Mostly, I located the North Star and counted the total number of twinkling pearls in the sky along with my siblings. My sister was fond of domestic fowls. Therefore, as you may expect, our eyelids parted only when my mother released the roosters from their coops and they traversed the whole area while crowing ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’. Chanting of Azan from nearby mosques always made me realise while waking up that I had slept till the midday. Here in Edmonton, we can never imagine sleeping in open, thanks to the freezing temperature that prevails, reaching as low as -46 ˚Celsius, and our somatesthesia which stops us from making such foolish decisions. The musical sounds of alarms wake us up in the morning. The timepiece says “It is seven o’ clock” and the dark grey, mackerel sky reassures by saying “Yes dear! The sky is dark but it is 7 a.m.” No chanting of calls for the prayers can be heard and no flying roosters can be seen.
We had only one lavatory at one corner of the house where all toothbrushes along with toothpaste were kept in a glass tumbler; we took turns in answering the call of nature. By the time I reached the lounge, my mother had made lassi, a drink made with yoghurt or buttermilk diluted with water and flavoured with salt or sugar, and paratha, a bread with a texture more or less resembling puff pastry. As of I migrated to Canada, I have lived in several cities, including Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton, and all the houses I moved in had four to five bedrooms and at least three water closets. Lassi and parathas are now considered special meals only to be made on rummy and peculiar occasions.
Playing cricket at a famous cricket club of Alberta would not have been possible had I not played it with my buddies in streets of Lahore. Breaking glass windows and lampposts was a routine and running away from the crime scene was even more unremittingly usual. Ah! I gravely miss the food. What in food? Well, Lahore is a big-name when it comes to feasting and launching new bistros. Lahorites can never become jaded of food. All sorts of cuisines are warmly welcomed with cuffs rolled up the sleeves and can be found almost everywhere in the city without any struggle, let it be nihari from Karachi, Baghdadi haleem, Balochi sajji, or Kasuri falooda. One can find several fast food restaurants (McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Johnny Rockets, Hardee’s), steakhouses (Arizona Grill, California Grill), coffeehouses and cafés (Arcadian Café, Butlers Chocolate Café, Gloria Jean’s), and frozen yoghurt parlours (Tutti Frutti, Yogen Früz, Yogerberry) in my gifted city Lahore.
I have thrice visited Pakistan since my immigration to Canada and every time my departure from Lahore becomes increasingly arduous. Indeed home is where family is but my case is a little different. My body lives in Edmonton with my family but my heart and soul still breathe in the polluted yet long-familiar atmosphere of Lahore; and I simple love cherishing every mode of my retentiveness.
- Article by Aminah Suhail Qureshi