Saturday, 24 March 2018

a rose is a rose is a rose, the aleph review

god gave us memory so that we might have roses in december
j.m.barrie
we made gulkand for the first time in the house in bani gala. the trio of rose bushes in our little but flourishing garden were alive with blooms and thorns. the petals had been used to perfume homemade strawberry jam and steeped in boiling water with fresh lemongrass or green tea as a tisane. our cat zubeida has a penchant for roses and she too feasted on the petals. despite all this, the roses kept giving. it is baba’s memories of his mother’s preserves and a profusion rose petals that led to the first jar of the gulkand. trial, memory and recipes from the virtual world informed. rose petals combined with coarse sugar were crushed using a mortar and pestle and placed in a glass jar. the jar was left in direct sunlight to trap the heat of the sun. this greenhouse effect warmed the contents, encouraging the roses to release their essential oils. it also melted the sugar, the syrup of which is essential to keep the roses from spoiling.

this is an excerpt from my essay titled 'a rose is a rose is a rose' which recently appeared in the aleph review. the aleph review is an annual anthology published by broken leg publication, lahore, pakistan. it is a print only publication and due to copyright reasons, i am unable to share more than an excerpt. for those of you who are based in pakistan, the aleph review can be bought at saeed book bank and london books in islamabad and liberty books in lahore and karachi. it is for those who love art and literature so please do head out and buy it.  

Monday, 8 January 2018

goodbye twenty-seventeen

christmas lights on regent street, london
december arrives with certainty, irrespective of the tempo of the year. it cares not whether there are loose ends or unfinished business. i have come to love the closing days of the year. the turn of the seasons is a time to gather thought. it is to hold the past, present and future in hand (momentarily).

i was never one for winter. even on days of utmost brightness, i was aware that darkness would come early, culminating in the winter solstice. but following the shifts of the earth and trying to understand the seasons has changed this for me. i am drawn to winter solstice festivals and particularly love the persian ritual of shab-e-yalda when mithra, the angel of light was said to be born. it recognises the triumph of love, knowledge and light over evil. the longest and darkest night is seen out with storytelling, poetry and food with loved ones. i stretch this philosophy across december so that omair and i make the most of it feasting with friends and family.  

Friday, 6 October 2017

on crumble in times of grief and loss

strawberry crumble 
i hold the word loss in my mouth. it feels full and heavy. when babcia died on the last day of july, i realised that loss had crossed a boundary. until then, it had described the process of losing her. afterwards, it took to grief.

the truth is i lost babcia slowly.

over the last few years, dementia affected her memory and eventually cancer and age stole her body. when i saw her in march, she was a fraction of herself -  her bones so prominent that one could study anatomy through them. it is hard enough to lose a loved one, to do so over a protracted period of time from afar was excruciating. my grief was complicated because as i lost my grandmother, mama lost her mummy and daddy, his love and companion and whilst they were together, i was several thousand miles away.

Friday, 14 July 2017

edible seville, cordoba and malaga

pestino; pastry fried in olive oil and drizzled with honey and sesame seeds.
we arrived in malaga on a balmy and breezy april morning. our spanish sojourn took us to seville, cordoba and malaga mostly in search of a moorish past. the roads connecting each of these cities were curvaceous, the carriageways separated by oleanders. the landscape is one of low rolling hills populated in turn by olive trees or fleeting glimpses of towns. the towns were made up of rectangular buildings save the sharp triangular points of church steeples (of which there are many). we saw a small pueblo bianco (white village) that andalusia is famed for.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

edible islamabad and lahore

samosa chaat, mashallah chaat house
islamabad is no longer the sleepy metropolis of my girlhood. its boundaries have stretched into new sectors, swallowing land between the garrison town of rawalpindi and outwards towards the hill station of murree. i feel the change palpably on each annual visit. there is a new network of roads and a shiny new mass transit system that commands its own lane. the metrobus stations are wavelike in design and constructed of glass, allowing a clear picture of the commuters. i imagine they must be boiling in the summer when the sun shines mercilessly and the mercury is high.

there is a proliferation of malls too.

what i love of the city are the green hills that border it. march is a lovely time to visit. the days are warm coaxing flowers to blooms and leaves to appear on the trees. in my parent’s garden, the roses revealed themselves in hues of bridal red and rhubarb and custard. there were fuchsia geraniums and lines of pansies. trumpet flowers hung heavy with their fragrance. we had many cups of afternoon tea and late lunches in the garden.