Posts from Pakistan: 3.8.2023
Greetings to you all from Pakistan!
Richard Rohr wrote the other day that a pilgrimage is a kind of extroverted mysticism. Anna and I like that image. I myself am deluged by all the sounds and images. The ice cream truck ditty is playing right now – not a foreign tune, but I’ve never lived in a neighborhood with street venders. Of course, the call to prayer surrounds us. At a little after 4:00 am there’s a 30 second call, often waking me with its breathtaking beauty. That early morning cantor has a beautiful voice. The 5:15 call is louder, longer and noisier.
Many of the trucks that pass by have hand-painted panels. I asked Nasreen if they told stories. No, she said, they are designs painted by families who have done this artistic work for generations. When a man buys a truck, he saves money to take it to one of these traditional families. Now, I look with sharper eyes at fresh and faded shapes and colors, not just on the sides of the trucks but on the cabs and bumpers and even the axels. I find these trucks are not just bright and pretty; they are carrying a kind of grace.
We went to a giant mall to do some grocery shopping. A bookshop there offered “all you can read.” Pakistani and Iranian carpets were on sale. I paid close attention to people’s attire. Some women were covered head to toe. Others like us wore pants, a tunic and a dupeta or shawl. A woman eating alone near us wore a top and pants. Another in the grocery store wore work pants and a long men’s shirt. There are no fashion police here but the general custom is to wear a dupeta and cover your head during prayers or when you want to be invisible (as when in a car and someone looks in the window. You do not wave back.)
At the mall we ate pani puri, bite-sized sweet custards that you dip in a sour sauce. Food in general here in Pakistan is very spicy. Anna and I receive special dishes with less spice. The flat bread is wonderful. Brata is fried flatbread served at breakfast and sometimes has a filling (again quite spicy). Even plain rice isn’t really plain but probably has turmeric and cumin. There is a sweet rice I will try to make when I get home: stirred with sugar to separate each kernel and then coconut and raisins are added. So simple and surprising. I did make stuffed pumpkin for the house. Of course, there’s no sage or thyme so I used turmeric and chili along with the onions and garlic. Everybody, except Anna and me, added more chili.
We visited the families of Saima and Shaista, the two women in the Come and See program. We were welcomed with rose petals, hugs and kisses, even two pigeons which Anna and I released to great cheers. Dinner, of course, was delicious. Afterwards some of the family members asked Anna and me for blessings. On the way home from Shaista’s I asked Nasreen if we could ask the family members to bless us. She said if there was anyone older than us. At Saima’s, her two grandfathers met us with blessings and prayers. So after dinner, after one of the grandfathers’ asked for a blessing for his sore feet, we asked them to bless us. Probably we were older than them, but we weren’t telling.