My winning entry to the blogging competition held by the British High commission in Islamabad.
the face of it there seems to be little in scorching Karachi to remind
anyone of Britain apart from some oft-neglected architecture. The
British Raj that built some of Pakistan’s finest old buildings may be
long gone, but it has left isolated bastions of British-ness in the
clubs formed by long-gone expats. The steamed puddings at Karachi Boat
Club can transport me straight back to my school days in London while
the wooden-paneled staircases of Sindh Club remind me of my days at
Traces of the British Raj colour our lives, from our
architecture to our judiciary. Some of these we have made our own, like
the cake rusks and chicken patties you can get from any local bakery.
Instantly recognizable by any Pakistani, these have their roots in
England but would be almost alien in modern Britain. In fact most of the
legacies of the Raj speak more to me of Merchant Ivory rather than
reminding me of Britain. It is instead the silly things that tug at the
UK part of my British-Pakistani soul. Things like the smell of freshly
mown grass, the taste of Mcvities Digestives or a new Terry Pratchett
novel. It’s doing the laundry in the same detergent that I use in
London. It’s things like watching the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice on DVD
that transport me back to the times I was living in London. When the
yearning gets too much, I’ll wander over to Dolmen Mall and browse
through Debenhams, Mothercare and Next – making believe that I’m at
Westfield Mall in Shepherd’s Bush. Perhaps I’m not so different from the
expats of yesteryear. They retreated to wood paneled clubs to remind
them of England while I head to a more modern refuge, British shops in a
Most of all what reminds me of Britain while living in
Pakistan is my friends. I have many friends who grew up or studied in
the UK as well as friends who have family there. We have shared memories
of British school life, UK Pop music, TV and books. We have a common
taste for “British” food ranging from Maltesers to quiche. And so we
create our own little bastions of Britishness, and think home thoughts
from abroad. Surprisingly, many of our English-speaking
Pakistani friends also have similar tastes. They have watched some of
the same TV, grown up eating the same food in clubs and studied the same
literature that we studied in school.
Many have a deep affection for
the UK and share our love of football, good food and celebrity gossip.
We all bring our kids up on a diet of British authors. We try to teach
them about tolerance and fair play. In much the same way as our friends
back in the UK.
We might miss the cool greenery of England. We may
yearn for the sights the smells and the tastes of the UK, but there’s
more than you’d think in Pakistan to remind us of Britain.
|Karachi is a sprawling mixture of old and new|
|Sindh Club - a relic of the British Raj|
|Mango - one of several stores at Dolmen Mall that are familiar from the British Hight Street|
|A lot of my Pakistani friends support Manchester United - rather silly when obviously Spurs is the only team worth supporting|
|Hyde Park - one of my favourite places in London|