|Karachi is a sprawling mixture of old and new|
On 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 Oxford.
|Sindh Club – a relic of the British Raj|
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 mall!
|Mango – one of several stores at Dolmen Mall that are familiar from the British Hight Street|
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.
|A lot of my Pakistani friends support Manchester United – rather silly when obviously Spurs is the only team worth supporting|
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.
|Hyde Park – one of my favourite places in London|
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.
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There are old places in Pakistan which reminds us of England.
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Congratulations Salima! A very insightful piece; since you have a way with words, I want to quote: “Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.” Your invaluable thoughts and experiences, will allow people who haven’t travelled to England also connect with.
p.s. it have a convincing documentary feel to it 😉