I have often wondered why me and my friends often end up indulging in intoxicants wait… intoxicants is too negative a word, lets just call it a ‘drink’ or two on weekends after a hectic week. Yes, sometimes I think after five days of dealing with the tasks at work, the usual verbal lashing from the boss and household chores it is OK to relax, sip and unwind.
Some would say that my experimental college days are gone and the practical world doesn’t allow one to compromise on health well not at least when there are sooooo many other alternatives available. ALTERNATIVES, hmmm I think I can never over emphasize the importance of the said Alternatives, more importantly the lack thereof.
Living in Karachi people do not really have much going on for them in the recreation department. Seems like all our free time is centered around one form of food or the other. I would love to elaborate more about this ‘fooding business’ but fear it will deviate from the topic. I will just conclude by saying that had there been something sane and safe to do besides going out and EAT I wouldn’t think twice about drinking.
So that is how the usual Eid started for me. The chand raath was a night of ‘indulgence’ over a good conversation with friends where anecdotes of all the Eids bygone were shared followed by an early morning prayer session at the Eid Gha (A large prayer congregation) which marks the official day of Eid. After that I knew I was in for a routine every Pakistani takes months to zealously prepare; the house decorations, clothing and accessorizing, fooding (of course) etcetera and spent visiting the same family members they have been seeing the whole year round only this time with a big smile. Dam, what an anti-climax! The Pakistani social norms are deeply rooted in the family system, the relatives, the community and the interdependence with one another which is the reason for such a monotonous event as Eid. For the expatriates, visiting Pakistani family and friends the Eid holidays might represent the real meaning of Family time but for majority of us it is simply just another day. So these thoughts got me into a solemn mood for most of the ritual relative meet ups.
These are our values which in the West will often be taken as Racism. Now, I am not judging nor am I saying if this is wrong or right. This is all an observation presented in as objective a format as possible.
By evening I couldn’t take it any more and retired to my room where I knew some recently downloaded movies would be a far more entertaining means to kill time. I watched an old Al Pacino classic, Dog Day Afternoon (1975). *Spoiler Alert. The idea of Pacino playing a queer role was very interesting.
I think I must have slept towards the end credits of the film because it was now very dark outside and the house seemed deserted so I guessed the party must have moved out to raid another unsuspecting victim.
In any case I wanted to hit the streets as well see what Karachites were up to on this festive day. In the next 30 minutes the windows of my car were rolled down, one hand sticking out enjoy the fresh Arabian sea air, two asshole buddies in the back seat and we were off on Shahr-e-faisal. First stop Butler’s Chocolate Shop, but the place was packed full and I mean people coming out of the crevices of the glass walls a waiting list of 45 mins! Hell no. We drove off to Espresso found the same predicament there.
Now what do we do. The only serious coffee houses are packed. Well it is on these merry occasions that one must experiment and we ended up at the Cinnamon Cafe Lounge of Avari Towers where I last went as a kid maybe 15 years ago! We got the entire place to ourselves since it was 2:00am in the morning. The place had an aura of grand moments lost within the walls. The architecture resembles that of Pearl Continental Hotel, a little toned down perhaps but good non the less. We ordered coffee and looked around. The lounge does not allow you to smoke inside but there is a very convenient courtyard overlooking the pool for that. The floor was carpeted and the lights weren’t too bright. Overall I would say the place had a welcoming and cosy feel to it.
The coffees arrived and while I sipped I noticed some books on a table. One in particular caught my attention, it was titled Karachiwala: Subcontinent Within a City. And what a treat to simmer through it. The author had basically written personal accounts of around 40 or more (I might be wrong) families residing in Karachi belonging to very diverse backgrounds. Parsis, Balcohis, Sariki, Chinese, Sindhis, Mohajirs, Christians, Jews (Yes you read correct!!), you name it and it was there. I was amazed by the diversity of people cataloged here.
In a typical non-conformist fashion I chose the Jewish account of the book. You might be surprised to know that before partition there was a very active Jewish community living in Karachi and according to the book around 2500 to 3000! However, racial tensions and discrimination every time there was a Arab-Israel war made it very difficult for the Jews to live peacefully. Also according to the book there are many old buildings which were designed or commissioned by Jewish architects or builders. One such building is the Russian Embassy behind Abdullah Shah Gazi Mazar.
Incredible I thought to myself that there was a time in Pakistan where Jews could co-exist peacefully with the Muslims. What happened to us? why have we gone so far astray? The joy of Eid and a read about the Jews got me thinking again about Pakistan’s past glory.
We left at 3:00am but the lounge is open 24 hours and is a must for those looking for a quite reflecting time and very comfortable in stark contrast to Pearl Continental or Marriot Hotel where the staff stares at you for no reason. And no if some of you are wondering if I am being paid to write this stuff. I am not. In fact I would love it if I was getting paid to promote something on my blog. But unfortunately at present it is not the case. That being said today was very close to the kind of time I wish too have all the time: