|Bangles in every hue|
At night was my niece's bismillah; a ceremony which marks the start of the religious education of a child, usually at the age of 4 years. A throwback to the days when generations of a family lived together and used every occasion as a reason to celebrate, feast and mingle, it is now a custom that is slowly fading from our busy, solitary lives. My sister's in-laws, however, keep it alive and celebrate with much gusto. The child is dressed in traditional regalia. If it is a girl, she is dressed in an outfit of bright colors heavily hand-worked in silver and gold. The outfit is completed by the donning of full jewelry including tikka (jeweled head piece that falls like a pendant in the center of the forehead), necklaces and bangles. A little princess. Excitement was building in our house the whole day and my niece was besides herself with excitement. During the day, the meal was simple; khichri, daal and kofta salan (meatball curry). In the evening, we headed to my sister's in-laws' house for the ceremony. The upstairs terrace was completely covered in a red and silver awning; the atmosphere was festive and warm. We settled down for the ceremony. My niece was to repeat some lines after her grandfather who was leading the ceremony. When she got on stage and looked around at the amateur photographers (who isn't these days?) crowding around her, flashbulbs clicking, she froze. No amount of coaxing, cajoling could bring her to repeat the lines. I think I would have done the same! It was intimidating. Anyway, she managed to mumble something towards the end and the ceremony was safely concluded. Now, for the feasting. The food was laid out. The menu was chicken salan, kabab, pulao and naan. It was regular catered food; heavy on oil and spice.
|Fareed Ayaz Qawwals|
The day dawned late and lazy. Savored a home-cooked meal of timatar gosht (meat stewed in tomatoes) and saag (sauteed spinach). In the evening, some friends had booked one of the most popular restaurant in Karachi, Cafe Flo for a drinks and dinner fiesta of about 60 people. It was good to see familiar faces and share stories over some wine. Small quantity of the alcohol that comes into this city is legal, i.e., for diplomats, ex-pats, etc. but majority is smuggled in from Dubai by bootleggers and is sold at criminally exorbitant mark-ups. In wine, the choice is limited to whatever is available. Most of the time it comes down to just white or red. Further, alot of the stock is tampered with and unreliable. For the party, there was a crate of sparkling wine that turned out to be completely flat. Even with these problems, wine market is thriving and it is the drink of choice. Dinner, on the other hand, was delicious, if a little rich. Cafe Flo is the best French food in Karachi and the restaurant doesn't disappoint. The menu was fish in a creamy sauce (rich and succulent), lamb with mint chutney, potato dauphinoise and crispy carrot and beans side. It was fresh, creamy but light and delicately seasoned; so refreshing after the days of kababs and meat dishes.
December 26, 2010 Sunday- Day 20
Luncheon of comforting egg and potato curry, shami kabab and raita with piping hot naan. My favorite pickle shaljam ka achaar had been prepared on request and was now ready to eat. It was the perfect accompaniment to the meal. At night, we ate at my aunt's house. She ordered the quintessential Karachi indulgence; nihari. This time I caved in and had it. It was delicious but sat heavy in the stomach.
Note: although cumin, coriander and clove powders are all easily available in the market, it is advisable to ground the whole spices at home. This can be done by using a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. The flavor is more intense and fragrant.