The one thing that struck me first as I travelled from Lahore to Sheikhupura was that the places looked like a cross between a building site and a bomb site. The buildings appeared unfinished largely because the exteriors were rough and unfinished by Western standards. I was also struck by the contrasts between the carts pulled by animals such as in the picture above, the motorised rickshaws and the up-market SUVs and Mercedes.
Even the sheep were different – huge animals compared to Welsh mountain sheep – with long floppy ears. It was disconcerting to find myself on the same eye-level as one of these sheep. Take a look at the photo with the hennaed sheep. This was taken in the Khyber-Paktoonkhwa province (formerly the North-West Frontier province)and the sheep were on there way to a market to be sold for Eid in 2012.
The horse-drawn cart is loaded with sorghum which is used for animal fodder, although it is one of the crops that people could eat too. In Pakistan the humble turnip is also looked down upon as it has been tradtionally fed to cattle. There were no parsnips or swede, although in winter it was cold in Islamabad/Rawalpindi as they are situated at the foothills of the Himalayas.
In winter the women’s clothes, the shalwaar-kameez and dupatta were not sufficient to keep out the cold, so many women would wrap themselves in an extra shawl. Some actually had coats, but many resorted to cardigans which just did not seem warm enough to me. What makes things worse is that the natural gas freezes in the pipes, so people were building fires on the roofs so that they could make tea and breakfast. The roti sellers were kept busy, although even their ovens (tandoors) were fuelled by sticks rather than gas as this was not only forzen, but rationed in the last winter I spent there.
The way the poorest families live is unbelievable to a Westerner, but this is for another, later post. I was horrified when I saw very young children scavenging in rubbish dumps at the side of the road. In spring they also picked the tiny buds of the Kachnar (Mountain orchid) trees to sell to vegetable stalls and shops. These are considered a delicacy and taste a little like flowery liver. We ate theses Kachnar buds with beef or perhaps it was buffalo meat. I chose not to inquire to much about what I was eating, as I couldn’t bear to go into a butcher’s shop, and the shops selling live chickens for the table were no-go areas as far as I was concerned.
Now that I am no longer in Pakistan, I miss some of its colourful sights and sounds, but given the current situation, I cannot return.