By Najmul Hasan Rizvi
26 June 2013
What is the connection between food and destruction in Pakistan?
The Pakistanis are a jolly-at-heart people who know how to retain their sense of humour in the worst of times. “The continuing duel between life and death has failed to dampen their spirits. Bombs and blasts cannot deprive them of their taste for spicy chicken Biryani,” Mr Right smiled.
“Oh, yes,” I agreed. “The two things that have become a permanent feature of their current lifestyle are bomb blasts and a plate of Biryani. Biryani centres have mushroomed in cities and food streets have flourished despite a spate of bomb blasts in recent times.”
“This indicates people don’t want to die hungry,” Mr Right remarked. “Eating is their best pastime and they want to ensure that the best possible dishes are at hand.”
“Our people are so fond of eating that they have even elected a prime minister who himself is a connoisseur of good food,” I pointed out. “I hope he will help stop power load-shedding in eating places at least.”
“I am all praise for the people who have learned to live happily in the most trying period of this country,” Mr Right said. “Bombs explode every now and then causing heavy damage to life and property, but business goes on as usual.”
“This has helped two types of TV channels to prosper: Those showing bomb blasts and those making people good cooks,” I said. “Both are trying to make the people strong, mentally and physically.”
“No doubt, good cooks make good food and good food makes the people strong,” Mr Right said. “The only problem is that cooking shows on various channels have made the spicy chicken Biryani so popular that some eager viewers have started asking the recipe of chicken Biryani by ringing the Police Rescue Team that is meant to help victims in case of a bomb blast.”
I laughed. “Such queries are no better than a bomb blast. I hope the rescue team must have figured out a way to deal with such crazy callers.”
“If not,” Mr Right said, “they should give the caller the phone number of the costliest biryani centre.”
“I am happy that the common people have not lost their appetite for food and good fun despite depression and destruction caused by the enemies of peace,” I said.
“Things are looking up in areas which were under the control of terrorists some time ago,” Mr Right said.
“The recent festival in Swat is a proof of the people’s resilience,” I said.” They are fully capable of rebuilding old image and bringing back tourists who had stayed away from the area for some years.”
“I think the nation has to embark on a rebuilding mission on a massive scale,” Mr Right commented. “We have to rebuild a lot of things, including national monuments and our tarnished reputation.”
“A mountain of responsibility lies ahead for the new government too,” I looked at Mr Right.
“Very true,” he nodded. “It’s a Nanga Parbat challenge for them. They will have to stop tormentors of the people, those who bring bad name to the country.”
“They say that Quaid-i-Azam’s Residency in Ziarat, torched by rebels recently, will be restored to its old glory within six months,” I reminded him.
“Very heartening indeed,” Mr Right said. “The Ziarat Residency has its own importance. Not only because the father of the nation spent last few days of his life there, but also because it became a monument to the great leader’s integrity.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Since the Quaid-i-Azam was not eating properly, his physician advised his sister, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, to change the cook. She called a cook from Karachi without telling the Quaid. When the meal prepared by the new cook, his favourite, was presented to the Quaid, he immediately recognised the taste and was annoyed that the man was called there unnecessarily on government expenses.”
“Did he refuse to eat his meal?” I asked.
“No, he happily ate his meal but later gave a cheque for the money spent on the cook’s transfer, saying that he had no right to call a cook from Karachi on government account while on leave. This is how he gave the lesson of honesty to the whole nation.”
“It was the Quaid-i-Azam who gave us the tips to cook an ‘honest meal’, “I said.
“Yes, but much before his monument was destroyed, his advice was forgotten. Everybody now wants to eat the spicy chicken Biryani, nobody wants to cook an ‘honest meal’ now,” Mr Right lamented.
Najmul Hasan Rizvi is a former Assistant Editor of Khaleej Times