Over the years I have come to appreciate and actually celebrate the coming of winter and autumn as much as spring and summer. Denmark has all 4 seasons, which are beautifully represented through the floral variety in a suburban backyard. Winter was only enjoyable when it snowed and before the snow turned to grey slush. Even if it is minus degrees you never really feel the cold indoors because everywhere is centrally heated. Similarly, Pakistan also has 4 seasons, but winter there is an annoying season for me. The air smells of decomposing rubbish. Due to lack of central heating you need gas heaters and to handle the cold you have to be wrapped up in sweaters and woolen shawls, even indoors.
The only enjoyable part of the winter season in Pakistan, for me, is the seasonal variety in edibles. You can eat dry fruits a plenty, apricots, figs, raisins, mulberries, all kinds of nuts and candies as accompaniment to the latter. It is rather pleasant to have a combination of freshly roasted peanuts with a candy called Rewari, made with raw sugar, clarified butter/Ghee and sesame seeds, with a cup of warm milk or tea and a spoonful of honey.
The local varieties of carrot and pumpkins are wonderful ingredients in both savoury and sweet dishes because they are juicy, succulent and sweet. Winter is also the season of apples and oranges of different varieties, pomegranate, beetroot, cauliflower, and cabbage.
In my opinion, Pakistan is the best place for a diet rich in seasonal, and fresh produce. For the foodie in me, there was always room for experimenting with different ingredients and cuisines. Winter was always a favourite season for Chinese dishes. Through cooking I was constantly searching new opportunities to explore Pakistan and its society, like a little child enjoying the frollicking in a playground with swings, slides and climbing castles.
In this connection, I have to say, my parents’ dedication and patriotism is admirable. They always stocked up on rice, pulses, spices, mangoes, sweet meats, dry fruits, decoration pieces and other interesting paraphernalia on our holidays, to ensure their children never lost the taste of Pakistan. However, maybe I took this persistence on belonging and identity too literally. Yet, it was necessary to go to Pakistan to define my own individuality and personal identity. This is because blood will always be thicker than water, but in order to silence the emotional noise of the heart and better listen to the rationality of the mind, you might have to take the long and tortuous road to self-discovery and hence burst that pink bubble of self-delusion that the grass is greener on the other side.
In retrospect many people claim the past is truly gone, buried and forgotten. It is also claimed the past makes the present and the present makes your future. In this connection is it even possible to build something out of nothing or sheer ignorance? Hard earned experiences become those tiny drops which eventually form the ocean of your life’s work. I suppose, as long as you just keep on making baby steps towards a distant, hazy goal, you will eventually get there by the time you reach your 60s or 70s. As the adage goes, better late than never. After all, the tortoise won the proverbial race.
In connection with the above, just like the calendar year has different seasons, life has its own cycles of ups, downs and still seasons. They tend to be coloured by joy, laughter, tears and sometimes all of them simultaneously. This is how we grow and heal. We shed old skin, just like plants and trees shed their leaves; grow new ones and bloom as the weather gets warmer.