Make it a Date!

You! Yes, you! You ought to be on a date with yourself right now.

Think back…

How many times have you treated yourself and only you alone to a nice meal at a good eatery, devoured every bite, jumped into the umami and bounced back into random thoughts, treasured memories and maybe (just for a little time) the realm of Instagram or Twitter? Mind you, I don’t consider Facebook and Snapchat sacred enough to pierce into the me-time bubble. But seriously, how many times?

Exactly!

It is about time, you plop yourself on a bar stool or sit cross legged with a book and lose you to you. It is important, well deserved and much needed. We are constantly texting, snapping, talking. Give yourself a break, take out time for you and enjoy your own company. It’s a meditation of sorts. It is life changing.

All I am trying to say is you ought to disconnect to connect. Confused? Here’s where you want to roll on your first date with yourself in years:

Model Town Park

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Disclaimer: This is not an advertisement for TOMS. I just can’t have my shoes on when I have the chance to experience grass barefoot. No can do.

 

I am going to say it out loud, confess. My idea of romance includes long walks restricted to the side of Race Course Park that borders G.O.R. If you’re a Lahori, you’ll be judging me at my choice of a date spot but this is not a date with your significant other, it is one with yourself. Go on over to Model Town park. Take a journal, a coloring book or just your thoughts. Stretch them legs. Maybe vent out on a sheet of lined paper, or write a letter to yourself?  Let lose the inner you.

Pro tip: Go in the afternoon. No one will notice you. All the men will be too engrossed in their burqa clad dates to oogle. Yes, ’tis true. There’s a reason I chose Model Town Park over Race Course for this one.

Mocca – Mall One

Welcome to the cafe with ah-mazing coffee, bland food, gazillion charging outlets and pretentious people pretending to work on their MacBooks. Up on the rooftop, past dinner time amidst the smoke and the shop talk is where you might want to find yourself on a weeknight for the place never discriminates. It is the only place in the city where sitting alone is actually the norm. It is cool. It is expected. It is appreciated. You won’t feel like the odd one out. Just don’t order anything other than drinks. Take my word for it, pretty please.

Rina’s Kitchenette – Gulberg

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Trust me to take bad photos of great meals because I have no patience for angles and forms when I can be eating what lays in front of me.

I have talked about Rina’s before too but it is both super close to the heart and home. Confession: I am mildly obsessed with this place, head over heels in love with their smash burger and equally crazy about their buttermilk fried chicken sandwich. I mean I suggest you go here to establish a relationship with food and just you. Pure bliss. What else does one need in life? Okay maybe a few texts from your favorite person while you dig deeper into your slice of nutella caramel cake. But just that. The waiters are extra ordinarily nice and the best part is the communal table. I just love it. Things to try: Everything. Okay, maybe not steak and eggs. The American in me gets offended by the portion size of the steak, every time.

Jade/China Town – Kasuri Road

There was a time when K and I were gaga over China Town. We had approved of one another over a serving of beef chilli dry. The twinkle in his eyes at the sight of a cream cheese filled french toast still amuses me but that’s for another day. China Town’s house special soup and beef chilli dry are great for a proper date with yourself. Put on a red lipstick, sit on their comfy chairs with your legs crossed and think about random things like how yogurt came into being. Soon you’ll be devouring fish crackers and peanuts. Later, you’d be so lost in the food, you won’t realize you are alone. Stagger out with a full belly to Jade and ask for their kickass Masala chai. You’re welcome.

Araamish Spa – Gulberg

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Yes, I know it’s getting expensive by the day but it is still my favorite place around town to be on Saturday mornings. Think of it as prepping for the week ahead. Get yourself a manicure or a massage. Loosen those knots. Let go. I sometimes go just for the complimentary tea and organic eating options and take a book along. Ps. Check out their trainee packages. They are just as good and fit right in the budget too.

 

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Of Sappiness & Easy S’mores Fix! 

The first time we locked hearts was over China Town’s Beef Chilli Dry and Delicatessen’s Nutella Crepe. We had stared at food in unison with googly eyes and subsequently stumbled upon the realization that we had found our respective companion. It’s been three years now and we celebrated the date of his birth with s’mores and homemade mac n’ cheese this weekend. Needless to say, I’ve smothered him and now feel akin to that extra dose of maple syrup drowning a beautiful golden French toast in all its sappiness. Am I calling him a beautiful golden French toast? I embarrass myself at times. I embarrass him too. And before I tell you that tonight I plan on shaking off that nauseating smitten self, I will let you in on a secret. 

You don’t need to start a bonfire to enjoy s’mores, neither do you need special equipment. Find a terra cotta pot in your backyard. If you’re feeling a little giddy, paint over it.  If not, just line the pot with aluminium foil, throw in a bunch of coals and get the party started. You’d need marshmallows, chocolate, digestive biscuits and lots of nauseating sappiness before you give up on the idea and realize that you’re going to suffocate him and yourself. Till then, keep looking at him googly eyed. He’s worth it! 


From London to Landa

Call me frugul but I window shop at Habitt and do the actual shopping at a landa. Don’t get me wrong, Habitt is all dreamy and glitzy but I’d rather shell that money out on food and technology than spend it on plates, pans and fondue pots. Oh! Wait! Habitt doesn’t sell fondue pots. A shop at the Haji Camp Landa does.

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Featuring the fondue set and wooden plate I got from the Haji Camp Landa

My first year in Pakistan, K and I located three shops at the Haji Camp Landa that carry old telescopes, vintage suitcases, buddha statues, cutlery, crockery, paintings etc etc. We went there week after week, sometimes for curtains, sometimes for mason jar mugs and sometimes for Ikea lamps. Since then, we have discovered the Daroghawala Landa, the Mayo Hospital Landa and the used stock piles at the Pioneer store in Main Market, Gulberg.

If you can buy it cheap and good, why give into all the drama of great packaging. By shopping at the landas, not only do you get a chance to support small shop owners, you also get to buy good quality items that have stood the test of time. And yes, all that jazz is from Europe. Think about it, landa shopping or London shopping?! One and the same, my love. One and the same!

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I bought four of these plates from the Daroghawala Landa for Rs. 100-150 each.

Ps. Landa is Urdu for flea market.

Settling In: Housing

Gourmet Bakery maybe all glory but trust me! I’ve had enough of it. When I first landed in Lahore to live by myself, it was during Ramadan. A mutual friend, K and I would scour the city looking for suitable housing and Gourmet was our prince in shinning armor.  Suprizingly enough no real estate agent earned that title until Shauki Boy sauntered into our lives a year and half later.

The thing about Shauki Boy is he’s got no office and he’s no real real estate agent. He’s someone’s guard who looks up housing for people like you and me – the outcasts. The boy doesn’t judge. Tell him you want your freedom, friends from the opposite sex staying over, separate entrance, the life, the works! He won’t bat an eye. He’ll just get to work. Out of the 100 houses he will show you, you will only like 2 to 3 but know that he’s got your back. And no, he isn’t a boy boy. He’s an old man!

Shaukat Real Estate Agent: 0300-4156691

You’re Welcome!

Note: Always ask for a separate electricity/gas meter when renting a space for yourself. Real estate agents get half of the rent as their payment and the landlord gets two months rent as advance and one month’s rent as security when you finally settle upon a place. Come out clear early on. If you’re going to have parties, be honest. At the end of the day, its your house. You’ve got to be able to live on your own terms.

Of Late Night Blunders

I scare me at times. I had taken Woolf too literally when she had said that a woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction. I threw three cats and no fiction into the mix and am living my own interpretation of her famed essay. Though I’d like to think I’m living a beautiful Austen story instead, except I’m not. I am yet to master the art of silence, of punctuated breaks and articulated thoughts. I pour my heart out over texts, essay after essay sent to his inbox. And before he has the time to read the love letters imploding his phone, I send another one for silence scares me. I try to fill it, the harrowing silence, with words. Words upon words. And let me tell you a thing about words. They become meaningless after a while when you use them to fill voids. They abandon you. You’re left with empty syllables, a pinning heart and emojis for answers. These late night blunders, words thrown into black holes are coming back to haunt me. Even the cats are judging my sanity now.

Judgemental housemate!

3 Years On…

If I look back, it is obvious that I had my head in the clouds when I rolled my bags across the Pearson International Airport. It was a crisp summer morning in Toronto and yet the universe got into action like it usually does, my flight got delayed thrice. But then I am a desi through and through and reading signs just isn’t my thing.  I went on to board that flight and then another and then another and landed in the ‘Land of the Pure’, my eyes set on a bright future. I was going to live alone in Lahore and take rickshaws at 4 in the morning to go watch sunrise from the minarets of Badshahi Mosque and do reporting for a kick-ass newspaper.

I ended up renting a room in a crumbling old building in the poshest area of the city, working as a content writer and coming to terms with my limited access to public space as a girl . Life as a single girl living independently in Lahore isn’t Saba Imtiaz’s ‘Karachi You’re Killing Me’ after all. Here I was relying on male friends to drive me around the city (pre-Uber era), getting pinched in the markets now and then by perverts and finding out that a good sized water melon shouldn’t cost me Rs.1000.

But after three years of living alone in this city, fighting with landlords and dealing with broken water motors and moody circuit breakers at three in morning, I’ve come to realize that Lahore’s home now. Of course, I can’t go for a run on the streets or lay down with a book in a public park. I can’t roll up my pants and dangle my feet in the nehr at night or walk into a market without being ogled from head to toe. But it is in Lahore that I truly kicked off a budding career in communications and community management. I found my path in the yellow woods. I met the most important people in my life along with the most helpful strangers. The city sucked ego and cynicism out of my chest, shattered me more than once and then let me rebuild myself. I’m still in the process of learning to look for solutions, jugaads instead of complaining and crying. I’m still in the process of learning what is socially acceptable and what is not. Wrapping up three years in this city seems like a feat and just about the right time to go from  being the ‘New Girl in Lahore’ to just ‘Girl in Lahore’.

All Hail Lady Rina and Her Kitchenette

It had been months! The man in shinning Ray-Ban wasn’t budging. I needed to dress up, look sharp and be swept off to a nice dinner but his definition of a dinner date has been changed to ‘Netflix and Chill’ or rather ‘Torrents and Take Out’ and there’s nothing one can do about it except wait for the internet bundle to run out. And when it did run out, I slipped on my new Mango tee (that’s as dressed up as I’ll ever be) and he pulled out his Toms. Off we went to Rina’s Kitchenette (the one on Main Boulevard).

There’s much to be said about pretentious dinning in Lahore but I’d rather keep my mouth zipped here. Walk into one of the more upscale restaurants and when you find Drake blazing out of the speakers as you fiddle with your fork and knife,  you’ll know what I’m talking about. Rina’s Kitchenette was a different story.

We found ourselves seated on a communal table with nice plush bar stools, no wooden seat corners digging into my thighs, no back aching, no staring back at K in sheer awkwardness. It was an informal and yet comfortable seating with a fun and casual vibe. K ordered Chicken Schnitzel and I went for Aglio E Olio. Simple comfort food cooked to perfection. His was golden and crisp and came with fresh home made bread. Mine was hearty and wholesome and tasted even better the next day. The dessert, the dessert, the Nutella Caramel cake slice! We dug into it with our tiny teaspoons satiating a desire we didn’t know of before! And I have kept going back for it again and again. Lazy K’s skeptical, I wouldn’t be able to hold off the weight I lost over the past couple of weeks but trust me! If I end up leaving Lahore, I’d be bummed I didn’t have my cake and eat as much of it as my heart desired!

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The first time we went to Rina’s Kitchenette, we were too engrossed in the food to snap a few pictures for the blog. Making do with this one from the second visit!

PS. Someone pray the internet bundle runs out again! There’s this Smash Burger that everyone’s been talking about! Man in Shinning Ray-Ban, are you listening?