Lusting After Lahore

Her blood red saree playing peekaboo with her henna dyed feet, her feet in motion. Your eyes in a trance. She keeps moving, her naked torso emerging like a cone tree out of the hills. You’re on a train and the hills are in motion, moving past you, swaying. And just as you think you have finally caught hold of her pallu, it slips through your fingers. She’s always in motion, you’re always in tow. Lahore’s  the kind of lady you can only dream of conquering…

She’ll never be yours. She’ll never be mine. But dream we can. And dream we will.

Perhaps one day the pallu will be in our hands, ready to be pealed away from her figure. Till then we dream, you and I. And she moves…

Lahore Walli: Tülin Khalid-Azim


Kicking off this section with a heart-to-heart with Tülin Khalid-Azim.  If you don’t know her already, she is a freelance theatre director who dabbles in modern calligraphy, hand-lettering and design.  Here’s what she has to say about how she came to accept Lahore finally…

Defence is Islamabad within Lahore. My husband and I came to that conclusion the first time we moved here in 2010 from Islamabad. I had been determined to bond well with the city during our first move. But Lahore! Ah! Lahore! We have a complicated relationship.

I began this complicated relationship by refusing to drive here, relying entirely on my husband and the driver instead. The traffic here terrified me, especially the assault of motorcycles and rickshaws from every angle.

And then my husband and I went from having a toddler to a toddler with a newborn. It didn’t help our relationship, Lahore and mine. I am not ashamed to admit that I was overwhelmed, struggling with postpartum depression, and living in a self-imposed isolation while trying to care for the kids.  I was relieved when my husband changed jobs, and we moved back to Islamabad in 2013.

Fast-forward to 2014, and my husband got a great job offer based in—you guessed it—Lahore. This time, though, I vowed to not make the same mistakes, starting with the decision to take on Lahori traffic head on. Oh my! The traffic still drives me crazy, but that one decision has been the most empowering. I have learned the layout of the whole city, taking time to explore Gulberg and the Western side in ways that were impossible for me the last time. I have joined a yoga class, which forces me out of the house regularly, and into a happy, friendly environment regularly. I’ve made good friends with other moms at the kids’ school, and, perhaps most importantly, I have kept myself busy. I don’t work full time, instead taking on freelance projects or working on my modern calligraphy practice, allowing me to spend more time with the kids, and set the pace of my life as I would like.

Lahore Calligraphy
Lettered by Tulin

I’ve understood that Lahore is a different city for those who have grown up here, and they will maintain that their soul belongs to this city. For the elite, it would be summers spent at the pool at Gymkhana or Royal Palm, winters spent riding at the Polo Club, exhibitions, openings, and the winter party and wedding season. For Lahoris in general, it means eating out together regularly (the options are fantastic, and has become a weekend ritual for our family, too), meeting friends and family, going to Liberty or Fortress Stadium on the weekends, enjoying the Shalimar gardens, and generally having fun in public spaces. That’s one thing you have to give credit to Lahoris for: they are bon vivant, and it’s difficult to not get swept away by that love for life when you’re here.

Have I integrated myself wholeheartedly into the Lahori lifestyle the second time around? I can’t say that I have, but it does finally feel like home.  And Lahore, now that I’m showing you some love, if you could do me a solid and cool down a few degrees, our relationship would be a lot less complicated.

This Sunday..

Note: This series is an attempt at promoting everything local. Like all posts, this one is strung with love too. No paid endorsements on the blog. However, if you feel there is something that I might enjoy, recommend it and I’ll write up an honest review. 

Because there are two kinds of people in the world, ones who are too hungover to get off their beds on a Sunday morning and others who rise early but don’t know what to do with their lives on the most precious day of the week. For the lack of a happening social life, I fall into the second category. Here’s to hoping that I’m not alone…

My recommendations for tomorrow:

Oral Hygiene: Organic Toothpaste by Inqalab

New Girl in Lahore - Inqalab Organic Toothpaste Lahore
Ahmed from Meem Photography took this amazing shot for me.

Let’s not even get me started on fluoride and what it does to your body. You don’t want it in your toothpaste or your drinking water. Before I lose you to your mini google research on fluoride, go run to the bathroom and get your toothpaste tube out. Yes, its full of sweeteners, synthetic flavors, fluoride, artificial colors and a whole lot of gibberish that you and I can’t understand. I’d rather you use miswak than a toothpaste but if you are as burger as I am and hold your tooth brush like a violin bow then look for a toothpaste with ingredients you know. So far, the only one I’ve found in Lahore is this Organic Toothpaste by Inqalab. I find the packing a tad bit small for the price. However, I will keep buying it because of what is in there: coconut oil, turmeric, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. My teeth definitely feel clean and squeaky after use but the best part is that I don’t have to worry about a chemist’s experiment playing havoc in my body.

Minimal Footwear: Khussa & Kolhapuri from Khussa Mahal

New Girl in Lahore - Khussa Mahal Liberty Market
Thanks to Ahmed from Meem Photography I have pictures on the blog finally.

When you wear a size 6.5 and go on a shoe shopping spree in Lahore, you don’t have many options. Nothing fits perfectly, nothing is comfortable enough. You can either go on a scavenger hunt in the flea market near Mayo Hospital for used shoes that someone in the States donated or dive into the world of khussas and kolhapuris. A khussa made with love will embrace your feet, take their shape and grow on you. But not all khussas are created equal. Some will leave marks on your feet, others will never seize pinching you. In my experience, I have only found khussas from a particular shop in Hussain Agahi, Multan and Khussa Mahal in Liberty, Lahore to be truly comforting. These khussas stop pinching after the first few days, become softer with use and leave no marks. And since I’m all against cushioned shoes, arch support and heels (though I do wear them on special occasions), I only wear my trusty pair of vibrams and khussas/kolhapuri chappals on a daily basis.

Feel-Good Fix: Manicure from Araamish

I posed, rather my hands posed, for this picture a day after I got a manicure from Araamish. Photo Credits: Ibrahim S.

Don’t judge me on this one after my long sermon on gibberish ingredients in toothpaste. Yes, I apply nail paint. And I know its got chemicals. But I like chemical indulgence on lazy Sunday afternoons when I hop over to Araamish and get Essie nail paint added to my manicure. Yes, Araamish is as organic as a spa gets in Lahore. I’m not going to start on their chakra therapy massages, organic facials and fresh fruit hair masks right now. All I’m saying is, this Sunday hop over to Araamish, get hot stones added to your pedicure, red nail paint on your finger nails and feel the difference a good masseuse can make in your life. Smell that fennel in their complimentary tea…feel your velvety hands.. you’re welcome!

Hope you wake up tomorrow with something lined up! 🙂


Sugar Free Journey – First Leg

I believe the ladies on the internet. Yes, these are women I’ve never met. I read about their experiences and let myself be inspired. Its a sisterhood of the holistic women up here on the internet and I trust their natural ways. So when my sisters  of the internet embraced the no-poo method couple of years ago, I vowed to go shampoo free too. A couple of years later..

I boiled water and mixed in baking soda, poured the concoction over my head and followed it with a milk or lemon rinse. The first few times, it didn’t feel very different. My hair caught onto the routine. No adjustment period. No grease. I was chemical free. One less plastic bottle in my bathroom. Life was beautiful. And then one day I saw the roughness, split ends eating up the tips of my hair. I hadn’t used oil for the longest out of fear of not being able to rinse it out with baking soda. My hair was a horror story unfolding in front of my eyes. I was screaming.

Finally I gave in and took out my holy grail Loccitane shampoo. For a few days I couldn’t look myself in the mirror. I had given up on something the sisters were practicing. I was embarrassed. But then I got caught up with another idea of theirs – sugar free meals. Only this idea was being vouched by a friend too. And so I quit sugar.

Sugar! My drug! My addiction. My beloved. We broke up. It has been three weeks now. My head is a little dizzy some days, a little achy too. In the first week of the experiment, I found myself lusting after Fanta (yes, Fanta), eyeing Cosa Nostra’s ice cream with a renewed reverence and binge eating tamarind. The sourness would somehow cancel out the need for the sweet. I watched “That Sugar Film” every day. Life became tough.

Three weeks later its not any easier. I feel spaced out now and then. Guilt feeds off me right after I eat bread. I have had to not only bid adieu to pastries, ice creams and sodas, I have also had to adjust my tastebuds to a life without ketchup. Who lives without ketchup! I do now!

While I haven’t noticed any pounds shedding off my abdomen or my skin clearing up, I have certainly stopped craving sugar after lunch and in the middle of the night. I no longer feel the need to rush to Kitchen Cuisine for a pastry or devour one chocolate after another. Instead, I eat water melon. Lots of it. And yes fruit sellers in this city rip you off. Next time you go to a fruit stall take a friend who speaks Punjabi with you. It helps with the bargain!


Presenting Al-Haraam …S’more donut from Jelly Modern Doughnuts!




I’m slow. It is only after I have analyzed a dialogue in my head a few hours later do I realize that I received a compliment. That is saying a lot for someone who sells their communication skills to prospective employers. That brings me to my first resolution of this year. Told you, I am slow. Didn’t believe me, did ya?

I’m job hunting. I’ve landed on one and have my fingers crossed. The idea is to enter the world of creativity again. There have been blocks and barriers in my head. I need to get past them. But before any of that happens, I need to be able to leave my current workplace on a good note. I’m in the process. Somebody teach me assertiveness, please?!

My second resolution is much harder. My earliest memories in the kitchen are of my dad and I making “anda hulwa” at odd hours when sugar cravings’d hit. We’d beat some eggs, throw in sugar, raisins, almonds and milk and then scramble it all out. My childhood was coated in  castor sugar and so is my adulthood (ahem).  Or lets say was until last week when N mentioned the “The Sugar Film” documentary over dinner. I’m going to be writing about my cold turkey sugar cleanse more. Yes, I have gone cold turkey. No sugar for Ms. Sugar, please!

My third resolution is to find a place near work. Another year, another house. Same conditions. Conservative city. You get the idea, right?

I sometimes forget that this is a blog and not my personal diary. Thank you for sticking around if you are still reading.

With love from this heated city of Lahore,



Mad World’s Savaree to Careem!

Our first interaction…

She knocked on my door one monsoon morning asking for Lipton. I handed her my jar of loose tea and she raised her eyebrows. I felt sorry for her instantly. After all anyone in their right senses wouldn’t soak up a tea bag in boiled water, mix in a heaping spoon full of powdered milk and call it chai. That is anyone who isn’t a workaholic. Then again, who is saying workaholics are sane? (Lets hope my boss doesn’t read my blog).

In the following months, I learned that my instincts had been right for once. Tea bag, Everyday chai is a typical desi office drink and anyone accustomed to this mixture has spent too many days buried in work to differentiate it from chai.

Madeeha did indeed turn out to be a workaholic. She’d be up before the muezzins started fighting on their loudspeakers waking up the faithfuls. I know this because we lived in the same compound opposite Shapes and the light getting turned on in her room was cue for me to go sleep.

As time passed, I learned more about her. There was nothing dearer to her than Savaree.  I’d listen to her practice her pitch before investor summits. There were articles being published about her. She was being invited to conferences. She was all over the internet. She knew people who knew people who knew people. During these times, I published my first blog post about Savaree. She shared it. Job offers started pouring in for me. I was happy. She was happy. Savaree was finally making business.  She was flying high. Her life was going to become a success story. And then I saw the fall.

It was slow, painful and dragged. Dark. She shed weight, slouched into depression.

There were competitors now…

An offer came from Uber. She declined. She wanted to compete. Investors didn’t want to risk though. Madeeha was alone. The hardest part was seeing the realization dawn upon her that she had to let go.

None of us could help her. It was a journey that she had to undertake herself. And then we saw her emerge from the other end of the tunnel. The realization had dawned.

A few days ago, Careem acquired Savaree. She did what was best for her ‘baby’.

Her life is a success story!

Mad World, YDPs are proud of you!



They have it easy, the ones who can mourn the dead

– Kamila Shamsie

I wonder sometimes, where would I be now, had I seen his body cough up his soul free. They tell their versions of his death. The dead body she saw on Skype, he bathed, she kissed…the dead body. Soul-less, stiffened, cold.

What if I had my own version? What if I had seen life gather itself out of the moles on his soles? Had I seen life make that bitter escape from his body would I have mourned his death altogether all at once?

It’s different now when the mind take its liberties. He is out there somewhere, perhaps. Hope is a creepy little thing, I tell you. Hope. Aasha..