In some ways it is getting harder to write about pound cake and muddy feet and the search for a good cheeseburger these days in Pakistan. These are still the things of daily life that are on my mind, but in the background is news, lately every single week, of terrorist violence.
Close as it is in some ways, this violence still doesn’t touch the routines of my daily life; I don’t go to the kinds of places that are being attacked, and I am not one of the many Pakistanis who have lost family members in the last few weeks. When you see reports on the news of violence in Pakistan, please don’t be alarmed for me; my insulated bubble is holding up just fine. But of course we think about it.
Yesterday an attack in a crowded market in Peshawar killed over 100 people, many of them women and children. Americans generally aren’t allowed to go to Peshawar anymore, and I have never been there. I’ve heard it is a beautiful, historic city. Even though it is only a two-hour drive from here, it seems like a different world, and these days not the safest place to be. This week the Taliban is targeting Pakistani citizens, normal, everyday people, in an attempt to unsettle the government and the nation. Last week it was college students in a cafeteria at an Islamic university. Before that it was an army headquarters building, and before that a UN food program office. I think these things make all of us want to work harder and do more to support stability in this country in any way we can.
But I plan to continue writing about cheeseburgers. The things I notice most about Pakistan and that I write about–the fresh juices, the red carrots, the weather, weddings, potatoes cooked in tomato sauce for breakfast, the everyday features of being and working in Islamabad–are the real things that make up a life, and for that reason I am going to keep writing about them. They are also the things most under attack by the Taliban in this country at present. For most people who live here, Pakistan isn’t a country of violence and terror, it is just a place they want to live: a normal, familiar hometown or neighborhood where they want to go about their day with their family or friends, picking up vegetables at the market and enjoying fresh air on a Wednesday afternoon.
Yesterday, on my own Wednesday afternoon, I had lunch at the employees only cafeteria of the hotel where I am staying this week, which is quickly becoming my favorite (secret) place to eat. On the menu was chanay, whole boiled eggs in a mildly spicy chickpea stew, on the side a nice crunchy cabbage and tomato salad with yogurt, and lots of hot roti coming out of the back kitchen every two minutes to help scoop everything up. There was also always a special semi-hidden pan of rice at the women’s only table, from which I snuck a spoonful. Then halwa for dessert and green tea, and the whole thing finished up in ten satisfying minutes so you can get back to work. It absolutely beats the pants off any of the food you can order in room service upstairs, and it’s a bargain at 100 rupees ($1.20).
A post like this should most probably include a picture of the devastation left by the bomb in Peshawar yesterday. But there are plenty of photos of this, all over the news. Instead I include a picture of lunch, that nice, normal thing that I do in Pakistan, along with the other 160 million people who live here. I think we’d all like the chance to continue just doing that.