Outside our Nani’s house was a canal – taking water from the central Lahore Canal to the army fields in the cantonement. On my first trip alone to Lahore – this was seventh grade? – I sat along Joray Pull canal and, um, wished I could jump into the rushing muddy water. When we moved to Lahore in another year or so, I did jump in and we spend the whole summer dodging various crap [yes] that would float down the canal to the fields. I remember that Shakeel got some horrid eye infection that made him look like cyclops for the rest of the summer. I also got a nasty cut on my foot from a bottle shard. We pretty much stopped jumping- and pushing people – in the canal after that summer. It got too nasty. People were forever dumping trash into the canal. Eventually, the banks grew in and the flowing canal shrunk down to became a quasi-sewer for the houses that crawled alongside.
It gets hot in Lahore. By hot, I mean “melt-the-tar-fry-the-brain-boil-a-glass-of-water-hot”. In the late 80s, Ramadan was in the summer. Summer + fasting is, thus, forever linked in my mind. Riding the bike or taking the public transportation to school in over 110 degree heat is crazy enough. On a fast, it is nuts. Our only option to keep hydrated, was to stick to shadows and stand under showers with eyes, mouths and noses clenched tight. Oh. And jump into the Canal. You park your bike in the grassy slope down to the water. Stand on the pavement and look around for any policemen [it is illegal to jump into the Canal]. Take a running start , jump high and, my favorite, hug your knees. Boy, was that fun! In the turbulence of a cannonball, who knows how much water gets swallowed? Not me. God understood, I am sure.
Summer was also the official dedication to my obsessions: cricket, checking out books from the British Council Library, eating mangoes and playing carom board. Playing cricket in the summer is not easy. In our case, we would stay within the partially shaded 3 ft wide side passage to the back garden for “tip-tip” – a version of the game fit only for someone with the discipline of a samurai. And wait until five-thirty-ish in the evening before venturing out to the under-construction school on Joray pull. There, were the two neighborhood pitches upon which all kinds of tape-ball madness took place. Getting a book from the British Council was also tough. The library was only open twice a week and for limited hours. I had to change three buses and it took over two hours to get there. With the membership came the privilege of taking out only three books at a time for, I believe, two weeks. Naturally, I would try to maximize ROI on my time and effort by choosing the fattest books I could find and then proceeding to read them all in one week. The fattest books, invariably, were histories. Let’s say no more about that. Mangoes. Ah. What to say about mangoes? Chaunsa, Sindhri, Langra, Anvar Ratol. The king, for me, was Alphoso. Maybe I will do a post on the history of mangoes in India. For now, I will just ruminate and salivate. Carom board, I was never good at. And all my uncles cheated. And my finger would somehow always get hit hard. And the powder made me sneeze. So, screw that game. One last thing that dominated my summer time. Letters. I wrote a lot of letters during the summer. To abba gee, to the grandparents in sahiwal, to my uncle in Australia, to family friends in Doha. Letters were a lot of fun.
Anyways, I was reminded of all this by Danial’s post. Viva Lahori Garmi.