The good doctor makes a fine point. The world wouldnt be such a wonderful place if it were made of identical, emotionless, cultureless, robots would it? Diversity, whether it be of gender, colour, religon, culture or thoughts is what gives the world its flavor……. Its also what causes most of the problems in the world but lets not focus on the negative for this post!
It is with this spirit and thought in mind that my office recently celebrated The World Day for Diversity. As part of the days celebrations we were required to wear our indigenious regional costume and also had an option to bring a regional delicacy for everyone to taste.
A day which combines fashion and food….Now thats my kind of celebration!!!
I’m a bit of “mixed breed” as it were; Persian & Pathan settled in KPK from my fathers side and Afghan & Pathan settled in Baluchistan from my mothers side is a bit of a mouthful! and even more of a pain to explain when someone asks! However it does give one the advantage of drawing on a large pool of cultural variety, which is exactly what I did when choosing my outfit for the day 🙂
My choice for the day’s celebrations was the traditional balouchi suit, which is a frock like shirt with a lot of hand embroidered work all over worn with the tapered bottoms known as a shalwar. I had several of these handed down to me from my mother which were unfortunately too big for me but had recently acquired one handed down to me by my cousin (thank you hanoo) which fit me perfectly.
Moi all dressed up in my finery
The suit in question was atleast 30-40 years old and the work on it took 12 years to finish!!
Seemless embroidery on the neck & sleeves. Plus a traditional cuff bracelet and rings to complete the look
The work which is all done by hand is incredibly intricate. Traditionaly done by wives, mothers and daughters in baluchistan ,it is done without the tracing of any patterns! The women simply work their needles by working with the weave of the fabric and letting it guide their hands. Thats why it takes so long to complete and why its like wearing a piece of history.
By the way if you’ve noticed the braids in my hair, they werent there when I arrived at the office. The traditional baluchi women have long hair which they wear in a myriad of tiny braids which they then bunch up into an updo and cover with their dupattas. My colleagues were not going to let me get away with a less than traditional hairstyle!
Now I was not going to ruin my immaculate blowdry by having my hair braided into a gazillion tiny braids. I did however sit still while one of my female colleagues made 3 tiny braids on either side of my head and then drew and secured them at the back of my head with a bobby pin.
Left: Me holding the braids in place while my colleague hunts for a bobby pin
Right: Me with my new hairdo
Ok so enough about me and my outfit (although I could go on) lets shift our focus from fashion to food.
The office cafeteria was converted into a kind of national buffet with long tables laden with all sorts of regional fare and hungry people eager to try everything. The deal was made sweeter by the announcement that there would be a prize for the best dish as voted by the office!
My choice for the feast was a traditional Afghan Pulao (pillaf). Rice made fragrant with aromatics like clove, cinamon and star anise, slowly cooked with large cuts of meat (lamb but in this case beef) that melt in your mouth. Adding to the texture and flavor are raisins, whole mild green chillies and dates…..now if that is not a winning dish, I dont know what is!
So the serving starts and I start whipping out platefulls of the pulao as fast as I could to what seemed like a neverending line of people…
Yummy YummY Yummy!!!
By the time I was done serving everyone, I looked around and saw that most of the other food was gone before I could even taste it!!
So I scavenged around the tables and came across some left over odds and ends…
Sweet, Rich and Luscious! Sohn Halwa; a speciality from southern Punjab
Some rather excellent brie which I wolfed down withe some leftover crusty french bread
Paan: betel leaf combined with areca nut coconut, fruit preserves, gulkand (rose petal preserves), various spices
Please note the wrapping around the paan!! quirkiness at its best!
And finally, the best find of all…..Firni!
Firni: A dessert made by boiling rice with milk and sugar, and flavoured with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashew nuts, pistachios or almonds.
The traditional Firni like the one in the picture, once made is put into small clay cups and chilled. Once set, the cups are placed on top of one another and chilled further till they are sold in pairs. The two cups together look a bit like a large oyster, which when opened reveals the creamy fragrant firni. It doesnt stay that way for long as most people are only to eager to eat taste the delicate pudding…you’re lucky I managed to control myself and take a picture half way through!
When the time came for the results of the best dish competition to be announced, yours truly marched proudly forward to collect first prize!
I am fiercely proud of my Pathan/Afghan/Persian roots. They are all races which are famous for their bravery, honor, honesty and hospitality; so I’m glad I did them proud on the day.
At the end of the day, the thought that lingered in my mind was that the things that make us different like food, clothes, customs are not what divide us but what can bring us together if only we remove our blinkers and look around us to see the wonder that the world has to offer us.
No one is better or worse than anyone else…everyone is just different, and that is something to be proud of and definitely something worth celebrating!