I have always been a fan of fresh Fruit Chaat. The idea of having individual bite size pieces of fresh fruit, popping with their own bursts of flavour in a swirling amalgamation as you chew, has always fascinated me. Every little square piece of fruit, has its own taste.. its own texture. It has its own place in that little bowl of Fruit Chaat. You can taste the bittery sweetness of the little red Anaar seed, the mushy sugariness in the banana, the delicate earthiness of the guava, and that childlike excitement you feel when you crunch into the little apple square. The effort and time that has gone into preparing that little bowl of goodness is evident – from selecting the freshest of fruits, and then cutting them down so that they still have their own individuality, but form an unmatched union when mixed together.
The other day, I was shopping at our Mohalla grocery shop…a tiny little shop shelved from the floor to the ceiling with all sorts of things – brown from all the dust they have collected over the weeks. As I strained to look for some detergent, I noticed a green tin, resting rather awkwardly on a barrel of Desi Ghee. I asked the young sprightly shopkeeper to show me the green tin. He sprang up and picked the tin, dusting it lightly with a Kapraa to make it look all gleamy and new, and turned around to show it to me. My heart sank as he approached me, the writing on the tin becoming larger and larger with every advancing step of his. It read “CALIFORNIA – FRUIT SALAD IN SYRUP”. Something alien to me now loomed in my Mohalla shop, with an eerie distant feel. I wanted to buy the tin, and take it home to bin so as to “save” my fellow Mohalla mates from what that tin represented. Suddenly, the warmth and homeliness of my fresh Fruit Chaat was under threat from this cold, steely, alien “Fruit Salad in Syrup”.. that too Californian!
The family structure in Pakistan to me is like the fresh Fruit Chaat. We all have our own individual personalities, and each person has a part to play in orchestrating the symphony of daily life within the home. From the Dadi, Dada, Beta, Beti, Bahu, Potay.. even the resident pet, Mithu Miaan.. each entity is a beam holding up the household. The intricacies involved with each relation have trickled down through centuries, and we are fortunate to live within such a social fabric.
On comes the “Californian Fruit Salad” dabba – a steely container of mush floating in an artificially sweetened liquid. That to me represents what the Western family unit is all about – compartmentalisation. The family has been so overly governed by laws and the supposed illusion of “freedom”, that what could have been a colourful, harmonious array of fresh fruit, is now a dull bottled and uniform container of isolated, gloomy mush. The western family unit is just that.. a Unit – not a Structure. Every relationship is tinned, compartmentalised and isolated – opened only when required to use, and discarded when expired.
The West, now slowly being re-introduced to the concept of organic farming, are slowly going off the Tinned Fruit and moving back to the fresh Fruit Chaat (or is it because they can’t afford it now). However, where does that brazen, deceiving little tin of “Fruit Salad in Syrup” go once it’s been booted out of the West – that’s right – to the shop in my Mohalla that I’ve frequented for years. That little tin of deceit is popularised in the media, and may soon become the fad of a new generation – unfortunately this fad has some serious repercussions. Let’s celebrate being Fruit Chaats and not Tinned Fruit – we are a people blessed with all that is good.. if we strengthen and guard our bonds within our home, we will automatically bind together as a nation – a harmonious symphony that moves at the same pace, towards the same goal.
"Fatima Zaynab is a silent observer, and deeply devoted to the Pakistan she sees and breathes each day. Her writings are a peephole into her beautiful land, its people and the moments that make her Pakistan what it is – grand.”