Before the Taliban: Memories of Peshawar
by Farzana Versey
Countercurrents, May 12, 2009
As the city is on edge, and friends are being seen as enemies, I want to share recollections of the times I spent in the capital of the frontier province on the trips I made to Pakistan between the years 2000 and 2007.
* * *
We were hungry. I told Salim, my guide, I wanted to eat at an authentic Kabuli restaurant. Breads were being baked on upturned woks. The place was packed. I was the only woman in there. A scraggly-looking man came up to us and parted a curtain; the few men having their meal immediately got up and moved out without a word. Chivalry was unspoken and not brandished with a flourish.
The sofa felt wonderfully comfortable after the long drive. The moment I raised my eyes I found (Indian film star) Ajay Devgan staring at me. Stuck on the wall, his photograph typified the Afghan obsession with Hindi films.
We had a hearty meal. There was a stew, some barbequed meats and sautéed vegetables. The food did not leave you feeling full, cooked as it was with a touch so light that even flesh had a feathery texture. Bowls of yoghurt served as dessert.
Driving back to the city, we passed another route. This was Hayatabad; it was called the mini Islamabad due to its well-structured houses, trees peeping out of high walls, bursts of floral colour in the balconies. The inhabitants were invisible. Who were they? Salim explained, ‘Mainly Afghans, the ones who have made it big. But they can only rent the houses, not buy them. There are two million Afghan mohajirs here, so they say Peshawar should be theirs.’ --->
(more of the extract here or on the link in the title)