Fascism comes to Pakistan

I’m no Sinclair Lewis, but I’ll say this now just because I know no one else will:

“When fascism comes to Pakistan, it will be unshaven, wearing a turban, shooting at children and forcing people to blame America for everything.”

It’s only a matter of time, before the government wants to listen to your private calls and monitor everything you do inside your home. It starts here, Pakistan.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

American Flag

Old Glory Silhouette

I was browsing through wordpress reader when I saw the weekly photo challenge. I thought I had a few silhouettes sitting around from this summer vacation, and sure enough, I found one of the most memorable ones!

This picture was taken in Geneva, New York at Seneca Lake.

I recall a wonderful time spent with family, not just on that day but all two months that I was at home.

I also recall a certain ceremony, at which I raised my hand to take the oath of citizenship. I was only a teenager and I didn’t think much of it. I actually felt all the bruhaha was a little redundant given that I was pledging allegiance to the flag every single weekday, first thing in the morning at school.

Living in the country of my birth for three years straight makes me realize exactly how important that ceremony was and exactly how awesome it is to be an American.

More on that, after two years.

Med student: One leg in fourth year, one leg in bed.

Two months away from finals, the insomnia starts to creep its way into my nights.

Nights are a peaceful time for someone living in a commercial area, on the main road. Traffic dies down and the welding neighbor goes home to his wife and kids. The sunlight is too damn bright in this region of the world and that stops being a problem at night. Phone stops ringing, people stop hammering at your metal door, you don’t have to worry about doing dishes, or cooking, or eating. You have the perfect excuse to put every chore and errand off until tomorrow because, well, it’s 4 in the morning! EVERYTHING can wait. 

It’s just so peaceful! It’s the perfect time to stay up and study, or watch a movie, or get blitzed, or eat pomegranates…whatever your vice is. 

Personally, if I’m not studying or writing this blog, I like to think about how wonderful of a choice doing medicine in Pakistan was. As illustrated below:

banging head on wall

Me contemplating my career choice

Recently, our professor of forensic medicine revealed the only criteria we will be graded upon come finals time:

1. Behavior.

2. Attendance.

Since I like staying awake at night and catching up on sleep in and/or during classes, this becomes a problem.

Every time I go to attend his lectures, which by the way are now delivered directly and ONLY to me out of the 100 students present in the lecture hall, this is how I look.

asleep in class gif

Great for torticollis.

Below is how I think I look:

cozy nap

just minding my own business…

and yet this is how my professor perceives me:

tossing and turning gif

A distraction to other students.

 

Is it really that distracting?

Just let me be. I learn better outside the lecture hall.

So, this is where I stand.

I’m two months away from entering fourth year and I can’t seem to change my habit of staying up at night.

The professor is notorious for failing students on a whim. All king shits of turd mountains here are.

Coffee, lets elope.

Here’s a tater for the hater.

tater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cafe Aylanto, Lahore

When reviewing a restaurant on my personal blog, I do it for the kicks. That should be evident since the first one I ever reviewed was a fast food joint. Who wants to sit there and read on & on about some boring restaurant and a load of boring comments on food that someone else ate? I couldn’t do it. I don’t encourage it either. When I want to read a restaurant review, I visit a site built to serve that intensive purpose. Just kidding, read my restaurant reviews. 

Due to the fact that I have ridiculed the honorable name of Pakistan so much, it is only fair that I mention something wonderful about it. Even if it’s only relatively so, although it isn’t.

With that said, here is a brief account of my trip to one Cafe Aylanto, conveniently located on M.M. Alam Road in the Gulberg area of Lahore along with every other restaurant in Pakistan. Seriously. If it’s a restaurant and it’s not on M.M. Alam, prepare yourself for an introduction to gastrointestinal problems you couldn’t pronounce in a decade. Pro tip: you can never prepare yourself for such things. 

If you are intimidated by giant front entrances, you will love this place. It was like driving into my own room, except that this time my room offered valet parking. In the afternoon. How awesome is that?

The host greeted us with a smile and walked us past the family hall, dedicated to groups with children, into the more intimate and busier dining hall. Past that would have been their alfresco seating which I never got a good look at, but would be a wonderful setting come winter time. I happily accepted a table and chair, for the sofas and high tables always seem so awkward. I don’t like being at eye level with my food. It’s just weird. Always feel like it’s staring back at me.

As the server brought out a soft, fresh baguette we had decided to order a room temperature bottle of water for myself and a piña colada for the lady, non-alcoholic of course. The baguette was served with a delicious spread, garnished with just the right amount of herbs.

Cafe Aylanto Lahore

Aylanto offers a variety of menu options, conveniently categorized by the type of cuisine and meat. The pancake incident at a different time and different place had left us feeling a bit insecure about our expectations. Despite being worried about ordering steak and receiving a meatloaf, we decided to order a chateaubriand steak with bearnaise sauce and a flame grilled tenderloin with stroganoff sauce & pasta. By the way, they had kobe beef burgers on the menu. I just couldn’t bring myself to trust them with it. I would now, and here’s why: their steaks were absolutely off the hook!

cafe aylanto steak

Chateaubriand steak with béarnaise sauce.

The chateaubriand tenderloin, cooked medium well to all of it’s scrumptious perfection made me believe in God. No man could have come up with this recipe. The creamy, smooth béarnaise sauce was worth the blasphemy. This must be the fifth or sixth steak I’ve had in my last three years in Pakistan. All of them in Lahore I believe, out of which two of the best were at Gunsmoke & Salt n’ Pepper. I detest their unavailability in my area. Seriously. Not ONE joint in Mirpur that serves a beef steak.

Anyhow, the other steak we ordered was just as delicious, if not better. I only got to take one bite out of flame grilled tenderloin with stroganoff sauce for this review’s sake. My fiancee did, ever so graciously, offer me the left over pasta which came with it though. She also insinuated that I ordered the better of the two steaks and screwed her out of the easier-to-cut chateaubriand, but I had nothing to do with that. I knew just as much about the place as her and anything else you hear her say is pure propaganda. She is tiny, she would have had just as much trouble with the chateaubriand. 

cafe aylanto

Flame grilled tenderloin with stroganoff sauce & pasta.

Yes, I am starting to add my own little copyright stamp to my pictures because they are awesome and I deserve whatever credit I can get for them. 

For dessert we shared a tiramisu. Lady fingers never tasted any better.

Tiramisu at cafe aylanto lahore

Tiramisu: Where all good tastebuds go when they die.

This is almost unnecessary, but just so that we’re clear:

Food: ★★★★★

Service: ★★★★

Ambiance: ★★★★★

Value for Price: ★★★★★

 

About a friend of mine…

No one celebrates my victories like her and no one knows how to handle my failures the way she does.

She roots for my independence, demands self sufficiency, but never closes the doors to the safest harbor I know.

She has only given me responsibilities I can handle, and instilled within me the desire to honor them.

She taught me the value of respecting others, and how to earn my own.

She is demanding, but she never demanded perfection.

She has always been behind me, supporting me in everything I do and gently pulling me away from everything I shouldn’t, and praying either way for my safety and well being.

She has managed to fill my bucket of self esteem so high, that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes in it to drain it dry.

She is irreplaceable.

In the words of old Abe, all that I am or ever hope to be, I owe it to my angel mother.

Mango's Mama

Happy birthday Mama! As a child I was always afraid that she would get old and stop running around with me, the way that her mother did. I used to pray that she never gets old, and I swear on everything, she didn’t.

Breakfast at Coffee Tea and Company (CTC), Lahore

Nostalgia will drag you places. It had only been a month since I last tasted pancakes, but I was missing them dearly. So imagine my delight upon finding out that a café in Lahore was serving them. The only thing I enjoy better than food is the company of my love, and on a rare occasion I avail the opportunity to experience them both simultaneously. This was one of those rare occasions.

Sidebar: Dear reader, if you’re planning an honor killing after reading the last paragraph, you should know that by “love” I meant *insert something religious*. Praise Allah, don’t kill me.

Yes, that absolutely was necessary.

The harsh reality of living in Pakistan. Truth. Leaves a bitter taste in my mouth too.

Moving on.

I had heard of this place before, called Coffee Tea & Company and abbreviated as CTC by it’s patrons. I heard it was expensive and reserved for the elite class of Lahore and Pakistan. Rest assured ladies and gentlemen, their prices are very reasonable and they are in a very accessible area of Lahore. It is not just for the money laundering zakat-fund robbers & politician’s children.

The first thing you notice is the cliche, English coffee house environment, bedecked with contemporary art and old fashioned lighting. The entrance is into a patisserie located downstairs below the actual restaurant. The wooden stairs lead up to the sitting area. I wish I could present a better analysis of the architecture, but unfortunately I was too hungry to keep account and I lack the vocabulary even if I wasn’t.

The sitting area was lively. The crowd itself presented an assortment of families, couples, teenagers and foreigners. It was a bouquet of diversity. That put me at ease. We enjoy not sticking out you see. It helps evade the inevitable. The nail that sticks out, they say, gets hammered down.

The menu offered a variety of pancakes. Although I was sticking to their breakfast items, I did manage a quick sneak at their appetizers and I don’t want to say it because I’m afraid I’ll jinx it, but I think they had chicken wings with blue cheese. A reason to go back sometime, perhaps? Though I have yet to visit any restaurant in Punjab twice.

We ordered their blueberry pancakes and the strawberry banana pancakes.

Now, I am not a food aficionado by any means, nor do I consider myself a pancake connoisseur but I have had a variety of pancakes in my lifetime. From the Indian dosas and uppams to Italian crespelles and french crepes (oh shut up, they’re pancakes), they have always been this thin, flat cake made of batter and flipped around in a pan. This wasn’t the case here. Take a look at these bad boys.

The strawberry and banana “pancake”

The blueberry “pancake”

Of course, naturally, my response was of denial. I always underestimate the power of Pakistani creativity. Here’s RDJ doing what I did:

Nope. Nope. No. Nooo, no no no.

I tried telling the waiter that these are not Pancakes. These, in fact are not even close to being pancakes and the waiter was like:

This is Pakistan!

That’s the traditional response in Pakistan to any criticism, constructive or otherwise. The customer is never right and may go fuck himself if he insists that he is.

Anyways, don’t judge a pancake by it’s shape.

Whatever they were, THEY WERE DELICIOUS!

The maple syrup was authentic and the butter was surprisingly fresh. I wanted to eat it with a spoon but that would have been dangerous, so I pasted it all over and around the pakicakes (term coined) and inhaled them.

A sugar high ensued, which had to be enhanced by a caffeine rush induced by some over sweetened chai.

We sat around and chatted for a while as the lunch crowd dragged in. I heard a burrito being ordered somewhere behind me.

How random is this place?

Price per head: 500 (average)

Food: Delightful.

Service: Quick, unorthodox. No assigned waiter but I think that’s for the best.

Ambiance: Excellent.

Parking: None.

This place is a MUST if you visit Lahore, only because there aren’t many places in Lahore serving breakfast without dead houseflies in it.

Last night…

I was trying to study bacteriology & parasitology. 

It was difficult. All I could imagine was a nematode crawling around in my soleus. 

Needless to say, I have a very vivid and, at times, over-active imagination.

So far, every single disease I have studied, I have also tried to find in myself.

This is one of the reasons why I was able to quit smoking so fast. From 2 packs a day to cold turkey on January 22nd, 2012 and never again. I would spend nights after nights, staring at the ceiling and picturing the cilia suddenly become paralyzed. I would see the metaplasia transforming my airway epithelium and a cold chill would run down my spine followed by the inevitable neurogenic dyspnea. Anxiety would ensue and I would sit up, light a cigarette and walk out of the room with the iPod & a cup of coffee. By the way, did you know that if you become consciously aware of your breathing, you WILL suffer from some degree of dyspnea until you’re distracted? Most people will, anyways. I did, I still do. 

“Everything we studied today, I have it & I’m going to die!”

Moving on, or actually, coming back to the topic. I went on to close the microbiology books and decided to rest my head for a while…on my pillow. Of course I started talking to myself and somewhere during the discourse, I fell asleep. 

30 minutes later, I was awake but I wasn’t in my flat. Not for the first few seconds at least. The power was out and I thought I was in a completely different world somewhere. I was frightened to my very core. I tried to reason with myself only to no resolve. There was no rationale behind my fear, just that my heart was beating super fast. At first, I thought night terrors. That was easy to rule out because I wasn’t suffering from fever, no chills and absolutely no sweating despite the fan being off. Also, people with night terrors are usually able to fall back asleep withing 20-30 minutes; something I wasn’t able to do all night. It was just, very very dark. It was 4am! However, I could see everything in my room. One of the things I saw was my cupboard, which I never leave open, ajar! That didn’t help.

Now all I could imagine was someone, a rogue member of some fundamentalist group barging in through my flat door. I kept making mental notes about purchasing a gun the first thing in the morning. I was mentally beating myself up for not already having purchased it. Why was everything so visible? Was the moon out? I didn’t have it in me to get up off my bed and look. I just wanted to fall asleep but closing my eyes only enhanced the fears. There was this feeling of an oncoming, imminent disaster! 

At 4:40am, the power came back. The weirdest thing because it wasn’t supposed to be back until 5:00am. I was relieved though, but that relief only lasted until 4:50, when it went out again. Power doesn’t fuck around like that in Mirpur where I live. It’s consistent with it’s coming and going. At this point, I tried to call my fiancee because I thought it would help to talk with someone. And since it pours when it rains, my phone was getting NOTHING but static. I think that was the tipping point for me.

So like any other normal human being, I sat up and signed on to Twitter and started tweeting all that was going on. 

Yes, like every other biped on earth, I also have a Facebook and a Twitter.

It actually helped a lot.

I went on to tweet until about 5:30 AM.

Then I watched the Cowboys vs. Bears game until 6:30. That’s when the alarm was set for.

That urge to purchase a gun went away after a cold shower.

I’m not anti-gun, I just never liked the idea of having something I would regret using. Seriously. 

Of course during the test today, I was like:

What is all this jibberish?

Yeah I handed in a blank sheet of paper for the parasitology part. I could have attempted a few questions but my heart wasn’t in it. 

As for reaching an explanation for last night’s little extravaganza:

Probably just test-anxiety manifesting itself as a nightmare that I didn’t remember upon waking up.

We only remember 10% of our dreams. That’s a fact. I remember less than that. 

The cupboard door left ajar and the static on my cellphone go unexplained, for now. 

Earth’s magnetic field playing with the solar winds? Oh for fuck’s sake, who you gonna call?