Postcards from Murree, Pakistan
after Nina Mingya Powles
We drink milky hot tea from dainty teacups, pastel porcelain. With it, the mist rising in the mountains around us, and petrichor. The sound of children playing, the tips of their shoes pattering up and down the steep hills. Soft and crumbly parathas, fresh from the tava, cooked by phupo, her fingers dipped in ghee. Two fried eggs glaze the plate, super moon yolks. Am I allowed to love this country which came to me through my parents?
The mountains hold the soft earth in place like paper weights. Everlasting green and the smell of paye and naan cooked on the tandoor stays in the air. We go on the chair lift and fly over mountains, the trees shooting into the sky, the tops of them whipped ice cream. My diasporic longing is a privilege. Our legs dangle and our laughter can be heard by the clouds who embrace us.
Walking through the market, candy floss wrapped in clear plastic, kulfi shiny and iridescent in the after sunset hours of the day. It is sweet and creamy with a crunch from the pistachio. Is this country mine to love? My separate childhoods merge on Jinnah road as we lick the dripping cream of the kulfi from our fingers.
We run around chasing each other and the heat reminds us of its presence even in the dark. Small corner shops sell our favourite sweets for a couple of rupees each. Baba always used to buy us fantys and bring them to England, and now they’re my favourite. Can I love this country if I only know it for the spicy, buttered corn on the cob bought from street stalls?
Our limbs tire from wandering the bazaar, our hands lingering always longer on the clothes shiny with sequins and small mirrors. My tongue remembers how to speak Urdu – muscle memory. We eat roll parathas, the chicken spiced and flavoursome on the way home in the car, our heads and shoulders lolling on each other. We dream of freshly made warm jalebi and rasgullas.
July rain and then the heat is falling on to us. We eat loquats by the mouthful, the circular orange like swallowing buttercups. We peel kinnus, pop pieces into one another’s mouths. Is this home, too?
Memoona Zahid is the first intern from Ink Sweat & Tears‘ newly established paid internship programme. These internships will run for 3 months each consecutively, and in order to go some way towards redressing the balance in publishing, will for the foreseeable future come from the Black, Asian, Latinx and other ethnic minority communities; we will almost certainly expand our searches to include other disadvantaged groups as our programme develops.
Memoona was born and raised in London, has a BA from Goldsmiths in English with Creative Writing and has just completed her MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at UEA where she was awarded the Birch Family Scholarship. Information about future internship applications will be available on the site in January but in the meantime we are delighted that Memoona has consented to be our first.