We were visiting friends for “High Tea”. They live in a house on the outskirts of Islamabad, which served to remind me that it’s possible to drive for ten minutes out of the city and be in the countryside, surrounded by fields and farms and birdsong. There can’t be that many other capital cities in the world so closely embraced by nature.
“High Tea” sounded like a somewhat unappetising idea – in England it would probably consist of tea and sandwiches, not exactly the kind of thing you’d drive a long distance for, but Pakistani hospitality being what it is, we were served with kebabs, samosas, pakoras, salad, and a dish of haleem, a kind of stew of lentils, chicken, and roughly eighty-four spices. Everything was delicious.
Our kids ran up to the roof to look at the view, back down again, up again, and then down once more. Then they proceeded to eat every single crisp in the house, drink Coke, and ask for more. Pakistanis can never refuse a child’s request, so more came, and were duly despatched. I stepped in to sort out some of their more boisterous behaviour but our host stopped me.
“It’s ok” he said, smiling indulgently as one of my offspring crawled through a gap in their screen door, laughing uproariously.
“In Pakistan we say that when you meet a child, you are in the presence of God”.