I have once again stirred up a controversy within my family circles because of my insistence in going rural. The argument put forth by my children and their aunts and uncles is that I have done enough by setting up residence in a remote hideaway amongst the hills that border Islamabad. My detractors say that my insistence on keeping a few milk animals, some egg laying poultry and setting up an earthen tandoor will be met with outright resistance. In the presence of such tough opposition, I can only sit in my study and reminisce about my pleasant memories of ‘the little village in the metropolis of Lahore’.

Our home in Lahore was a sprawling colonial style bungalow situated amidst a spacious garden. My grandfather, who was a retired civil servant from the pre-independence era, was a man who loved his culture. He wore a pugree along with his Western-style dresses and according to a story that once did its rounds in family circles, refused to relinquish it when ordered to do so by his superior with the words: “I can resign, but not let go of my cultural tradition.” Needless to say that he was never issued such orders again.

As soon as I became aware of my surroundings, I remember seeing a small paddy field at the back of the house next to a vegetable garden, a large number of fruit trees, a couple of milk bearing cows, numerous goats, an army of poultry, ducks and dogs. As I grew up, I realised that the profusion of milk, butter, yogurt, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit came from within our own premises.

I was thrilled when one day my grandfather put me into the family car to be driven to a village situated a few miles south of Lahore on the banks of River Ravi. I later came to recognise this place as Mohlanwal and its twin next door as Dholanwal. I also learned that my grandparents owned some land there and were treated with utmost regard by its Kamboh residents.

Twice a year, we stared expectantly at our long drive to catch a sight of Tajaan. This remarkable lady was the younger sister of one of our female help, who had literally reared me from infancy. We were always grateful for the reverence and love that flowed from this family and any of its members was always welcome at our threshold. Tajaan’s family also performed an important function for us on a regular basis - they took care of our milk animals in their village and brought them to the city when they were ready to calve. This event was supervised by my mother (who drifted gracefully and easily from her role as an urban club going female to a rural one) and our khansamah Ismail, who was gifted with a love of animals and a natural ability to cure them of common ailments. It was thus that we were reared on baoli or the granulated milk obtained from an animal that has just given birth. While we ‘ate’ this product after sweetening it, my mother often made a tantalisingly delicious dessert from it.

A few weeks after the arrival of the calves, my mother would set up her large earthen chaati and a strange contraption made of a wooden frame, a leather loop with wooden toggles and a wooden madhaani. This primitive machine was used to churn yogurt into butter and it was often that we were treated to the unforgettable taste of freshly made butter straight from the chaati and glorious lassi.

Caring for our milk animals was a back-breaking chore, once again performed by Ismail, my mother with some help from me and my elder sister. I can say without reservation that having warm milk squirted straight from a cow’s udder into one’s mouth is an experience that is both priceless and unforgettable.

Fodder for our animals, was stored in a room within the servant quarters complex and was one of our favourite play areas. We would scramble up the roof-high pile of toori and then slide down till such time our mother would bid us return to the house or face her wrath. It was often that I helped Ismail with gutawa or the specially prepared meal meant for the cows. This consisted of toori that was first moistened and then tossed with crushed grams and cotton seed in winters and chopped green maize plants in summer.

Visitors to our house were often surprised to see the two lifestyles blending happily and often expressed a desire to be taken around the house. I was, therefore,  pleasantly gratified, when some guests at our current home asked if they could walk around my fruit and vegetable garden. It was very fulfilling to see a totally urbanised family from Karachi tentatively plucking apples from trees or harvesting red capsicum amidst squeals of delight.

I am, however, resolved to continue my struggle (against all vetoes) to one day smuggle in a few egg layers and a small earthen tandoor into my compound. It is, however, the cow that is likely to produce some problems - but I intend to cross the bridge when I come to it.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.