It has been wet and cold these last few days and we have been forced to stay indoors by the weather, spending time in front of a crackling log fire. Now those of my readers, who have savoured the romance and the cheering effect of a working fireplace, or an open fire in winters, will acknowledge the fact that it is riveting in the literal sense - due, perhaps, to the relationship that our species has had with flames and the aroma of burning wood since pre-historic times. These readers will also agree that there are a few add-ons that immeasurably enhance the experience - four of my favourite ones being roasted peanuts, steaming mugs of soup or Kashmiri chai and pakoras.

My family has been pakora lovers since I can remember - in fact, they like this traditional snack so much that we could jointly compile a bestseller on the subject. In my view, the most succinct definition of this devilishly delicious item to date has been, "a spicy, salty, deep-fried subcontinental snack made from a batter of chickpea flour and water." The versatility of pakoras can be gauged from the fact that almost everything in meats or vegetables and even bread, can be used in their preparation. This popular tit-bit, which, in reality, is a complete meal, can also be classified by the social ladder. Fish, chicken, mutton or beef cater to those with means, while vegetables and simple batter, fried to a luscious golden brown colour in mustard oil, are patronised by those with smaller pockets.

Unable to bear the indignity of being out-manoeuvred by the oriental, the goras have also developed their version of the treat and named it 'fritters'. Little do they realise that no effort on their part could ever produce a snack worthy of competing with our culinary bombshell.

The pakora season in our home began with the advent of the monsoons. As billowing dark clouds shut out the sun, my grandfather would stir up the females of the family to set up a 'frying station' in the covered passage that linked the kitchen with the main house. Relatives and friends calling on us during this activity were apt to be conscripted to join the labour. Gathered in a tight knot around the coal burner topped with a smoking wok, we would take turns at frying, eating and pulling each other's legs.

Much later, having adopted a career, I often drove along the Grand Trunk Road with my wife and children for our annual vacation to Murree. It was during one of these trips that I was forced to come to a screeching stop by a wildly desperate chorus of pakoray emanating from the rear seat. And so began a long love affair with the wayside Pakora Stand at Sarai Alamgir, a town on the banks of River Jehlum. Sadly enough, I now travel between Islamabad and Lahore on the M5 and on the few occasions that I did use the GT Road, failed to spot my favourite spot by the river. I only hope that it has survived the vagaries of time and progress.

Ichra, was once a village on the outskirts of Lahore, with a predominantly non-Muslim population. Today, it is a congested and bustling urban commercial locality of the erstwhile City of Gardens. This place and myself have a deep association, because this is where my monthly pension check disappears amongst the myriad of shops patronised by the better half and other females of the family. Gratefully, I have discovered a silver lining to these visits in the form of the pakora establishment at the corner of the Main Bazaar's entrance. As the ladies immerse themselves in rolls of cloth and long drawn negotiations with the shopkeepers, I have till late, managed to slip away in a rather unobtrusive manner, for a mouth-watering snack of hot chilli pakoras rolled up in a nan.

Misfortune, however, befell me during one of my clandestine forays into the Pakora Land, when some indiscreet crumbs were discovered on my coat. Unable to resist interrogation for long, I am now condemned to treat a group of four to five ravenous females with my pakora roll every time I go to Lahore.

So dear readers, if you happen to drive through Sarai Alamgir or are naive enough to be roped in for a trip to Ichra, do not worry - for salvation awaits you on the GT Road and at the corner of the bazaar and Ferozepur Road in the form of the divine pakora.

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