I peered from the top of the balcony, a pashmina shawl draped over my shoulders, a warm cup of kehwa being my only source of warmth. The sky with its blanket of darkness, embellished with stars seemed almost close enough to reach out and feel. The gushing roaring sound of the turbulent waters of Kunhar mingles with the slight ruffle of the Pinetree leaves as the wind whooshed by and I stepped out to walk towards the glimmer of lights signaling the start of the famous Naran Bazar.
The transition was inexplicable. From an almost eerie silence through which you can hear the wind meeting the leaves to a festival of energy and euphoria. The cacophony of colors, lights, and the laughs of the mirthful people greeted me. The splashes of River Kunhar colliding with the rocks became more of a faint background and got replaced by hawkers calling out to customers for the new handicrafts in town or for a garam cup of coffee. The hustle-bustle of busy tourists, frantically walking with their backpacks towards shops exhibiting rich handicrafts embellished with stones, was everywhere to notice.
Thick billowing steam is evident from the nearby coffee khokha and people huddle around closely near the stall for warmth. The overly sweet and scalding hot coffee in the little polyethylene cups makes you lose all sensations in your taste buds after the first sip but as you feel the warmth coursing through your bloodstream, the shivering is replaced by a sheer emotion of warmth and comfort. Blowing on my little cup to cool it down a bit, I’m reminded of a nostalgic term “dragon’s breath”, when the heat of your body condenses in the cold air. I think for a minute about those naive moments and now considerably warmer, walk towards a shop with a board set on top, displaying the words “Naran Handicrafts”.
The sight of dyed shawls met me as I walked under the low door frame. A manifestation of rich traditions from Sindh to Gilgit, in a variety of ways, let it be hand-painted pottery or intricate embroidery etched on any and every cloth piece met me. I reach forward and pick up a multi-colored bag, bedazzled with hexagonal glass pieces. The decorations hung low and as I walked towards the counter, a bag and silver jhumkas in my hand, chaadars, and Pathani waistcoats brushed the top of my head. The friendly smiles of the cashiers, the background haggling, and the salesman succumbing at the end to their requests with hearty laughs and the catchphrase “baji chai zarur pee kay jaye ga, ap hamare khareedar hain”.
Standing on the doorway of the shop I just exited, all I see is frantic energy which is almost palpable, people jostling and laughing, sitting on red plastic chairs bent over a plate of fresh sajji or saag. I hear a slight, crispy sound which almost sounds like wind chimes, as a masseuse passes by me, his glass bottles filled with aromatherapy oil and looking for tourists with knots in their weary back. In the corner, I see a few men, with children sitting in their lap, listening intently to a white-bearded man. As I inch closer, I hear his wise voice, dramatically telling kissas about the prince of Saif ul Maluk. Everywhere your eyes go, there is an air of elatedness, carefreeness, and frenzy. Of locals as hosts inviting the guests to make the best of their time in this land of beauty and smiles plastered on every face to walk by. May you be an outsider looking from a third-person point of view or the one participating in this all summer long exhibition of love, inclusivity, and diversity, the fulfillment and contentment is equal and something to be bought forward by Pakistan so everyone may have a chance to experience this.