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A tale of Lahore from another angle.

Byline: Zainab Hasnain

Before traveling to Pakistan last year -- The Pakistan that I was born and bred in, the Pakistan that you don't see in the New York Times or Vice. The most personal memory I have of Pakistan is from 2009, when my father was framed, arrested and incarcerated for 2 years under false accusations by the FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) and the Pakistani government.

He was the CEO and founder of ZARCO Exchange, and one of many victims of similar plots against businessmen, politicians and more. Needless to say, this was a very traumatic experience for my family. Like any country, Pakistan has its good and its bad, but for me the biggest takeaway will always be my country's enduring beauty.

DIRTY CHAI: To a foreigner, the water in Pakistan could be considered dirty. To me, it makes the chai taste better, my hair nicer, and my skin clearer. The food, which some people fear will give them violent diarrhea, couldn't taste more natural. I came back to America and literally could not find a meal that didn't have one fakeGMO element to it. I don't even trust a simple sandwich here. I had to eat bananas in Pakistan to realize they're supposed to be the size of my fist and not my face.

NO FLEX ZONE OLD LAHORE: Lahore is divided into two parts: Old Lahore, or "Androon Shehr", and the new city, simply known as Lahore. While the new city is amazing in its own way, with a bar that actually serves alcohol and posh coffee shops, the real charm for me at least, lies in the old city, where you can observe true Lahori culture at every corner. Walking around Old Lahore is like walking around the souks of Marrakech. It's bustling, loud, and crowded with shops and little hole in the wall food spots. It's a sensory overload. You feel the pulse of the people. It's a no judgement zone, or as Rae Sremmurd would say, a No Flex Zone. After going through the alley's, out of nowhere you'll reach an expansive landing where a majestic and historic Mosque appears- Masjid Wazir Khan.

LIVE OR NOT LIVE: We still pray on Friday's at the Mosque even though there's a real possibility of someone blowing themselves up at the entrance - there was a bomb blast in Pindi, the city where my Grandparents live, a day after I left. We still go out to dinner at a restaurant with friends even though the lights might go out in the middle of dinner - we ate Pizza in the dark and used our iPhones to light the room. We still send our children to school even when they're a prime target for extremists. This makes me realize that since moving to the States I've been living two completely different lives, I sometimes think about how I would feel waking up in my apartment in the Lower East Side without having gas, electricity or water 4 times a day. What would I do if I was driving down 2nd avenue and the entire street went black? Would I even bother going to Macy's if I had to go through security checkpoints and have my bag checked for bombs?

BACK ALLEY MOMENTS: When I was there it felt like all the extrenal factors that once loomed over my head went out the door. I was overwhelmed with the beauty on all corners. Watching kids playing cricket in the middle of the streets, and then breaking down their entire set up when a motorcycle or a car had to get by, and then getting right back to it as soon as they drove off. It was those little things.....

CROWN JEWEL: The crown jewel of the old city is Badshahi Mosque. Located in what used to be the Red Light District of Lahore, it is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are tales of clandestine lovers taking their lives by jumping from opposite pillars of this Mughal gem. Ironically, we stumbled upon a Nikkah (wedding) at the mosque - which is now becoming a popular thing. My mom hilariously ended up knowing the bride's mother, whose daughter was getting married to a British man. Not so clandestine anymore, I thought. It was appreciating these little things that made me step back and think: THIS is Pakistan. Beneath the daily threats and the lack of resources, there is a place filled with an incredible history and culture, and most importantly, people: with our bittersweet resolve and unwavering resilience to live life to the fullest despite these complications. It's truly incredible. Could weI live the same way in New York? You tell me.

THE JOURNEY IS IN THE MUSIC: ZEEMUFFIN created an exclusive mix for Tribeca featuring the music that surrounded her trip. " I wanted take you from Lahore to the L.E.S. with a mix of some of my favorite Pakistani folk songs, bhangra classics, and hip-hop joints, along with a few surprises," she said.
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Publication:Frontier Post (Peshawar, Pakistan)
Date:Jul 28, 2015
Words:838
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