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The ‘Photographs’ section of my DPhil. folder is getting out of control. It’s made up mostly of pictures of food I’ve had with participants, at home, sent by my friends and participants and photos of menus. When I was trawling through the folder, in a particularly non-productive day at the department, I came across this photo. It was an unusually scheduled day. My cousin had turned up on very short notice. I absolutely love his visits, mainly because it means we can go up the mountain to a place that once had my favorite restaurant.

The restaurant was frequently referred to as ‘dhaaba’ and for many years, we actually had no idea what it was called. Then the monstrosity of the Monal was created and our favorite place (with it’s shabby chairs, curly-cornered single-sided menus, and the most amazing food in the universe) was pushed off to the side. But we held on. Going to the old place and proudly snubbing the fancy, posh-ness of the Monal. Then one unfortunate day, we turned up, to discover that the management had sold the place to new owners. It was fancy. It was exactly like Monal. In small ways, better and more efficient. But it wasn’t the same. Trips became less frequent.

We loved the place because it was less stressful to be. We could roll up in whatever we had on, with no compulsions for dressing nicely and sitting straighter than usual. We’d have freshly barbequed chicken, prepared slowly so nothing would be pink or bleeding. Crisp, hot, deep-fried bread and cups of hot, amazing tea. And then we’d just sit, spread out and stare out at the view of the city. Effortless. It was easy to burn 2-3 hours on one trip. When you’d come down from the mountain, you’d be energized, but calmer, put-together and the muscles on your face felt relaxed and open to the possibility of displaying more emotion.

This is the view from our last trip there. We had rushed up as soon as my cousin was ready. It had just rained. The epic, pouring rain of Islamabad that I love so much. We were the first customers. Strongly dissuaded from sitting on one of the outer levels (seen here). Made to sit inside. That stupid glass cage with the fancy tables and things. My cousin and I compensated by spending twenty minutes trooping outside and taking photos. Most of the terraces were waterlogged in the corners. My pumps were soaked through and my toes were cold. But the photos were great. There was a cat on one of the pillars. He just sat there and glared at me. Food happened. It was alright. Discussions of the previous place and it’s food were had. Family matters were discussed. More staring-out-windows happened. We took our leave when people started pouring in.

I love the drive up. But I won’t ever be able to come here without remembering the old place. It was comfortable. We knew everyone. We had food there when we came on geology field trips. Photos with class mates exist. It was the goal when we’d go hiking. Cold drinks when you reach the top. It was a goal worth reaching for, when your calf muscles are screaming, your joints hate you and you are sweating an unholy amount. Good times.

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