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The barbarians may be at the gates – some of us would say they are very much within the gates.

Winter leaves

By Ayaz Amir

“Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds” – Emerson

Some time ago, when the weather was still a bit hot, I was bemoaning some of the things gifted to us by the Raj – such as our preference for certain types of fiery liquids. And I had said that if we had been colonised by, say, the French or the Portuguese our tastes in these matters would have been different.

That was then. Now that the weather is turning a bit cold, although winter has yet to set in fully, I have to confess that I was wrong. May the furies forgive my wrongheadedness. For the cold season namby-pamby liquids just won’t do and the only thing permissible is that part of our inheritance which is now a national habit with us.

Railways we have managed to destroy, with a thoroughness that must command admiration. The canal system still functions but it could do with a whole lot of improvement. There are so many other things which are rundown. But the particular inheritance I refer to – and please forgive me for not being more specific, on account of our self-censorship laws, the censorship that we impose on ourselves and on which editors are always so keen – survives in all its pomp and glory. Behind closed doors of course but its very surreptitiousness gives it an added zest.

When Pakistanis who can afford this kind of entertainment – their number, Allah be praised, not small – gather in the winter season their choice is only one, Pakistan’s unofficial national drink still the same. May it always be like this.

The barbarians may be at the gates – some of us would say they are very much within the gates – but we should cherish what we still have. Three years back on a visit to Kabul, and staying at the Intercontinental Hotel – once a place of great magnificence, now gone to ruin – helpful souls from the embassy suggested that of the stuff that may have been consumed at night – to ward off the cold of course, the month being December–-the empty bottles should not be left in the rooms.

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