Compassion on a Plate

Located in the heart of Karachi, Burns Road is the Holy Grail of Pakistani gastronomy. Once you arrive, the street throbs with riotous energy, assaulting the senses. All around there is theater. Searing heat from stone ovens is punctuated with loud banter. The air is thick with pungent spices and the sound of sizzling meat mixes with the low rubble of jostling people as food is chopped, packed and delivered to the hungry hordes of the city.

George Bernard Shaw once said that ‘There is no love sincerer than the love of food’. As one walks around the bustling streets of Burns Road, these word ring truer than ever. In a city divided across ethnic lines, the love of food brings us together. The spiting fire from the ‘Saji’ stand represents Baloch cuisine and the hiss of frying ‘Chapli Kebabs’ lends itself to the Pashtun region. The brightly spiced colors of roasting ‘Tikkas’ belong to Punjab while the slow bubble of aromatic ‘Nihari’ is a testament to our shared history with India.

What we eat, in great part shows us who we are. Food is not only fuel but our social histories on a plate. It contains the essence of our different cultures, of our human connections and of the entities from whom we have evolved. Food in itself holds a force so rich and powerful that it compels people to connect despite their differences. The sprawling diversity of our land is sampled in the melting pot of cuisines available. As people from all walks of life descend upon Burns Road, the diversity in our local cuisine serves as an important reminder about our shared history, our mutual empathy, respect and brotherhood. From plains to deserts, from plateaus to mountains, food brooks no differences. A city divided, stands united to satiate the hungry belly and the enthusiastic palate.

With food, there exists, a strong sense of camaraderie. Differences are left behind, and swarms of men and women stand together, witnessing culinary art as meats, stews, and breads are fried, grilled and steamed into submission. There is no talk of ethnicity, class or conflict. No one speaks of violence, feud, or war. Instead, bread is broken and people stand together in anticipation, basking in the mutual understanding and appreciation of food.