Blue Band margarine

blue band

I still remember the day when Blue Band Margarine was introduced to Alamdar Bakery in my home-town of Quetta, Pakistan. The glossy silver packaging and the light blue printing were enough to get my attention, which stood out among all the other butters in the bakery’s refrigerator.

I rushed to the refrigerator, opened the door to check the price but quickly put it back as the price was beyond the reach of my parents’ pocket and I decided to remain stick with Liaquat Makkhan—local cheap butter for breakfast. The owner of the bakery later on recommended me with great zeal to try it; I consoled myself by thinking that he was just trying to improve his sales. 

After few weeks other friends also recommended the margarine but I was only a student. Each passing day the colourful margarine would make me realize of my squint pocket but I couldn’t do anything to improve my financial position.   

One day, a friend of mine who was visiting from Lahore asked me to accompany him on a day trip to the mountains. I agreed but he requested me to bring me nothing except myself.

The following day early morning, he came to my home with two mountain bags laden with “food stuff,” he said. I grabbed one of the bags, lifted up and put it against my back.  The shoulder straps were comfortable—perfect on my back and shoulders and we set off to the mountains.

On the way to the mountains near nomad homes, we came across with a herd of the dogs barking at us. We tried to stay calm but the dogs began to circle us; they could probably smell the food we were carrying. We began to run but the dogs were fast and they kept catching up to us. Eventually, we stopped and began pelting them with stones. They persisted in trying to get close to us but eventually we were able to scare them off.

However, by this time I noticed dark clouds approaching from the west and I asked my friend to hurry up otherwise we would get caught in the storm.

The route to the first mountain was rugged. The ascent was steeper. We started climbing up the mountain which was nearly 1800 feet high. I remembered that there was a cave in one of the mountains and hence, we began climbing up to get shelter. While climbing up, I could easily see the dark clouds were getting closer to the mountain. We increased our speed but the clouds were faster to reach the crest. We hardly reach to the crest when the dark thick clouds with a huge thunderous sound welcomed us and started descending fast to us which meant to be ready to get soaked. Going in the dense cloud on the trail was not easy; however, we finally managed to reach the top and then rushed to the cave which was on another mountain above the valley lying ahead.  

Rain in the meantime started falling but soon turned into the hailstones, making the situation difficult to cope with as they were hitting hard on our heads. The size of the hail was also getting bigger and deafening thunder sound was making getting louder. We had no choice except to put our heavy bags on our heads to avoid hard hitting of the hails.

In a matter of few seconds, we were completely soaked. And getting normal speed in dense clouds along with a heavy rains and hailstones were difficult to manage. 

The route down to the valley was steep and difficult. The rain in the meantime was putting extra water on the route and the dense clouds were making the visibility hard to go smoothly.  While walking down to the valley I was bit worried about the floodwater which was souring. We had to go through the valley as there was no alternative to reach the cave. When we reached to the valley, I could feel the floodwater which was touching just above my ankles. My only thought was,

 “This is the beginning the flood; the worst is yet to come.”

I shouted to my friend,

“Run as fast as you can otherwise we will get caught in the flood!”

However, I saw that he was having a hard time keeping up with me. I shouted at him to throw away his bag because the weight was slowing him down. He let go of his bag and together we kept on running until finally we saw the entrance of the cave. Rushing in, we both fell to the ground gasping for air and thanking God for the shelter. Outside, the storm continued to rage and the frequent flashes of lightning lit up the inside of the cave.

After few minutes, we looked up the mountains where the clouds were hovering on the peak while small numerous beautiful waterfalls were falling down fast in the valley where they were turning into a violent flood running harshly. Had we lingered on a little longer in the valley, we could have been washed away by the torrential water. We lost one of our bags but we saved our lives and another bag.

My friend unzipped the bag and took the food out of the bag. He told me that the lunch had been lost but we still had food for the breakfast. Laughing he said,

“Let’s have breakfast now, before we lose this one too”.

I picked up the tea flask which was surprisingly still hot to the touch. As I poured tea, he handed me a medium-sized pack of Blue Band margarine along with home-baked naan, still dry as it was in a plastic bag. I couldn’t believe that the margarine that I had been dreaming about for weeks was now in front of me with fresh naan and hot tea! With beautiful mountains and waterfalls all around us — it just seemed too good to be true!

Seeing the margarine in my hand, my tummy started rumbling. The moment I peeled open the cover, the rich aroma of margarine filled my senses. I spread some on my naan and took a bite to stop my tummy rumbling. Chew it slowly to feel the best of it and slid it down gently with the tongue to get the last taste before it goes down to the belly. When margarine comfortably landed in the stomach, I took a sip of the hot milk-tea. The combination was divine and I felt like a king enjoying a feast! My only thought was,

“Oh my God, what great taste!”

By this time I had become intoxicated by the delicious margarine. I forgot about the beautiful view outside; I knew my friend was rambling on about the rain, the waterfalls and the picturesque beauty but I couldn’t be less bothered. All I was thinking of was that I would never eat Liaquat Makkhan again and that I would beg my father to buy at least one small pack of Blue Band a week. I finished the whole pack of margarine and started eyeing my friend’s half-eaten one. However, he did not seem to get the message and packed his half-eaten pack of margarine away.

I cannot explain how eager I was to get home and plead with my father to buy Blue Band for breakfast. It was painful to stay in the cave until the clouds cleared and we could finally get out.

Upon reaching home, the first thing I did was to find whereabouts of my father, who unfortunately was not at home. I waited for a long time but he didn’t turn up so I went to bed. All the night, I dreamt of that mouth-watering margarine. After a restless sleep, I woke up early and rushed to parents’ bedroom. However, my mother hurried me out saying that my father had come home late the night before and that I should let him sleep.

I thought about what I should do because I really wanted to have Blue Band for breakfast that day. I asked my mother for money and she handed me three rupees. I knew that wouldn’t be enough and asked her for six rupees more but she refused. When I insisted and threatened to throw a tantrum, she fetched some more money from her money tin in the kitchen and told me not to spend it foolishly. I kissed her hand and waited impatiently for the shops to open.

Around 7:30 in the morning, I took my bicycle, got out of the home and pedalled furiously to the bakery shop.  To my amazement, I was riding bicycle to the maximum speed and thinking of the shop to get at earliest possible. Reaching the bakery shop, I parked my bicycle, locked it, rushed to the shop, pushed the door to open and very proudly walked to the counter with my head held high. Almost jumping with excitement, I asked the shopkeeper for the Blue Band margarine. I watched impatiently as he strolled slowly towards the refrigerator, wishing that he would walk a little faster. When he handed me the pack, I could almost smell the aroma and taste the margarine. I paid the baker and almost floated to my bicycle.  I looked very happy as if I had achieved something very good. While riding bicycle to home, I paddled hard to get 120 miles per hour and I was feeling on the top of the moon.

Upon reaching home, I asked my mother to get the tea ready while I rushed to the tandoor — oven bakery for freshly-baked hot naan.  While my mother laughed, I spread the margarine generously on the naan, took a big bite and closed my eyes to savour the rich flavour that engulfed my senses. The wonderful flavour and the heady aroma of the margarine lasted all the day. I didn’t even eat lunch because I didn’t want to lose that flavour of Blue Band in my mouth.  

My only wish at the time was that I could eat Blue Band every day but that was simply not possible since my parents couldn’t afford that luxury at the time.

As I think back to those days, I often laugh at how life is full of irony. Today, I live in the UK and can easily afford to eat margarine everyday but my son says,

Baba—“father”, I don’t like margarine. It doesn’t taste good”.


The short story originally appeared on The Express Tribune Newspaper Pakistan on 31st of October 2013.