Home is Where the Heart is

I once read a quote that said, “A house is built with bricks but a home is built with hearts.” I stared at the profundity of the wisdom, said “Wah! Wah!” in whole hearted agreement and moved on. Today, as two of my most favorite people left New York, I was once again reminded of  the age old adage.

Ever since I came to college in the Unites States, I’ve always thought of New York City as home. It was the place I ran away to when college or life got overwhelming. It was the place where the extremely eclectic family that I had acquired at college moved to after graduation. Their homes were mine, in a make your ownself comfortable, sleep on my couch and do my groceries if I’m not around kind of way. Over the years, I have had various homes in the city, spanning its entire fabulous length. There were the bachelor pads in the financial district, the grungy but oh so trendy Soho “loft” the shiny new apartments in mid-town and the more mature and quieter apartments close to Central Park. But regardless of the apartment, regardless of the location and regardless of the time of day or year, their has been a consistent camraderie and unadulterated love  for each other that flows between my various homes in the city.

The epicenter of much of this love and the host for much friendly, familial bonding sessions over quality bollywood music, charged political debates and games of Risk and Poker was Assad Ahmad. Today he and his wife (who I have to add might just be cooler than him and is most definitely the best addition to our family) said goodbye to New York and moved to London. And as the Qasim-Ahmad household closed the doors of its shop to those that had benefitted from their comfy couches, good sense of humor and their time, New York became a little less like home.

It was in Assad’s apartment on Wall Street, that I recuperated from bad bouts of heartbreak, learnt the words to the famous chooha billi song that is now a family classic and spent countless evevnings  discussing Pakistani politics and arguing over plans to stimulate the economy, the building of dams and the reasons behind the rise of millitancy as well as our collective love-fear relationship with Mansoor Razzaq.

Assad Ahmad, the poster child for everything that is good about Lahore, was an iconic part of my New York landscape. Trader by day and Aitchison boy by night, Assad dressed like all the Lahori boys do in New York – jeans, collared shirt and dark jacket and had a regular habbit of sprinking his perfect Aitchison english with really expressive and sometimes really colorful bursts of Punjabi. Over the years, I’ve watched him consume amazing quantities of food, as only a true Lahori man can and I have seen him break with unprecedented ease objects that he touches – also in the vein of true, clumsy Lahori man. But the most Lahori thing about Assad has always been the good cheer and enthusiasm with which he welcomed friends into him home and the ease with which he made new ones.

And under the tough exterior of macho Punjabi man, Assad has always had a heart made of marshmallow fluff. It was the collective luck of the family, when he decided to pin his immense reservoirs of love and affection onto Maheen Qasim. Embedded deep inside us we all had this fear that this emblem of Punjabi manhood would do what most other good Punjabi boys do and marry some pretty air head 18 year old that Ma ji picks out, who likes nothing more than polishing her nails and searching for the best shopping bargains at Barney’s. Assad’s marriage to Maheen not only caused everyone to heave a collective sigh of relief, but over the last year and a half, has made everyone change their vote definitively on who their most favorite Ahmed-Qasim is. Maheen is one of those rare specimen’s of desi womanhood who can keep that manicure intact and that hair blow-dryed as she awes you with her knowledge of cars, sports and politics. And most awesomely, she took the legendary hospitality of the Ahmad household to a new level. Maheen painstakingly but exceptionally patiently, took into account 55 people’s very different and opinionated opinions of a perfect evening and came up with dinner reservations that were just right for everyone. She offered her time to buy tickets for movies and plays when everyone else was pretending to be to busy. She in the spirit of the best kind of mashraqi bahoo has kept Assad’s family of friends feeling more loved than ever before.

I just called Assad’s New York number to wish it (the number and him) farewell. He immediately responded with a “Mujhay roaming parr rahi hai! Phone band karo!” And Maheen responded with a dont be ridiculous and made him talk to me while his phone company proabably racked up the minutes. I love eevry single minute of that expensive phone call. Assad’s departure from New York seems to mark an end of an era. Slowly, most of my college friends who had once clustered in New York have moved away. And our evenings of endless hanging out have shrunk in numbers. The departure of Assad and Maheen from New York, though might not be noticed by the millions that throng the city, it seems like an end of an era to me and to those who felt more at home in this metropolis because of Assad and MQ.

And since Assad and MQ have also moved away – I guess its one more reason to move back to the place where a critical mass of hearts and homes continues to thrive.


One Response to “Home is Where the Heart is”

  1. Maheen Qasim Ahmad July 13, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    sehar tariq–my cup runneth over. much to the power 10 times love…

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