When we were too poor to afford Blue Band margarine

Published: October 31, 2013
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I knew that Rs 3 was not enough to buy Blue Band margarine but I had to have it. I could almost taste the flavour and smell the aroma. PHOTO: http://www.unilever.pk/our-brands/

I still remember the day that Blue Band margarine was introduced to Alamdar Bakery in my home-town of Quetta, Pakistan. The glossy silver packaging and the light blue printing stood out among all the other butter in the bakery’s refrigerator.

However, I refrained from taking an interest in this new product since I was well aware that my parents would not be able to afford it. I continued to consume the inexpensive Liaquat Makkhan for breakfast even after the older brother of the baker recommended Blue Band with great zeal; I consoled myself by thinking that he was just trying to improve his sales.

As the weeks passed, other friends also started raving about the margarine, but I just didn’t have enough money to buy it. Then one day, a friend of mine who was visiting from Lahore asked me to accompany him on a day trip to the mountains. I readily agreed since the mountains of Quetta are our pride and joy and their natural beauty is simply enchanting.

My journey to the mountains of Quetta

My friend asked me not to pack anything and appeared at my house early the next morning with two backpacks laden with food items. With him carrying one bag and me the other, we set off on our excursion.

Our journey started off well enough but then we came upon a pack of dogs. 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. I remembered that there was a cave in one of the mountains and hence, we began climbing up to get shelter. The mountain was around 1,800 feet high and our heavy backpacks were slowing us down. We had hardly reached the crest when we heard a deafening clap of thunder and the heavy clouds gave way to rain. Struggling to see through the pouring storm, we rushed on.

The horrifying flood

As we struggled ahead, the rain turned into pelting hailstones, each heavier and more painful than the last. We had no choice but to cover our heads with the backpacks and move on. Soaked to the skin and hardly able to see ahead, we started walking down the mountain towards the valley because that was the only way to get to the next mountain on which the cave was located. I was getting worried now because the rain water had started to collect in the valley and sure enough, when we set foot on the flat plain, our ankles were submerged in water. My only thought was,

“This is the beginning of 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 a few minutes, we looked outside and saw the clouds hovering above the mountain peaks while small waterfalls trickled down the mountain into the valley where they turned into a violent flood. I thought to myself that if we had lingered on the flat ground for a little longer, we would surely have been washed away by the torrential water.

A feast fit for a king

My friend unzipped the bag that I had been carrying and took out food. He told me that the lunch bag had been lost but we still had food for 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!

I peeled open the cover and instantly the rich aroma of margarine filled my senses. I spread some on my naan and took a bite. The richly coated bread slid down my throat and I closed my eyes to savour the moment and then took a sip of the hot 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 to you 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.

Finally home again

Upon reaching home, I asked my mother where my father was. She said that he had gone out for some work. Although I waited for a long time, he didn’t come home and finally I went to bed. All night I dreamt of that mouth-watering margarine. After a restless sleep, I woke up early and rushed to my parent’s room. 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, and pedaled furiously to the bakery. Reaching the shop, I parked my bicycle, secured it and rushed inside with my head held high. Almost jumping with excitement, I asked the shopkeeper for 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, my head in a daze to be clutching my very own pack of Blue Band margarine.

Upon reaching home, I asked my mother to get the tea ready while I rushed to the tandoor 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. That wonderful flavour and the heady aroma of margarine lasted all day. I didn’t even eat lunch because I did not want to lose that flavour of Blue Band in my mouth!

A twist of fate

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 Blue Band margarine every day, but my son says,

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

A quirk of fate, huh?

muhammad.younas

Muhammad Younas

A human rights activist and freelance UK based journalist.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • mhammad ovais khan

    liaqut makkhan hahaha hilarious i never consider blueband in this way seriously u bring water in my mouth lolxRecommend

  • Amna

    Very nice piece of writing ! Brought back so many memories of childhood . It’s so amazing that back in our childhood (for those belonging to middle class families in Pakistan) we used to struggle for things that now seem so minor and unnecessary. We valued almost everything we had because very little was available. I wonder whether children of today’s time have such things to cherish.Recommend

  • Shabir Afzal Khan

    Awesomely written blog with a tale of those people who have changed their status through hard work.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Lovely piece of writing. Thoroughly enjoyed this one.Recommend

  • madeeha kafeel

    An epic piece of writing!!
    That gives a beautiful depiction of feelings, emotions and childhood desiresRecommend

  • Saad

    Bohat aala sir, bohat aala. Very nicely done.Recommend

  • Parvez

    My view is that it as much to do with fate as it is to do with personal ambition and hard work. Anyway it was a nice story, well told.Recommend

  • Asad

    Thank you sir, for this wonderful piece. Kudos to your hardwork. Pakistan as a (slowly) rising nation is full of such stories. May this land prosper with peace and one day all of us could eat what they want and yet not overdo because of excess.Recommend

  • x

    That was so touching. Commend you Sir. And we’re the new generation, our hard working parents-like you- have given us too much to cherish the little things heheRecommend

  • nishantsirohi123

    interesting read though

    actually

    margarine is not advisable. it is made of vegetables oils. and hence has not a single drop of dairy product in it (unless mixed with real butter)
    it has no specific nutritional value other than the regular vegetable oil based ghee (dalda)Recommend

  • Haha… I can’t decide if the whole blog was tongue-in-cheek or if the author really modeled the aspirations of his young life around making the switch from Liaquat Makkhan to Blue Band Margarine. I liked reading it nonetheless!Recommend

  • Guest

    Self made man.Recommend

  • hazara

    excellent writer and proud of himRecommend

  • Khalid_NJ

    Great Article, I was waiting for you to tell how margarine is now considered not so good for you and butter is back in as the better half.Recommend

  • Bangalorean

    Cherish those days now, my dear friend!

    When I was young, I never got a chance to taste packaged butter, let alone margarine. The only butter I ever knew was the one my mother made from sour milk and honestly it looked or tasted nothing like the packaged butter.

    I am curious about one thing. Does Blue Band margarine hold the same taste and fascination as it once did? I ask you honestly because I too have tried to imbibe in my son the experiences I had. However when I do that, he shirks away and when I try to understand, I find that the stuff in question doesn’t taste that great either. I sometimes think, perhaps we were starved for choice.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Good for you……….liked the story.
    I agree with Mr Shabir Afzal Khan’s comment of it being the result of hard work more than just fate.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    This was so cute. Loved it. Reminded me a little of The Kite Runner.

    FOR BLUE BAND MARGARINE? A THOUSAND TIMES OVER!Recommend

  • Hasan

    I don’t mean to spoil your fun but margarine is not exactly a good choice, it isn’t healthy, is really processed and artificial. The Liaquat Makkhan sounds like a better choice.
    Good write up none the same. Pakola for me was, what Blue Band margarine was for you! :)Recommend

  • Amb

    Enjoyed reading the whole narrative , v well written…Recommend

  • Taha

    Its first time I read the whole article, nice piece of writing, I also wanted to share your journey from Quetta to Uk.Recommend

  • gp65

    Well both parts of the narrative had their own charm. The description of the journey was vivid and enchanting, the description of a young boy’s small joys was touching. Please write more often.Recommend

  • booklover

    A very fine written article. It reminds us how pleasure can be derived from simple things.Recommend

  • Sane

    Good narration. Everyone has a childhood desire.Recommend

  • farha

    Much touching & good narrative
    article!Recommend

  • boco

    Not to rain on your sweet story but Liaquat Makkhan was a lot better for you than Blue Band Margarine, trans-fats and all.Recommend

  • s3

    I love it! it was so visualRecommend

  • Pappu

    Thanks God Blue Band Margarine was not labelled “western conspiracy” against Pakistan.Recommend

  • ptr

    Great…!! :)Recommend

  • Yumna

    What a beautiful piece of writing :)Recommend

  • Insaan

    Originally created as a substitute for butter in 1869 in France by Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès, Margarine is made mainly of hydrogenated or refined plant oils and water.
    Regarding Margarine holding same taste and fascination as it once did. Would one enjoy butter more if they can get it once in a while or plenty of it when one wants?Recommend