Malaika’s Pakistani Bed

During one of the sessions at the Young Speakers Club, the members were asked to speak about their identities, cultures, and heritage. Below you can read about Malaika’s visit to Pakistan and her experience with the traditional Pakistani bed (called Charpai in Urdu).


By Malaika Ali (16 Years old)

I remember it like it was yesterday. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my body as I stepped out of the airport. Immediately, I could feel the hustle and bustle of the crowds of people around me, their eyes trying to meet their relatives who had come to collect them. Already I could feel the streaks of sunlight meet my skin. I felt enlightened. Almost as though I was where I truly belonged.

A hand grabbed my arm. I turned to the view of my uncle preventing me from getting lost in the sea of people that were surrounding us. We assembled in the arrivals area and then made our way to the car park. Around me I could see vehicles, parked like toy cars, ranging in all colours, shapes and sizes until finally we reached the silver Jeep. After helping my siblings enter, I jumped in the car and much to my usual routine, reached for the seat belt. After a couple of rummaging my hands around, I asked my uncle where it was. Laughingly, he told me in Pakistan it is common for passenger seats to not have a seat belt. Smilingly, I leaned back in my seat and tilted my head towards the window. Passing by, I could see rickshaws transporting people from one location to another. Vendors were waving their products ready to be sold and there was a distinct aroma of all the various street foods being freshly prepared.

A feeling of guilt overcame me. I had often been culturally insecure, avoiding any questions ever asked. But now, I felt I had formed a connection. Almost as though the strong bond I used to have when I was younger had been rekindled. It was at that moment I realised I had become another victim of society’s expectations and forgotten about my heritage, my own roots.

As we drove on the landscape began to change. The office buildings turned into trees and more greenery began to emerge. We were becoming closer by the minute to my grandma’s village. Excited yet nervous, I anxiously looked out at the increasingly natural scenery and assured myself from that moment onwards I would take pride in my origins, my beautiful Pakistan. Upon hearing that we had reached, I eagerly jumped out of the car as my eyes wandered to find the correct house. I walked up the slope, an arduous task, that led to my grandma’s house. A few minutes later, I turned my head to find a gate, large and black as though it had been freshly painted. After a few attempts of applying a large amount of force, I unbolted the latch and the door opened. I walked forward and then my head turned to meet the view of a large open field where a herd of cows were grazing on the luscious grass. Being someone who is not a fan of the outdoors, I felt captivated. Never did I think that the sound of cows mooing, and motorbikes riding would give me so much contentment.

Nevertheless, I carried on walking and then turned right to see my grandma sitting on what seemed like a four-legged bed drinking water from a clay pot. Immediately, I hugged her, and we began to talk for what my mum now says was “forever”. We both shared our experiences of life and then I finally asked her “what we were sitting on” since I had never seen it before. She told me that it was called a “charpai” formed from “char” which was the number 4 and “pai” meaning leg. She went on to tell me that my great grandparents and our ancestors had made these beds because they were cheap and required materials that were readily available in the village. That explained why in her house there were a good few dozen of charpai’s stacked together. Due to the vast amount of time I had spent travelling, both on the plane and on road, I ended up falling asleep in her arms on the charpai and for an insomniac, that was the best nap I’ve had till this day.

A few weeks later, the time came where we had to return to England and like the rest of my family, I felt really upset to be leaving my grandma and home country. I knew I would cherish all the memories I made here but how could I leave them all here. Suddenly, I came up with an idea and rushed to share it with my dad. I asked him if we could dismantle one of the many charpai’s in my grandma’s house and take it with us so we could have one in our home in the UK. A smile lit his face and he told me it was a brilliant idea so rushed to my grandma to ask for her permission. She placed her hands on my shoulders and said everything that was hers was mine which made me hug her tightly. Her frail hands touched me and I observed the marks on her skin caused by collecting heavy items when she used to do intense labour. How naïve was I to forget the sacrifices and struggles of my blood relations so that I could have a better, brighter future?

A few days after our arrival back home, I unpacked the wooden legs and rope and my dad bought wood from the local warehouse shop. As a family, we constructed the charpai which involved many steps like measuring the correct length and width of wood and attaching the rope tightly to the frame of the charpai.

Now, whenever I lie on our charpai in my garden and close my eyes on a sunny day and hear the birds chirping, I remember the special moments and memories I created with my grandmother on that summers day.

Posted by ypsociety