Friday, May 13, 2016


Pakistan’s Movie Night
October 10, 2015
06:30 PM to 10:30 PM
Usman Shamim & Asia Ashraf
Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows 2015 – 2016
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia

There is a well-known saying that “In order to taste the culture, you have to taste the food”.  We shared Pakistan’s culture with 10 other Humphrey fellows from Egypt, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, South Africa, Mexico, Turkey, Peru, Slovak Republic and Bosnia & Herzegovina; VCU-Humphrey program coordinators, assistant coordinators, course and faculty advisors, kids and many others from different walks of life.  The celebration of Pakistan’s movie night on October 10, 2015, at VCU Globe Office of Richmond, Virginia was not less than the preparation and celebration of marriages in Pakistan.   

04 hours of celebration preceeded with a planning of more than two months including weeks of planning for the final movie, a week of planning for the decoration and dressing, and continued cooking in the last three days.  We selected this month with the purpose to celebrate Pakistan’s Movie Night and Asia’s Birthday together.  We carefully considered different varieties of food, desserts and music – in short we reflected four provinces of Pakistan named as Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh and KPK in 03 different variations of chicken (Chicken Karahi which is famous in Punjab, Chicken Achaar which is well-known in Balochistan and Sindh, and Chicken White Korma which is popular in KPK), Spinach & Paneer/Cheese (local name “Palak Paneer”), Lentil with Rice, Bread, Potato Cutlets, Sheer Khurma (Dessert), Pickle, Tomato and Green Chili sauces.  Pakistani food takes a lot of time for cooking, requires big pots and utensils, and each dish has its own recipe and it needs to be properly cooked.  This food is easy to cook if proper ingredients are known and available but difficult if you are living in a country where fast food has more preference and such ingredients are not easily available.   

Creating an atmosphere in which your guests feel the essence and beauty of your culture is a big challenge especially when you are living in a country which is on thousands of miles from your own country.  It was difficult for us to reflect each and every aspect of the culture in a place where you were also living as a guest; so we reflected our culture in a way as Pakistan’s flag has two colors green & white; we blew balloons, decorated walls, and food serving tables in green and white.  Even, we reflected colors of the flag in our dressings and food - white Shalwar Kameez for a male and white rice, green Shalwar Kameez for a female and green chili sauce.  We also warmly welcomed our guests on the beat of traditional music from Punjab Province.  Our valuable guests were also encouraged to dance with us when they entered the dining room.  We played a very famous music of Northern areas of Pakistan which is called "Rubab" when the food was served.  Eating food while listening to this musical instrument takes you to the other World. 

“We celebrated my birthday (Asia) after the food.  It was an ever opportunity that the birthday celebration was held at three different venues; in my home by the family, in my office by the staff, and in U.S with Humphrey family”. 

We served green tea as a tradition to our guests after the dinner.  Taking green tea after food is our century's old tradition.  We have been raised by listening to our elders that green tea after food is a good aid for your digestive system.

After the dinner, we showed Pakistani movie named as "Dukhtar" which means "Daughter" in English.  Dukhtar is a 2014 Pakistani drama thriller film.  It is the story of a mother and her ten-year-old daughter, who leave their home to save the girl from an arranged and early marriage to a very old tribal leader.  Unfortunately, still in the 21st century, early marriages are being practiced in few rural areas of the country with the reason to settle disputes among two tribes. 

We kept our tradition and thanked our valued guests by giving them the extra food at the end of the day.  We recorded all the memories of this celebration in numbers of pictures and specially designed a feedback card to receive their valuable thoughts.  We will leave U.S in the end of June 2016.  We will never be together as we were in this year.  But the days we spent together and the moments we shared with each other are stamped deep in our hearts.  We are going back to our countries with a lot of learning, great memories, motivation, commitment, passion, and a strong hope that one day we all together will make this World – A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE.