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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

...Of One Final Trip

It's the darkest hour of the night.The usual night traffic rolls on by while everything stand still.But there is still some life stirring someplace.Under the shadow of Chauburji,there sits a lone bluesman smoking pot.Wearing his worn down hat and his beaten up shoes,with barely a shred in between,he lovingly nestles his slide guitar in his lap.Polishes it with his dhoti,spits away the guthka and starts to sing...

"I got the rickshaw jitters,man they's messin' up my mind

Lawd I got them rickshaw jitters,they's done mess'd up my min'

I feel that shakin' in my bones Lawd,right down to my intestines !!"

With the last week of the holidays upon me,there was still time for me to drag my bootheels a' wanderin' again.Having learned nothing from the gut-busting hikes in the Northern Areas,I was off again.This time it was gonna be a trip to the plains,Lahore to be precise.It was gonna be a train trip from Pindi,two nights in lahore and then back home again.It shoulda taken two days,ended up spanning over four nights...

The first night was a surreptitious trip up to Islamabad.Surreptitious because I would never have been allowed to go there with the whole Lal Masjid drama going on.But go there I did.Now,Islamabad's a pretty organized place,and that's what numbs my brain.I'm a pretty disorganized person,and it doesn't take much for me to get completely lost.And that's exactly what happens everytime I go to the capital.But before getting lost,I managed to run into the mother lode of good luck.An hour later,lugging two thousand rupees worth of CDs and DVDs,griining like a Cheshire,I rode out to eat.

And this is where my GPS handed in the dinner pail.Now I knew,and my friend knew that there's just one darn Pizza Hut in the whole of Islamabad,but for the life of us we couldn't find it.At least ten times 'round Jinnah Super,and almost as many around Super Market left us dizzy,hungry and queasy.At last,giving up,we went into a KFC for a burger and that's when we found out,those damn Pizza Hut buggers had closed down the joint two weeks ago.It was midnight when we set out to my friend's house,knowing full well that the train to lahore was at 7.30 the next morning.So either we were gonna miss some sleep,or be late for the train.

In our ever-obligin' way,we managed to do both.Stayed up half the night,and had to run like blazes to catch the train.And even then,the adventures didn't cease.Now how were we to know that there were two trains to Lahore,and how were we to guess that they both looked the same,and both were rearing to go.To cut the long story short,we got into the wrong train,and realized our mistake at the very last moment,sending us runnin' crazy across the platform to the right train and to the comfort of our seats.And comfort it sure was,a credit to the Railway department.Five hours later,(it was a local train,dontcha know) we were in Lahore.

Now there's something in the Lahore air.A mix of petrol,lavender,sweat and soil,it freshens up a man like nothing I've known.Leaving me at the Mess,my friend went out to meet some of his relatives while I slept.When I woke up round about six,I still couldn't find the bugger anywhere.Turns out he was gonna be out till nine,leaving me stranded.I stood it as much as I could,but finally decided to take matters into my own hands and set out to meet an old College friend of mine.Now I know there must be thousands of rickshaws in Lahore,but I couldn't find a single one.

There's something in my demeanor that sorta invites confidence.People look at me and say, "Say,this here looks like a nice chap.Sort of decent,well behaved lad,dontcha think.Let's ask him for directions !!"

And they stop,roll down their windows and ask me the way to such-and-such.And I bend down,look 'em straight in the eye,flash my most charming smile....and send 'em off to god knows where !!

At least five cars stopped to ask me for directions,and unless they ran into a bit of luck,they might still be wandering listlessly across Lahore,trying to find their way back home.Thus a word of warning,do NOT ask me for directions.Ever.

I finally managed to find a rickshaw,and headed out to Jinnah Hospital,where I was to meet this friend of mine.It had been ages since I had ridden one,and it was bloomin' good fun.My innards got the churning they deserved,and any earwax I might 'ave had must have perished in that magnificent wall of sound.Finally I was at the rendezvous point,waiting for my friend to come.

Now,I'm a cad when it comes to keeping in touch with friends.All through my life,as soon as we moved to a new city,the old friendships were ancient history.I used to,and still evade any contact with some of the best friends I ever had.So it was by a bit of effort that I got around to hooking up with a bunch of old acquaintances.Meeting up,exchanging pleasantries,we set out towards my first destination,a bookstore.Now the only nice place I had heard about was Readings,Main Boulevard,and that's where I headed.Excellent place,nice ambience,great books,(I bought seven!),and bloomin' cheap.Try to imagine eighty rupee books in Islamabad or Rawalpindi and you'll understand my excitement.My errant friend and his cousin hooked up with us and we set out to eat round about midnight.A hearty meal,and a good night's sleep,and that was that for the first day.

Sunday was Tourist day,sightseeing day.The museum,the fort,the mosque.And that compulsory trip to Iqbal's tomb.The fort's in pretty bad shape from when I last saw it,but the Masjid's as beautiful as ever.Strange bit of irony that Chinese tourists are allowed in the mosque,and we can't enter the adjacent Gurdwara.Ce la vie...

Another hooking up with a friend,and then to a couple of other places.Went roaming about NCA and FC College out of pure ennui,and then more shopping.I bought another bunch of cds as my friends' hair turned white at the thought of these fresh monstrosities that would eventually find their way to my hostel room,and hence to their tormented ears.Then it was a walk across deserted Defence,where a strange thing happened.As we were walking,a bike passed by and suddenly bust it's chain.I shrugged and passed on,found a rickshaw to take me back to the mess,but the driver refused,saying that the chain was broken!

Another mile of walking brought me to another rickshaw,this one with all of it's innards thankfully intact.We rode on home,weary but elated,when it suddenly stopped.The driver got out,did a quick diagnostic,and delivered the verdict,the chain's broken.Well,I mean really !! Finally we were back in our room,and slept soundly..

The final day was reserved for shopping for clothes,something I detest.But a phone call to another long lost friend saved the day.I picked up a couple of Dockers,and a bunch of tees,and that was it for shopping.Then roaming about Lahore,killing time till I had to go back,I realized what a nut I'd been in not keeping in touch with all these lads.Finally it was time to head home,and I boarded the Daewoo with the song of the Chauburji bluesman ringin' in my ears...

"Well the rickshaw's a howlin',howlin' for all to hear

Lawd that rickshaw's howlin,n' it's howlin' for y'all to hear

It's turned my brain all to puddin'and it's a tricklin out ma ear"

Shopping For The Week,

A Bob Seger compilation
A Johnny Cash comp
A Leonard Cohen collection
Another comp of Cohen covers
A Joni Mitchell comp
We Shall Overcome,Bruce Springsteen
A Springsteen live bootleg
A Neil Young comp
A Jackson Browne comp
A Naushad collection
A Van Morrisson comp
And the latest White Stripes record,Icky Thump...

Dracula (the original 1931 film)
The Grapes Of Wrath
The Lavender Hill Mob

Sula,Toni Morrisson
Ovid's Metamorphoses
My War,Andy Rooney
Leaving Home,Garrisson Keillor
WLT-A Radio Romance,Garrisson Keillor
Two more for my friends...


  1. Ooops, so you're the guy who nagged Ovid's metamorphises, i hid that behind a couple other titles and went back to get it and it was gone. I may have called you a few choice verbs...sorry.

    I can't believe you didnt have "Pathoore" from Mall. A Lahore classic.

  2. Pathoorey's not my ,er cup of tea...
    And just my luck,it wasnt Metamorphosis that I got.It was an Oxford critique.Now i've got to get the damn book,and then read the critique.Or vice versa...

  3. Hoop la! that means metamorphosis is still there.

  4. C'est la vie indeed.... don't rem the incident very well but recently there was something to the effect that--- an unestablished(?) sect was banned cause it used the 'ik onkar' (ONE god) symbol of the main religion... the times we live in!!

    your write-up makes me want to visit :)

  5. Well,aint that something..
    Most soitenly come and visit,and I can say the same about Bangalore too.Seems like India's answer to San Fransisco...