Category: Diaspora

1947

Religion

Used to drive a wedge between two good friends –

Not the usual story

But now made a commonplace, bitter rivalry

Nights

Peaceful as they were, turned into chances for war.

Never did this happen

Now there was no peace – strange times.

Ram

Turned into a violent man, no longer your neighbor

Ahmed was now livid

Their bonds were now frayed and frail

Everything

Was in a chaos – above the din and distress

The colonisers rose victorious

They could sleep peacefully on white beds.

(Written for an online course organised by the University of Iowa.)

Borders

Crossing borders, we try to see,

the many contradictions – two or three,

they are not.

They are many.

for the world is full of humans,

all unique.

You try to see each one, as

an Indian, a Pakistani.

a Clever, a Meek.

But I tell you,

don’t group them,

as nations.

Borders don’t count,

any more than coins do,

to a rich human’s bank account.

any more than an ant does,

on the treading path of a wanderer.

Think beyond these crafted borders,

that divide, multiply,

add and subtract,

all of our prejudices, all of our

greedy assumptions,

about humans,

who people the world,

and are as unique,

as fingerprints that dot,

gloves, walls, pens, paper,

my hands and yours.

What if…

Last night, there were some resounding gunshots as I lay down to sleep. I grew anxious but after they stopped, my anxiety died down, realising that they must have been fired at a wedding celebration. It was this dying anxiety and my own indifference which made me think of so many what ifs.

What if I was a child at the Peshawar massacre and those gunshots were coming from next door? I could only wait for myself to go through the same fate as my friends.

What if I was a child in the Gaza conflict zone and those gunshots were coming from outside my house? They could be aimed at anyone who I knew.

What if I was a child living in a Lyari district where there are gang-wars going on daily? And those gunshots were right there in my vicinity, threatening to pierce the walls or windows any moment?

These very thoughts made me shudder. In the silence of the night, I could do nothing but ponder on my own state as a rather indifferent person. What efforts had I made to perhaps offer them atleast a word of condolence?

The silence of a winter’s night then grew upon me when the echo of the gunshots had died away. The same thoughts returned.

What if I was one of those girls captured by Boko Haram and the silence was that of being enslaved and captured in an unknown place? I can only imagine the distress of the parents who have lost their daughters.

What if I was an IDP who had fled from her beautiful valley and the silence was that of the empty night outside my tent where paths led to unknown places?

Every thought led to the same conclusion like a maze, what have I done to lessen such misery uptil now? My conscience pricked back at every thought – nothing.

Wanderlust

Travelling is one experience which leaves you enthralled and more curious than ever. It opens up perspectives, about people, about cultures, about bittersweet divides – it leaves you enchanted.

So it was my family’s curiosity left unquenched when we had travelled to India almost annually, via air. This involved a trip from Karachi to Mumbai by plane, and SriLankan Airlines had been offering this route for quite some years. Then came in PIA as the only option as the SriLankan Boeings stopped going to our bittersweet neighbour. Came our national carrier’s delays and the long detours became quite annoying.
We held our patience, yet a series of cancelled domestic connections and missing the ones we had been aiming for made it all the more frustrating.

What next? How do you travel to a country next door, when the journey makes it so cumbersome – let alone the immigration process (even that has improved with technology coming to our rescue). So we pondered, thought of other options, and advice that we had not paid heed to, clicked. What about travelling by road? The bus a few people had told us about? The ‘dosti bus’ as people recognise it or the ‘Wagah-Attari route’. Yes, we tried that next.

What we had thought would be a journey in a vehicle quite uncomfortable, with perhaps no food, with getting stuck in traffic, turned out to be completely the opposite. For as little as $30 per person, with services including fully armed protocol, stops for breakfast, lunch, tea and snacks, it was quite a treat. Think of all this, and you whizzing by lush green fields, in quite comfy chairs, with perhaps a movie to watch (but as per the driver’s choice). You also get the advantage of having lunch at a floating restaurant, see the Wagah border, and I repeat, no traffic hassles as cars are stopped for a few seconds to allow the bus to pass. Perhaps the only downfall is that the total journey time is twelve hours, which increases in the case of rain – nevertheless, it is a lovely drive.

View from the floating restaurant

The fact that the bus leaves on time, and travels daily, makes it a better option than air, for which you get a flight only once a week, and it usually gets delayed. The bus tickets are also 15 times light on your pocket! We also take the chance to talk to friendly passengers on the bus or capture a few memorable pictures or picturesque landscapes. You meet students from Kashmir travelling to Pakistan for university, or perhaps a lady going to meet her parents on the other side, or a tourist enchanted with the cultural milieu on both sides.

What next, we are asking ourselves. Another option is on our minds – the via foot option – cross the Wagah border on foot (in shaa Allah). Much shorter and even more of a tourist’s delight!

Before taking this ‘brave’ step of travelling by road, I would Google about it endlessly, and would receive short, confusing reviews. Here is a compilation of websites that may help someone planning to do the same!

http://www.tourism.gov.pk/ldbs.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delhi%E2%80%93Lahore_Bus
http://www.travel-culture.com/ptdc/lahore-delhi-bus-service.shtml

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Fact-file:
Tickets are booked in Karachi, Pakistan from the PTDC office in Hotel Metropole.
Return tickets are booked from Lahore, the bus station in Gulberg, Liberty Market.
You can also book your return from the Delhi bus station, but not in the evening. If you are travelling to Pakistan from India, you can book your return tickets from the Lahore bus station once you reach there.

You will have to reach the Lahore bus station on your own and arrange for transport from the Delhi bus station, or vice versa.
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