Category: Travel Bug


Heroine n. a female hero.

Hero n. (pl. heroes) 1 a man who is admired for his brave or noble deeds. 2 the chief male character in a story, play, or poem.

Favourite relevant phrase: ‘Why are you trying to be a hero, give it here.’ And she would swiftly pull the heavy bags out of the soon to be throbbing hands and carry them as lightly as though she were not carrying them at all.

 

Dear Ms. Saira Khan,

I am semi writing to you about your recent documentary ‘Pakistan Adventure’, and ironically, my purpose in doing so is almost as muddled as was yours. I wish to praise your work, in the most sarcastic manner, and yet doing so would not detract from my genuine need to express lamentation for the opportunity it is clear you have wasted. And yet, I wish to thank you for inspiring me to make my own efforts to portray a true ‘Pakistan Adventure’.

I would like to paraphrase your entire adventure, or the essence of it as it has remained in my mind, as my honest impression of your work.

‘OK, I am going to pretend to be slightly surprised and very concerned. I’ve just been to visit ‘the most famous artist’ of Lahore, in a Red Light District. He is not of the sophisticated world renowned artists, but a cinema poster painter. His work is clearly page three vulgarity but I am going to pretend it is fascinating, deep and insightful and there is nothing better than this in Pakistan. I’m surprised to say I have not yet seen any women around here.

OK, I’ve just been to the Pakistani equivalent of a junky rave. They spin around incredibly fast so I assume they are dervishes, Sufis. I am in the roughest part of the city, let’s call it the heart of the city, and seem to be surrounded by substance abusers. I am the only woman here and if you watch the footage carefully, I am the only person sitting here swaying my head. This feels very similar to when I was trying to participate in mens’ wrestling! I’m surprised to say I have not yet seen any other women around.

OK, I’m in the Palace of Mirrors of the Badshahi Masjid. It is the most beautiful place I have seen in a long time. The tourists, over the years, have pulled and plucked the mirrors from the grand walls, yet I am breathless- it is still glorious. A place of serenity and majesty, this is the perfect opportunity to raise the conflict between Islam and Beauty. I notice the tour guide is mildly bemused by my observation. This must be the snigger of agreement.

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OK, I’m on a dirt track in the middle of nowhere! I’m about to purchase some jewellery from these mountain men who are so street-wise they speak English. Turn around boys, ooh-la-la, I have to get my money out! I’m concerned to say that I haven’t seen a single woman around here. I have also been receiving the most curious stares. I wonder if it’s because I’m a woman. It probably is. No, it definitely is. I ask my camera crew to make sure they get a shot of some of these peculiarities.’

I am pleased that you showed some of the unmatchable, beautiful countryside of Pakistan and didn’t spend a moment showing something like the shiny, buzzing metropolis of Lahore to contrast it with. If you had shown it, we would have spotted all the women and that would have caused a lot of editing problems for the rest of the documentary- so I understand.

In true summary, you travelled, a woman practically alone, not covered ‘head to toe’, approximately 5’000 miles through some of the most obscure parts of the country and completed your journey safely, unharmed, undisturbed and your footage unprotested. Heroic, certainly.

On this note, I have only two words to say:

Pakistan Zindabad.

Best Regards,

Toobaa.

For clips, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctwo/noise/?programme=saira_khan

In the forward bounding spirit of change, and upon the advice of our in-house research department, TooReFo, we have decided to uproot our newly built and barely worn in home at blog.com and trek over to wordpress.com. Toobaa will no longer be updated at http://toobaa.blog.com .

We will, unfortunately, be unable to take with us the shallow (physical depth only) pool of comments that we have joyously tinkered our toes in whilst relishing our stay at blog.com. However, all posts, till now, have been comfortably settled in at wordpress.com.

We thank you for accompanying us so far and hope you will continue to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The doorbell twittered and echoed through the whitewashed haveli, whilst the sun beat down from its highest point. It was the time of the midday siesta and whilst Ghulam Mustafa lay resting his old self after eating and praying with his usual military precision, Afzal had been pottering around, straightening doilies atop bowls of fruit in the cool storeroom. Upon hearing the bell, she turned and made her way to the gates.

‘Kaaauuun? Kaaauuun?’ (Who’s there?) she called out in her aged yet tireless voice.

‘O kholi, pehhhn!’ (Open it, sister!)

Sister, hmmm, this is a familiar voice!

Drawing the latch aside she thought about how it needed a good oiling. She pulled the gate aside and saw him standing there.

He was very short, of hobbit-like stature, darkened to a deep steady glow by the sun, in his white stiff shalwar kameez and topi. His ears were very large, as was his nose. His senses were as sharp as when he was in his youth. There are more interesting things to discuss regarding his appearance, but this can wait for now.

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Although he continues to pester Afzal during his stay there, fussing over the contents and quantities of his meals (too hot, too mild, can’t eat this, can only eat that, too much, too little), she often bites her tongue and remembers how Allah had sent him to the gates of her large home, asking for some living space. She had thought to herself, after much deliberation, Allah has given me such a generous abode, a generous lot, Alhamdulillah, is there not room for this old man to stay? This old family helper? So, she decided to let him stay.

I wished he had kept a journal of his own, to record all of his exquisite stories. Patwari is the Punjabi word for a builder or architect. More often than not, it’s used in the way we use the word ‘brickie’. And Lala is simply a title used to address certain elders. Elders indeed, for although Lala Patwari’s appearance would tell you that he was in his late 60’s, he is, in fact, around 110 years old. One hundred and ten years. He claims that at the time of the partition of India, he was no less than 50 years of age.

Grandma, Nania-ji¸ knew him from when she was a young girl. He often looked after her and her siblings as a helper. He had worked in the palace of the maharaja, where my Kurdish great grandfather was once an engineer. He also made the perilous journey with them from Jammu to Sialkot. And then, my mother remembers him likewise, he was around when she and her siblings were growing up, too. ‘I remember him looking exactly as he does now’, she says, ‘and he would tell us the happenings of his life then, too.’ 

He now lives in the servant quarters of Nania-ji’s home in Sialkot, the Punjab of Pakistan (and from time to time he oils the latch). During my six-month stay out there, I was delighted by his storytelling, and dismayed at the fact that very few other people truly appreciated his treasure chest of experience. He only needs to be asked once. Then, he will relish recounting his stories, interconnected, interwoven, a stream of tales that ends only shortly before, isha, the evening prayer, when he retires up to his quarters in the tower. Yes, it is a tower. It is a short turret adjoined to the haveli, or mansion, the stairs of which he can quite fairly climb only twice a day.

From time to time, I will write about what I discovered about him; pictures; notes; descriptions; habits; traits; all that I documented, all that I researched and verified with regards to his age and, most important of all, the stories themselves. For it is up to us to ‘eternalize’ these voices. After they have wasted, they will ring haunting the living- reminding them of the fleeting haste that our souls make, and the voice it dons to speak of its stay in this place.