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A VISIT TO PAKISTAN: “Notes from a Karachite expatriate’s diary”

I had a chance of comparatively longer visit to Pakistan last October-November (2013) during my annual vacations. My trip is usually limited to Karachi but this time around it included a week long stay in Punjab. 

Roaming in Punjab

I took a rather long flight to Lahore. From there, I had to travel to Sargodha for two days stay. We were on our way from Allama Iqbal Airport and saw all lights shut down on the Lahore ring road and felt “Pakistan agaya hai bhai”. We touched the Motorway around 5:00 am and when the dawn came out, I was stunned to see the greenery and beauty on both sides of the motorway. I have usually traveled long road distances mostly in UAE, KSA etc in which the sight is usually limited to deserts and sandy conditions. So, I forgot blinking when I saw such landscape of Pakistan. The lush green fields, to both right and left with an odd innocent tree here and there; meant to provide soothing shadow to the farmers. I wonder what would be the feeling of Pakistan’s natural beauty including the famous naturally blessed northern areas. I made each and every effort to absorb the scenery inside me throughout the journey, so inspired that it can be recalled anytime just by closing eyes.

Model Mart of Sargodha

So, after that I reached Sargodha and had a great two days stay with my relatives. Roamed around the city and found people very kind and helpful. Each place I went, people instantly recognized that I was from Karachi (mainly through my Karachi Urdu accent) and gave even more welcoming reception after confirming this. I visited the “Model Mart of Sargodha” during a fine cloudy drizzling evening. It was great to see people enjoying with their families coming from all backgrounds. The most striking to notice was the carefree and open style of people. People were doing all sorts of activities without any fear which was a surprise to a Karachite like me who always fears for some incident to happen.

Baagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore Zoo and Museum…

Baagh-e-Jinnah 2

From there on, we went to Lahore for two days again enjoying the green ride through the motorway. The very next day we hired a private taxi (having a Driver cum city Guide) for a trip of Lahore. First of all we visited Baagh-e-Jinnah which is rightly famous for its old and oldest trees. The lush green Garden of Mughal time is really a treat to visit specially due to its very good maintenance. Apart from old trees, there is a mountainous path which many people like to climb. Also there is a beautiful “Bara-Dari” at far end of main entrance. There is an awesome library within the Garden. The library administrators specially allowed us (when they came to know we were visitors from Karachi) to have a round trip of library. The atmosphere inside was really peaceful and striking with many of students studying/working for their ongoing projects.

Lahore Zoo

From there, we visited “Lahore Zoo” which is also very good. Almost all categories of animals including wild beasts like lions and tigers, section for snakes to a big section of birds. Highly recommended to visit with your families. From there, we briefly visited the ‘Lahore Museum’ which is full of antiques and objects from Mughal Empire and even times well before. It also show cases art from Gandhara times.

Lahore Museum

There is a very good antique gift shop inside the Museum. I found the staff quite welcoming and Cooperative. Worthy to mention a funny thing. While coming In and Out of the car, I was strictly locking it and asking my wife to also do so. When the Lahori driver saw this, he told us with pride: “Bhai Sahib ap fikar na karo yahan aisi koi tension nahee hai,cheena jhapti nahee hoti hai itni main jagah pe, yeh Karachi nahee hai” Iske aage meri kia feelings thee’n, I am speechless…App samjh hee gayee hoge na!!!

Data darbar

While roaming around in Lahore city we recited ‘Fateha’ at Data Sahib. Also glad to see the Metro Bus project in service. People were very positive about this newly open project and believed that it’s fulfilling its purpose. I hope so they are right…We saw Traffic constables obeying their jobs with utmost responsibility and seem to be educated well behaved people.

Fortress shopping

We visited Fortress’ shopping mall that is very well maintained and its main corridor is mainly Female shopping Oriented. I was very surprised to see almost all ‘sleeveless’ dress display for ladies. Thanks god they still provide optional supplementary sleeves…

Badshahi Masjid & Minar-e-Pakistan

Then, we visited Icons of “Badshahi Masjid” and Shahi Qila.

Shahi qila

Shahi Qila was unfortunately closed when we reached there.

Badshahi masjid

Badshahi Mosque round trip was a real treat including the display of pious antiques on the upper floors near the entrance. I recited fateha for the Allama Iqbal resting outside the Badshahi Masjid with a large sigh having an intention to study him more than ever before. The food street just outside the Shahi Qila is awesome. Food though is a bit expensive but it’s very delicious and well presented. The well dressed, well behaved young Gentlemen selling all sorts of traditional food stuff with a modern touch. It was a real sight to see such a transformation. We enjoyed Gola and Falooda, Yum Yum Yummy!

Minar e Pakistan

Minar-e-Pakistan was far from our reach as we were short of time and while I was trying to capture it with my camera inside the car behind the window glasses of car. The driver stopped the car by road “Bhai sb aram se bahir nikal kar tasveerein kheinch lain, yahan koi snatcher nahee aaye ga” Oh I got some confidence and snapped Minar-e-Pakistan with a sense of Independence. The same thing happened at the famous Lahore Railway station where I took some snaps. “Waise Apas ki baat hai” I was afraid of every other person passing close by me and was ready for someone to snatch my camera. It never happened Alhamdulillah!!!

Oh Pity, A typical Karachite Behavior!

Observing my cautious behavior, the driver told me a funny event which he had with a family from Karachi. He told me once he was carrying a family from Karachi (who was visiting Lahore) to their relatives; he took them to the desired area which was a part of congested old Lahore. During the process, they reached a comparatively narrow street when two bikers were coming from the opposite side. The women inside the car when saw the bikers they sighed “Ahh Lo bhai agaye! (they were thinking that those bikers were snatchers who will now loot them)”. The driver on the other end thinking that these bikers are relatives of passengers he said “Acchi baat hai ke woh agaye hain”. When the bikers passed by the car without any harm, the women told him “We thought these were Snatchers”. Ohh then driver told them what he was thinking and calmed them down that “be patient, this is not Karachi; snatching is not that common here”…So this is a typical story of us Karachites…The man literally laughed at me at few occasions seeing my scary attitude as if I was a Goofy. Frankly speaking, I got jealous specially after observing the well developed ON ITS WAY Lahore. When will this happen to Karachi and off course every other beloved city of Pakistan??? I am still thinking trying to find answers…

During my Punjab visit, exposed to different people, there was often a discussion on the situation of Karachi and what’s happening in Punjab. What are the difference in behavior of Karachites and people in Punjab. Overall, I saw a welcoming attitude from different people I encountered. In the hotel (where we stayed) barber shop, I seek help from a man as to how to approach my Lahore tour; he was Gem of a man. He helped me a lot and told me each and everything required for a Lahore visit. In the end, he told me about his Karachi visit:

“The people in Karachi are not that welcoming and do not help the way I am helping you” he said.

“May be you met the few odd Guys, we are as welcoming and hospitable as people in any other area of Pakistan” I replied so as to settle down his negative perspective about Karachites. While I was moving towards the airport (luckily with the same driver who showed us Lahore) I saw big banners portraying Shahbaz Shareef.

“You are lucky that you got a man like Shahbaz Shareef in Punjab performing so well” I told driver.

“Yeah we are lucky, he is making Lahore an International city with passage of time” He replied.

“But do not you think as major stake holders and national leaders Mian brothers and other authoritative Individuals in Punjab should also spread this development fairly to others parts of the country?” I asked.

“You are right my friend, agar aap bare ho, ap baap ho tou apko baap ban kar dekhana pare ga. Sab bacho’n se aik jaisa salook tou karna hoga warna koi faida nahee hai.” Driver replied thinking deeply and deeply…

And yes, this last sentence is a key to my visit of Punjab and wrong perspective that many of us Karachites carry in their minds about People in Punjab. Common public is just like us willing to see all Pakistan in good shape. They have got nothing to do with biased things going on at the Top. They have similar feelings and often become victim of their own authoritative people. I have seen many people from Punjab saying “Karachi walo’n jaisa bara Dil kisi ka nahee hai”. Such acknowledging and welcoming behavior still exit, not visible on majority of media. We need to realize all this scenario/puzzle!  

Beloved Karachi, finally…

Then I headed towards Karachi. PIA flight is already discussed in one of my previous blogs; just do not want to recall that again. It was great to see Karachi in a good shape because of the ongoing operations (at that time in October-November, 2013).I saw people moving freely like the birds who are being freed from the cage. I pray/hope for that day when all of us will be walking and enjoying freely without need of any such operation; and Karachi gets its due place and lives up to its potential. InsAllah!

In Karachi, I got involved in few household and outside works; also applied for few personal certificates through local Union council Office. All this left me with disappointments. Masses often complain lack of work, but ironically when you appoint somebody for some work; it requires real GUTS to get that finished because people tend to delay and ran away from given responsibilities…I found people in Govt. Offices incompetent and I am sure they can not write their own Names properly.

My visit ended and I took some mixed memories out of it. I did not watched news channels much during my trip and felt lot better nerves; lot of good things still continues to happen in Pakistan. It’s the responsibility of our Government and Media to highlight positive things and attitude within our people. Inter people connection needs revival between various cities/provinces to avoid Misunderstandings. Discouraging the ethnic mess-ups and restoring an effective transportation system are some steps that must be taken in this regard.

Life gets on its way after all things we see and face. Sitting outside the country, escaping from a busy and machinery life I often close my eye’s to cherish Golden memories earned while stay in my motherland listening carefully to what heart beat is saying Pakistan Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad!…

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