Sohail Abid

Backpacking across the world on a Pakistani passport

Topics: Punjab (Page 1 of 5)

Why do you travel in Punjab?

“At any hour of the day or night, I can shut my eyes and visualise in a swarm of detail what is happening on scores of streets,” a recent writeup in The Economist mentions a New Yorker reporter Joseph Mitchell having said that.

When people ask why do I travel in Punjab, I don’t always have a clear answer because it’s difficult to explain and I fear that people won’t get it. But I think this —becoming familiar— has been one of the primary attractions. I have walked in countless streets and neighborhoods across the towns and villages of Punjab. And by walking through them, I have made them mine. I know those streets and I recall those neighborhoods. The voices I heard, the faces I saw, the turns I took, the food I ate, the air I breathed, and the dust that covered me. I know them. I can go back to them. They are mine and I am theirs.

That’s why I travel in Punjab. To make it mine.

Dunyadari da khayal

It was late and having consumed four to five glasses of jaam-e-sheereen, I was a bit high when I left for home. The tax-driver I found was a jolly old man who, throughout the ride, kept telling me that everyone deserves a chance at a carefree and fun life because “that’s what life is for.” What a great pindiwaal, I thought.

Mid-way, he suddenly asked, like they all do at one point, “Where are you from?”

“Pakpattan,” I replied.

“You are from a great town, young man.”

“Ahaan… Yeah.”

“Tell me a miracle of Baba Farid.”

“Well, I don’t recall a miracle right now, but I can read a line of his poetry if you say?” I said.

“I’d rather take a miracle,” he insisted.

“Too bad, I can only be poetic in this state,” I smiled and then read this verse of Baba Farid’s: “Main bhulawa pagg da matt maili ho jaaye/ Gehla rooh na jaan-ee sirr bhi mitti khaaye.” (Fareed, I was worried that my turban might become dirty. My thoughtless self did not realize that one day, dust will consume my head as well.)

“Pagg, I think, means our status in the eyes of other people, we care too much about what they would think, I think he’s saying that we shouldn’t,” I gave my interpretation.

“Hanji, dunya-dari da bohta hi khayal rehnda sanu,” he commented. (Yeah, we do care too much about our status.)

Introduce yourself

“Since when have you been running this tandoor?” I ask the woman who owns and operates this tandoor that provides me with rotian for lunch and dinner here in Pakpattan.

“I have been here for decades, you are the newcomer, introduce yourself,” she says.

“Oh, I am a writer and, for the time being, living just two streets away from you.”

“That’s not an introduction, kaka. Name someone from the family.”

I tell her my mamu’s name who heads a government school in one of the villages outside the city.

“Oh, you are Rasheed’s nephew? Suleman’s grandson?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“How’s your grandfather? He now lives in Kasur, no? And what about your other mamu — the doctor in Lahore?”

“Oh you know them all.”

“Of course, I do. You are the new one here, not I,” she smiles.

Rawalpindi as seen from Haveli Sujan Singh

The marvelous view of the Rawalpindi city, as seen from the rooftop of Haveli Sujan Singh, right in the heart of old city.

Chittian Hattian da ik ghar

A house in the Chittian Hattian neighborhood in Rawalpindi.

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