Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Deeh Pakistan - 5pm dec 30
early evening we get to the first Pakistani check post and everyone rushes out, some making a bee line for the woods, trudging through snow, to take a leak, some yelling at the policeman to hurry up and open the the barrier, couple of fellows in the bus yelling at the driver to get going, forget the fellows in the woods- complete hangama - the same people had hung around patiently for 3 hours at Chinese immigration, don't have an ounce of patience for their own people. the driver decided to teach them all a lesson and drive off to the next barrier. they came running, including the sole bearded fellow (who they derisively call 'Taliban' on the bus.)
besides the deportees, hes the only other Punjabi on the bus. 'Taliban' jumped off the bus the second we stopped, and began saying his asar prayers at the police chowki!!! he runs into the moving bus mad as hell for not waiting, theyre all yelling back at him...abhi kiya namaz parhney ka waqt hai? haan qaza ho jati warna..pagal insaan.....ghar ja kay parhna. bewaqoof, is ko namaz ki pari hai!
the whole scene unfolds like a comedy. the devout, praying on time, following the rules to the tee, dogmatic, bearded Punjabi trader, amidst a bus load of easy going Ismaili and Shia travelers not pushed about dogma or rules, holding his ground as much as they were theirs. the good thing is that these northern area folks conduct themselves with a sense of humor and ease...no getting riled up over technicalities, conversations don't become personal battles.....a sense of camaraderie with each other, and live and let live attitude for everyone else.
the next gate has a Khunjerab national forest ranger come in asking for the manifest, for forest entrance fees - they shoo him off like hes out of his mind. earlier they had collected Rs.20 per Pakistani, me included, and basically tell him to get lost, that's enough money for this bus-- hes reading the manifest and yelling back , 'theres an American' they're Koreans, they have to pay $10.00 each' they say 'no no no the American never made it from Tashkorgan (moi) the Koreans are Chinese, they've got it wrong on the manifest' (the Chinese don't pay a toll - they built the road!!) they practically push the poor fellow out and yell at the driver to hit the peddle -
we've barely driven 1/2 an hour and two narcotics officers stop us - they check all the Pakistanis with border passes (Northern Area residents travel to China's Xinjiang only on this pass) they're looking for a fellow who slipped out earlier with drugs. no luck. the guy wasn't returning on our bus! all the while there are three or four fellows sitting in front with me, some standing in the door way, all talking - i sat on the bus engine next to the driver all the way from Taskhkorgan even though butt was toasted by now - about what they do, how to get to America, how come i speak such good Urdu, my husband, my children, suggestions to come in the summer and spend a few months up north. better still rent an apartment in Kashgar for 6 months - ill surely save money and learn the language - which is a brilliant idea i might add - continually offering each other whatever meagre snacks we were each carrying, while i take pictures in a shaky bus, rolling along on solid icy KKH. the scenery after the pass becomes more and more dramatic and stunning, but by now i was so tired, just sat and talked with these fellows and quit taking pictures. enjoying the surreal scenery, the intersting easy going company in this bus journey. i figured all the pictures would be shaky anyways. suddenly i spotted the new crescent moon in the pink dusk light - 2nd moharram - what a beautiful sight. mummy had taught us to read one alhamd three quls and 7 salwats with our eyes shut, when we saw the new moon, along with a sweet farsi couplet - which I've forgotten - but basically says 'o new moon take away the worries the old moon gave me and bring with you happiness and glad tidings' then open your eyes and see something or someone beautiful first thing, so that the whole month would be blessed with that beauty. aga jan used to look at mummy's face, hold her delicate chin and give her a tight kiss on her cheeks - shed always be shy about it and say 'mat karain' in that sweet way of hers - and hed do it even more - shed have a smile at the corners of her lips -
i silently prayed that prayer, here in the Khunjerab valley and opened my minds eye to my loved ones.

1 comment:

Khadim Hussain said...

Hello Ms Tahereh!! So nice laaambi kahaniss about my hometown...thank you so much for sharing those experiences online....I wish,you always be there in Baltistan, designing and changing the whole area in real garden.... I pray let God create more desires and wishes in you to come back and go there...:) take care and wish you all the best!