Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pakistan trip - The Lahore series

The flight from Islamabad to Lahore was a really short one - about 45 minutes or so. What amazed me about the domestic flights were the announcements that went something like "Inshallah we'll land at 10.35 pm." It was amazing to see how Allah is ingrained in the little things of people's everyday life in Pakistan. Though I am not religious at all, but looking at their deep faith, somehow I felt that my respect for the whole concept of religion went up a notch.

We landed at Allama Iqbal International airport in Lahore late at night.

A beautifully lighted up mosque on the way to the hotel

As I entered the premises of the Pearl Continental hotel, I heard a "Good evening, ma'am." The problem was - I had no idea who said that. I looked to my left, to my right, in front of me and even behind me. There was no one. Freaking out a little bit, I started walking when the voice said again, "Hello ma'am."

Holy cow, the voice was coming from above my head. I looked up, and there he was, the tallest guy I had ever seen in my life. I wondered if he was taller than Yao Ming. He was obviously amused by the fact that I couldn't locate him earlier, and grinned widely. I grinned back and said "Shukriya" as he held the door open for me.

The moment I stepped into the hotel lobby, I almost gasped. It was the most beautiful hotel I had ever seen. In my life.

Check out the stunning hotel interior!

Even the lifts were breathtakingly beautiful!

View from inside the lift

The security, just like in any other big hotel in Pakistan, was really tight.

I saw this restaurant and could not help but click a picture because I was laughing my ass off thinking "This restaurant's name rhymes with 'kambakht'! Hahahahahaha!"

Suddenly the most divine music filled up the lobby. I turned to look and this guy was playing the most beautiful Bollywood tunes on this piano.

Check out his rendition of 'Pehla nasha'!

My room was totally divine.

I walked all around clicking pictures like a maniac.

Nothing was spared - not even the bathrooms!

Or the washbasin!

The room even had electronic scales, which I referred to as the 'complimenting scales' because every time I got on them, it showed me a few kgs less than the last time! :/

Room service for dinner - chow mein and chopsuey

Finally, I was ready to crash. The next day was the last of the presentations.

I woke up early on a hazy morning.

Ugly view from my window! :P

It was a great day to be in Pakistan because Yousuf had just broken Vivian Richard's record - great moment for Asian cricket. I felt proud. Whoa, I actually felt proud without feeling guilty.

I got dressed and went for breakfast. I had the softest naans of my life along with chicken nehari - a dish where the chicken is cooked overnight on a slow fire, making it incredibly tender.

The car was not yet there to fetch me so I decided to roam around the shops in the hotel. Though the shops were not yet open, I had a blast 'window-shopping' in the true sense.

I took some more random pictures.

Ah, this is the miniature truck I was talking about!

And a miniature auto-rickshaw too!

Interesting things in the shop windows

Exhausted with all the 'shopping', I decided to chill in the lobby.

Finally, the car was there and we set off for the presentation venue.

Ramiz Raza on a StanChart billboard

The mosque I'd seen the night before

It was only when I saw this billboard with the words 'URS from Singapore, I thought of Singapore. I was thinking of Singapore in days! Strangely, I wasn't missing it. At all!

Finally we reached the venue - Sunfort hotel. The place was packed. And this time, the percentage of males was the highest so far. I think we had like SIX male teachers amongst the crowd of 70 female teachers. And from what I'd seen so far - that was a lot!

The final presentation

Final demonstration of how my respiratory system works

One of the male teachers was so good-looking it was almost distracting! I think I jusssst about avoided a potential Veer-Zaara situation (reversed) here! :/

After my presentation, I had to go to the police (yet again!) to get registered. I was getting a bit sick of it by now. Mr. F, my host in Lahore and one of "the boys" U accompanied me. By then, I was used to being driven around without a seat belt, and I was totally comfortable. On the way, we discussed Yousuf's record, languages, music, Pakistani and Indian cities and what not. I told U how I had seen Pakistani currency notes but no coins so far. I also found out that he was doing a part-time MBA. I instantly bonded with him. Only a part-time student can understand the joys/pains of another part-time student.

The stamping process at the police station was pretty fast, but they needed a photocopy of the stamped form. So Mr. F gave his car keys to U and asked him to escort me to the car while he looked for a photocopier. Now's the funny part - the car wouldn't open! The key refused to go in. We tried both doors but it just wouldn't! Geez! So there we were - U and me - inside a police station, surrounded by police jeeps, and attempting to "break into" a vehicle. Looking at the glares we got from the policemen around us, we did not know how to react. Worse, the alarm went off! Sheesh! Finally U got the alarm to stop and Mr. F was there too. I breathed a sigh of relief, while U grinned. "Aaj toh andar jaane ka plan hi bana kiya tha, nahin?" ("You were all set to get arrested today, isn't it?") I asked him. Later, when we related this incident to my Manager, he chuckled "Good for you, Sayesha. Anyway, I can see how attached you're getting to this place. You should have just got arrested. Food, accomodation - all provided."

Anyway, we were asked to go to a second police station to get another stamp. The police officer was extremely strict - he looked like someone straight out of a Bollywood movie. He asked me many many many questions - some of them in such pure Urdu that I was baffled and looked to U for help. Then he asked "Nikaah ho gaya hai?" ("Are you married?"). When I shook my head, he gave me such a look of disapproval I was sure his next question would be "Kyun nahin hua?" Whoa. Scary.

"Waapsi kab hai?" ("When are you returning?")
"Kal." ("Tomorrow.")
"Toh kal aake stamp kara lena."

What? One more trip? I looked at U helplessly.

"Sir, aaj stamp nahin ho sakta?" ("Sir, can't you stamp it today?") U asked.

"Aaj stamp kar doonga. Aap aaj inko rawana kar doge?" ("I will stamp it today. Will you send her back today?")

Sheesh. Evil. Pure evil.

So we left his office. On the way Mr. F and U were discussing how this delay was just a ploy to get some chai-pani (bribe). The funny thing is that according to the guys, this officer was such a big shot they did not even know his "bribe rate" so they could not offer him in case he got offended. I was laughing in spite of my frustration. And in my head I was singing "Jaisa des hai tera... hooooooooooo... waisa des hai mera." ("Your country is exactly like my country.")

"Ghabrao nahin, Sayesha. Kal ho jayega. Main aake kar doonga. Tumhe aane ki zaroorat bhi nahin hogi." ("Don't worry, Sayesha. I'll get this done tomorrow. You won't even have to come here." Mr. F reassured me.

We got back to the venue of the presentation and had yummy Pakistani food for lunch again. The event ended around 4 pm, and we wrapped up. Suddenly, I realised that it was all over. Work was over! Now we could chill! There was a general buzz of excitement in the air, as we discussed the success of the events in the four cities. After the books were packed, we hung around for a while, talking nonsense. Now we could afford to talk nonsense. My Manager started a palm-reading session. When he told R (one of "the boys") that he was only gonna get married at the age of 35, R shook his hand and said "Thank you, man! You made my day!" Hehehehe. Men! :)

We went back to the hotel to freshen up. We were supposed to meet at Nandos for dinner - a place that according to NBhai served very hot food. "You'll love it, Sayesha." He said. "I just hope the Singaporeans can take the chilli." But now that the presentations were over, no one cared about upset tummies and the likes.

And now that the work part was officially over, I decided to dress up a bit. I'd bought gorgeous green earrings from a shop in Islamabad and I was dying to wear them with my green churidaar-kameez, which I'd carefully packed along with the hope that I would actually have an occasion to wear it.

The English speaker and me, ready to go for dinner

Nandos turned out to be this ultra-cool place with ultra-hot food. The waiter actually said, "Ma'am I suggest you change your order from 'spicy' to 'mild'." Hmmmph! I was offended like nobody's business! I insisted on having the 'spicy' dish, and to my utter surprise, the dhakkan actually served me the 'mild' one. Not wanting to make a fuss, I dug into my food, and errr... may I just say "oh boy". :O

My Manager - the one who's been complaining about the lack of hot food in Pakistan - was almost in tears because of his hot pasta. I tried some of it, and almost cried too! "Izzat rakh li tuney mehmaanon ke saamne." ("You saved our honour in front of our guests.") NBhai praised the waiter.

Coke's great with hot food!

These fried green peppers were hot hot hot! NBhai challenged me to have two of 'em and I did! Of course, my mouth was on fire. Luckily, they had something called Portugese lemonade that helped me fight the fire. :P

It could have been the hot food. It could have been the fact that the work part was over. It could have been that finally we'd all dressed down. Whatever it was, there was something in the air. Something that made all the hidden secrets tumble out.

"How old are you guys really?" The English speaker asked. "I'm sorry I can't resist anymore, I have to ask."

"Actually we've been trying to guess your ages since day 1." I told "the boys" sheepishly. One by one they confessed their ages, and turns out most of them were in their late twenties. And I was the youngest at that table! Muahahaha.

"So did you try to guess our ages when you first met us?" I asked them.

"Naah. Not really." said K, one of the boys.

After a 5-second pause, he burst into laughter.

"Actually we did. A little bit." He grinned. The others were all blushing by then.

"So how old did you think I was?" I'd have thought they'd have guessed 40 due to my over-zealous Manager who kept introducing me to the audiences as "the editor who has been with our company for many many years and has written and edited many many books for us and has taught science at an enrichment centre for many many years".

"We were undecided on whether you were 24 or 25." K said.

Ooh. Phew. :P

Suddenly NBhai started laughing.

"What? What? What?" I asked.

"Do you know, Sayesha... the first time I met you, I had no idea you knew Urdu. And then we were in the car and you told me you did? You remember me sms-ing like crazy?"

Of course I did. I remembered freaking out too.

"Well, that was just me sms-ing "the boys" to warn them not to say anything in Urdu in your presence. You know boys... they would have talked... right in front of you... not knowing that you could understand every word they said." He guffawed. Meanwhile, "the boys" were turning redder than my curry.

"Luckily I sms-ed everyone you were going to be talking to - the boys, KBhai, Mr. F, everyone! So they were all very careful in your presence."

"Damn I should have never told you I know Urdu!" I exclaimed. "Bahut maza aata jab aap log mere saamne sari baatein karte! And just before leaving, I'd have retorted something in Urdu!"

"Kya bol rahi ho Sayesha?? Pata nahin hum sab kya bol jaate..." More embarrased looks from the boys. More uncontrollable laughter from me. More confused looks from the Singaporeans. Finally someone translated for them what NBhai had just told me.

Now that all the confessions were off everyone's chests, it was so much fun hanging out with "the boys". Mr. F told me that I looked very good "oopar se neeche tak green hi green mein". His description cracked me up. U cracked some PJs which - believe it or not - were even worse than mine! I asked NBhai if he had an editorial exchange program in his office so I could work with him for six months in a year. U gave me some coins he'd brought along for me. I was really touched that he remembered what I'd told him, while R naughtily whispered something in his ear.

Sheesh. Boys will always be boys, huh? :)

Finally, the evening came to an end. I felt really good. Everything was great. Everything was perfect. The only thing that was making me sad was that I had only one more day in Pakistan. Why is it that you only start getting close to someone when you're about to leave them? :'(

Last picture of the day outside Nandos

Coming up next in the Wagah border series - sitting on the steps with 5000 Pakistanis, looking at the Indian soil and the Indians seated a few feet away from me on "the other side", posing with 7-foot tall people, and being totally jealous of myself!



  • GOLD!!!yayY!!!!!!!!! Di dances like crazy but still wishes she was there live.. :((
    lovely pics yaar..and even lovelier people :)) on my to-do list is to try and visit pakistan some day.. :)

    By Blogger Di, at 10:44 PM  

  • you have taken blogging to next level. and when i say that i am definitely not kidding.

    //jaisa desh hai tera.. waisa desh hai mera//

    i laughed so hard on this, i had tears in my eyes.

    you looked stunning in green.

    By Anonymous satish, at 1:55 AM  

  • and yes the silver is mine.

    By Anonymous satish, at 1:56 AM  

  • Fantastic!! Ihave enjoyed all your posts. And you look really smashing in green 'oopar se neeche tak' ;) :):)

    By Anonymous naari, at 2:45 AM  

  • yeah yeah!
    u do look very good "oopar se neeche tak green hi green mein" :)

    By Blogger Iday, at 5:20 AM  

  • You have a great style of narrating the events. Very visual words - and obviously the pictures helped! :) Glad you had fun!

    By Blogger qsg, at 6:42 AM  

  • did you go to Mall Road?? Did you go to Anarkali Bazaar???

    did you buy punjabi jootis from there???


    By Blogger virdi, at 2:12 PM  

  • Hei...great post!! its so much fun to read them :)

    By Anonymous thisisme, at 7:16 PM  

  • Hey, you look amazing in that green dress... love it.

    By Blogger Boogerworm, at 9:23 PM  

  • exactly the same thoughts ran thru my minds as i read n just as I thought, you penned down the same...
    //I walked all around clicking pictures like a maniac.
    my thoughts..."she didn't even leave the bathroom out of the pics"...n then u write abt them :-)
    # the topi waale trucks again...they really are cute...
    #those sof drink bottles really amuse me...
    # re-iterated i guess but my first thoughts were...wow she looks stunning in green...seriously...don't remember seeing u in salwar kameez in ne pics b4...u look gud :-)
    # an observation: All ur prez rooms look the same...same screen n same u in the corner behind the dias!
    looking forward to more posts :-) and sooner :D

    By Blogger Bivas, at 3:56 AM  

  • i have been to the amritsar side of wagah border...

    too cool it is...

    u can see the birds flying over the fence but humans cant cross the fence... tab ja ke i understood the song, "panchi nadiya pawan ke jhoonke, koi sarhad inhe na roke"

    kyun fundu na??

    By Blogger virdi, at 1:27 PM  

  • just lloved this post!! :)

    "Inshallah we'll land at 10.35 pm."
    imagine if they had said "Inshallah we'll land"

    @jaise desh hai mera

    cool pics!! nice people!!
    shukriya yaar! Pakistan ka ye nazara pesh kiya aapne!

    By Blogger Strider, at 2:30 PM  

  • Hi sayesha di

    Aur lo mera bhi compliment:
    tussi achchhe lagte ho churidar-kurti mein.

    my latest wish is to become as good a blogger as u. :)

    travelogue ho toh Hopscotch jaisa.

    By Blogger Sanyukta, at 8:11 PM  

  • abe aurat...
    do u reply on comments??? or u dont have internet in SIngapore???

    By Blogger virdi, at 12:28 PM  

  • #Di,
    Thanks! I hope you go there some day too! :)

    Thanks :)

    Thanks babe! :)

    Thanks! :P

    Thanks! :)

    I went to a khussa shop to buy the jootis. More about that in the final part :)

    Thanks :)

    Thanks :)

    Hehehe... thanks! Only one more post to go! Have patience! :)

    Arre wah, between you and me, we have seen both sides of the border then! :)

    Hahaha! :D
    Thanks! :)

    Thanks, dear! :)

    Abbe! Abbe bolta hai be?? :@

    By Blogger Sayesha, at 1:22 PM  

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