From my Rooftop in Pindi

Pakistan's flag
Asia » Pakistan » Islamabad
November 10th 2007
Published: November 13th 2007
Edit Blog Post

There's an eagle or otherwise large bird of prey perched on the frame of a satellite receiver. The call to prayer just began, with two mosques managing to go in syllable-for-syllable tandem for at least half of it. That's a first! The sun has just set. There's a bit of fog gathering around and above the low buildings. There's a fair bit of motorcycle- and rickshaw-din (my SW radio picks them all up for some reason), birds are hovering overhead. I'm retiring early for the night to write before I forget and things become drowned out in the vague haze of time.

Just down the road is my food joint. Past the fried fish joints and the puddles of sewage. I saw the main cook from a distance, between the skinned chickens hanging by their necks, and among the various woks and pans, and I knew he was my man. He cooked me the most delicious dish (Chicken Karai) I've had so far. And I don't even like chicken. He alone would make an extra evening in Pindi worthwhile. Ziya also agreed: eyes don't lie. If you're a good person your eyes will show. And similarly if you're a f*cker. Didn't Christ say something similar too? I won't have anything to do with someone whose eyes I don't like, and my Kashmiri buddy has the clearest most honest eyes and handshake you could ask for.

A little ways away is the overpass across the train tracks on the way to Raja bazaar. Sitting on the steps are women and children passively begging. Or occasionally a child will spot you (you can't fool the kids) and run up for a coin. I don't understand backpackers who refuse to give money to beggars. I don't feel sorry for beggars, and I know my couple rupees won't make a difference (nor would a larger amount, for that matter); but why turn down the only human contact you can have with someone who only asks 1/60th of a dollar? Save your rupee and lose your soul.

At the overpass proper are Dentists. Maybe half a dozen, lounging around, refilling their gums with noswar, with cardboard diagrams showing tooth numberings, and glass casings with black velvet filled with rows and rows of teeth. Then the tools of the trade: a small hammer, mirror, small bottles of stuff, cotton. I didn't stick around too long. Some had a full collection: a whole mouth's worth, one of each of the 32 different teeth (and plenty of extras). I wonder if a collector/dentist would be tempted to extract a healthy tooth "just to get that last one I've been trying for for weeks"... or maybe there's a market with established exchange rates: 2 molars for a canine. Probably more scientific: two #2s for a #8. Tabulated and organized. And the teeth really do look impressively white and healthy... makes one wonder why they got puled in the first place. Needless to say, my "local experience" doesn't extend to utilizing the services of overpass-dentists.

Everywhere are fruit carts: bananas and guavas are standard fare. I flare my nostrils when walking past guava carts to make sure I'm only selecting the most potent-smelling ripe fruit. When peeled, soft, juicy... I can eat a kilo in one sitting and on a full stomach. I tell myself I need to gain weight, though I've been eating up a storm. Bananas cost 20, 30, 40Rs per dozen, depending on the size. It's typical of Urdu that "dozen" seems to be part of the language. Along with "chicken", "railway station", "wagon", "seat", and a number of other unlikely words.

After gaining experience watching someone buying guavas and deciding the correct price must be 30Rs/kg, I was in the mood for some, so approached a cart and in my most nonchalant Urdu: "kilo kitna he?" (I know using "kilo" instead of "ek kilo" is an Arabic construct, but to err is human.) The answer is a mumbled sentence, and I didn't hear either "bis" or "tis", so I have no idea what was said. I finger the fruits doubtfully with a skeptical look... "seems expensive". With the air of a man who knows the going price of all commodities in 3 continents, I turn to go with an offended look on my face. They stop me.. "wait wait, how much do you want to pay?" (It's after dark so they're looking to offload their goods, and I don't need to speak Urdu to understand that.) "Tis rupee." You mean you want 2kg for 30? Uh, no, I mean 1kg for 30. (Pakistan. "kay-gee" is the preferred way of pronouncing that.) "But the price is 20"... Oh. Well, I couldn't really understand your accent... Of course, by all means, please give me a kilo. Never show embarrassment.

My hotel room is cheap (200Rs), with a nice view from the balcony, and an attached bathroom, and the staff are surprisingly friendly and helpful. The flipside is the beds are lumpy, the sheets dirty (thank you oh thank you Janvier for that sleeping bag), the water from the sink pours right down to the cement floor without even an attempt at plumbing, the shower only has cold water, the flush is non-existent, and the bathroom light doesn't work. Still, an attached bathroom (another Urdu word) is as much a luxury as it is a liability. Sure, the room ends ups reeking, and you have to make creative use of your headlamp to take a shower, but imagine having to dress and look respectable before dashing down the hall (this is a muslim country after all) for a late-night emergency. All in all... I'm glad.

And I'm having the time of my life in Pakistan... no guidebook, no information apart from what PTDC and hotel receptionists provide, no itinerary or schedule (apart from a 3-month Indian visa that's already started ticking)... Dare I hope to I'm becoming a Real Traveler? Maybe if I dump some of the 15 books I'm lugging around with me...


13th November 2007

Don't OD yet
so.. i've had a little extra time, I felt like sharing some of my experiences in pakistan... and I uploaded two blogs in a day... don't get sick of me yet... the sun sets early and there are many hours in the night to spend...
15th November 2007

From your rooftop in Pindi..
Little punk, hope you have been doing well. I decided to hit your blog up and see what great adventures you have been up to lately. She's pissing you off, ha? Maybe if you spent less time sparking the owl at night, and rambling about imaginary places that you are going to, and actually tried to be a help to your mother and of some use to society, you would understand your mother's frustration better. Being bedridden is no excuse. I know a lot of people with handicaps who have done something for themselves in this harsh harsh world. You will get nowhere with the way you are going now. YOU HAVE GOT TO QUIT BEING SO DAMN IRRESPONSIBLE. "There's an eagle or otherwise large bird of prey perched on the frame of a satellite receiver." UH HUM. Whatever you say kid. That large bird of prey usually goes by the name of pigeon and if you happen to see one when you are NOT stoned out of your mind you might agree with me that they are quite small. Enough of that. I noticed that some decidedly queer looking guy by the name of Jonathan had a bone to pick with me because of my previous comments. Dear Jonathan, I live on the planet Earth and I'm loving it. If you want to come down here and pay me a little visit, I'll be happy to pay for your plane ticket and to discuss whatever you want mono to mono. If you and little runny-nosed bedridden are in this together and want to send me a postcard together from Narnia or wherever your latest trip is please send it to 1-2-3 Ashkick Street, and don't forget to sign it as "Queerer than a three dollar bill" so I know its you. I'm out.
15th November 2007

On Bedreddin's behalf.
Or maybe, Doug Dangger, you could see a little of the world yourself and learn some respect for the people in it? If you're worried that some places outside the United States may not speak your language, not have running water or a culture which you understand, then you don't even have to step outside your neighbourhood. Borrow a computer at your local gay club and read mine and Ozgur Can's latest diaries. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy my Narnia play on words, I was quite pleased with it. But then again I had recently been kicked half to death during my own travels and was recovering from concussion at the time, maybe I was too tired to be witty. Both myself and Ozgur Can are trying to further ourselves. We don't need abuse while we're travelling, and expect messages from people who enjoy your stories, not ignorant, arrogant pedants. Please go to the Travelblog main page, look at the map of the world, and find Georgia. Hint: it's to the north-east of Turkey. When you see it, and realise that you were wrong about one little thing, you can start to appreciare that you are wrong about a lot of things. Jonathan
17th November 2007

Both yourself and Ozgur Can are trying to further yourselves
You handed it to me Mr. Tumnus. You showed me the value of a real education and the benefits of extensive traveling. I don't mind being set right by you. You two are alright. I'll be glued to your diaries for the next few weeks so that I can shake off some of my ignorance and know what's up - just like the two of you. Please keep doing what you are doing. There are a lot of us who would not be able to make it through another day if it wasn't for the encouragement and novelty of ideas that you two bring to our lives. Thank you for the insight that you have given me personally. And thank you for having the patience to set a fag like me straight-if you'll pardon the pun. All the best to both of you. I hope that you can forgive me.

Tot: 2.973s; Tpl: 0.061s; cc: 29; qc: 136; dbt: 0.0858s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.6mb