How do I put such topics together, which are almost poles apart?
For the simple reason that ….
How do I put such topics together, which are almost poles apart?
For the simple reason that ….
The second largest salt mine in the world.
Last Friday, I visited one of the greatest tourist attractions of this region. Somehow I hadn’t seen it, inspite of living just two hours’ drive from there. When my college friends were going there, I siezed the oppertunity of meeting them as well as seeing the unique mines.
Khewra Salt Mines:
These mines are located near Bhera which is the middle of Lahore and Islamabad Motorway. So, it is around a two-hour drive from Lahore or Islamabad. It was discovered by an interesting incident happening over a couple of thousand years ago. In 326 BC one of the horses of Alexander the Great, was seen licking the ‘stones’ here with great relish. They found out that it was a chunk of pure salt. As you may know horses like to lick salt. So, that is how the soldiers of Alexander, discovered this place in 326 BC. It was a time when he was busy winning his battle with Porus the local king.
After that, slowly and surely this place kept being revisited, till 1876 when the British freshly having ‘settled’ the locals to accept them as the ‘lords of this land’, took over the salt mines and set about doing it up. We had our lunch at this rest house which was built then. So now, after a hundred and forty-one years we all from Home Economics College decided to have lunch here on October 27th 2017. It was already 3.00. p.m. when we reached the rest house for lunch.
Reconnecting with my childhood friend through the internet.
I’m feeling stunned – with happiness.
Just can’t believe the series of events which brought you, Shib back into my life ( everyone preferred calling you Shib, instead of Mahira,)
Was it the sofa ? Or was it my latest book? … I suppose it was EVERYTHING! Nothing is inconsequential in life it seems.
Not even a new sofa, due to which the book shelf next to it had to be moved, due to which that shelf had to go to the lounge, due to which the shelf in the lounge had to be moved to the drawing room (because it was narrower.) That bookshelf which had all the albums on it.( It is the only piece of furniture which hasn’t moved, in this house of mine, in the last five years.) Due to which the pictures (including yours) were found under it. (No Shib, that is not where I usually keep old friends’ pics!) I saw the pics on the table, and picked them up, while I was talking to Mum and was looking at them too. I stopped at yours.
It was the fifth of March. Only the day before – I had written a few words about Mahira Rae Khan, my long lost childhood friend. Finding this lovely pic made me miss you all over again. Impulsively, I took a snap of it and posted it on Facebook.
Trip to Lahore January 2016
Just love going to Lahore. Once, I belonged to it. I’ve spent many years in Lahore. – Most of the formative years of my childhood, and my teenage too. Later on, I’ve been going there regularly. So, this time when Nudrat Tariq rang me up to ask me what date would suit me, to go to Lahore for Hi tea at PC Lahore, I happily accepted the invitation. She was calling the entire class of 1976 Home Economics College. Inviting them all was made easy by Asma Mazari, who has collected all of us on Whats app. So, we remain connected there now. There was Kandy coming from New York, and the others in Canada and UK, were watching with great envy… I quickly coaxed my other friend Naila to join me, and we went to Lahore in Daewoo bus. I told Naila, that I’ll stay with Riffat and Naim bhai as usual, and Riffat was happy to have her stay there too. So, that was settled.
The party was a great success, most of the time we were busy guessing who is who. The best part was that though we may have changed (‘expanded’) a bit from outside, inside, we all felt the same! It was so great to see each other and feel that we have been blessed to be together after forty years. There was the sumptuous Hi-tea, red roses and cake… the works, all arranged by Nudrat Tariq, thank you, lovely lady.
Four of my friends couldn’t make it. Through all these years I’ve kept in touch with my MSc group (Fairy, Fitrat, Ayesha and Riffat) and my BSc group, out of whom now only Tanvir and Tabassum are left in Lahore. So, my MSc group meeting was pending, and we met in Defense. Had a delicious lunch at Espresso ordered by Fairy, which I thought was too much, but we ended up gobbling it all up! The pan fried fish, the wraps, club sandwiches, and what not. She said dessert will be served in the sunny garden next to McDonalds! They, of-course, refused to let me pay. Ayesha had come from her home in Canal View, Fitrat came from near-by in Defense, we had decided to meet here, so she is not too far from her husband who is not too well these days.
I just love the way all my friends make time for me whenever I go to Lahore. I really appreciate it, as I know, life is really hectic. However, when we meet and hug each other, feeling happy just to be together and see each other, it just melts away our problems and issues. We feel stronger. Our bonds become stronger. There is no ‘takalluf’ or false pretenses among us. We are who we are, and we know we genuinely look up to each other and stand by each other. All my life, they’ve been there for me. They are better than the sisters I never had. Even their husbands are so sweet and I know they are there for me too.
Naim bhai was very upset that I was returning on Sunday. We keep joking that we are business partners. Actually we are. I’ve offered in my Shireen’s Studio, to send paintings at the doorstep, and it is through his courier service that it is possible, anywhere in the world.
Fairy offered to drop me at Tanvir’s place on her way home. Meeting Tanvir was another pleasure. Her husband Pervaiz bhai, was a good friend of my husband Najib, also he came to chat with us, remembering old days, and asking about my father. He too had had his IBA get together of the 1976 batch on 8th! I never knew he had studied from IBA, it is one of the top most institutions in Karachi in the field of Business Management.
Riffat and Naim bhai are the true Pakistani hosts. He will cut up fruit for me with breakfast and make sure I taste all the different fruits he could get for me. Their domestic help Nasir won’t be out done either, serving me two fried eggs with my toast! Then both husband and wife present me with jams. Naim bhai made the strawberry jam, and Riffat made the guava jelly. He watches me eagerly, as I taste it. “Please say mine is better, later you can tell Riffat that her’s was the better one!” Actually both are amazing.
Riffat was most concerned about our gifts which we had got to give to our friends. There was the cake lying next to the fruit baskets. (we got worried that the guava smell doesn’t get into the blueberry cheese cake.) When we were going, Riffat was worried it would get spoilt in the car while we had lunch in DHA, so she offered to come back for the cake .. adding another 35 km to her trip through the crazy Lahore traffic. I was at the door when I heard this and put my foot down. I said “Nothing doing! The cake goes with us!” There it went beside the fruit baskets… as we sat in the car, Riffat said “I’ve got the latest guava fragrance for my car.” We all smiled knowingly. The moment we all met, Fitrat declared “I’m feeling so young just looking at you all.” Again we smiled, yes, we all were feeling young too! When we meet we talk as if we had last met yesterday. Pulling each other’s legs and telling funny jokes. -Making fun of each other, and remembering funny old days. We have added a lot of more funny memories to our college days’ jokes. So now we have a good pot-pouri of these. Of course, like the good times, we have shared all our bad times with each other too. We are careful to avoid the bad memories.
Meeting old friends is like taking a tonic with no side effects. They can make life good!
Life is full of paradoxes, and the unexpected bits are the best! Well, so here was my 88 year old Daddy (he insists he is almost 90! – ) He was so excited that his friend is coming. I was busy with trying to settle into a proper work routine in my Studio. (After giving up my very nice job, so I’ve got to start doing my own work.) So, I wasn’t planning to sit with him and his friend for too long.
As long as I can remember, there was this invisible Brig Mumtaz, who is my fathers‘ friend. So, he came from Lahore to meet daddy. Unlike the bulky presence I expected, here was a petite a bit squeezed up version of him. – Must be about 86 years old. So, I went to meet them a bit later so Daddy could have his own uninterrupted time with his buddy, before I barged in. I planned to just sit for a few minutes and then slip off to my studio/office in the basement.
As I entered, he gave me a warm welcome, and surprised me by saying that he had actually come to meet me. There he sat with my Dad in the sunshine spilling all over them from the back, giving me an impression of keen eyes, and a very sweet and loving personality. He started off with praising up my articles which he had been reading for a long time in the newspapers. Of course I loved it. Yet, I was wondering what is coming…. It did. …. “You have written about everyone and such interesting topics. But you have not done justice to the most important person in your own life.- Your father Brigadier Sarfaraz.
“I’ve known your father since before you were born. I’ve met your mothers’ parents in Saidpur, East Pakistan. I’ve known your father for longer than you have. He was senior to me, and I’ve admired him all my life. He is so brave, and has such a character and personality which people should know about! His life has been a shining example and he has been a role model for many officers in the army. All this must be recorded. It must benefit and be a beacon for the soldiers of Pakistan Army.
“Why don’t you write an autobiography of him? – As a writer, that is the least you can do for him!” I told him that I’m already towards the end of a biography on Hajra Mansoor. Also, I’m writing four more books. So…. ”
“Leave them all! This is more important than anything else!”
“We have very little time left. I feel that this may be our last meeting. Who knows? Soon I or your father will be leaving this earth !- in fact, I’m quite sure of it.”
Meanwhile, I was thinking what to serve him, as Hasnain, my domestic help had told me that he had refused to have anything. So, I asked him to bring the chicken corn soup. That was much relished. Then I offered some spinach, with yogurt served with fish (on his request) and special ‘wassilis’. (I messaged my daughter Waliya who had gone to get her car done up at the auto workshop, to order fish fingers for home delivery. )
Uncle Mumtaz got quite carried away with his plans and preparations for the next world. He went into details about how he had put all his property into the names of his off springs. He enumerated what he is living on – namely his pension, house rent and some saving’s monthly profits. He was living in smaller house than before, and with his son, daughter-in-law and grandson. He praised them all so much. Of course they would love him, when he has done so much for them.
Then he went on to give advice to my father:
“You know, we have done our bit. We did our best, and fought two wars, the 1965 and 1971” (later on my parents filled me in on what a very brave soldier he was!) “We have done whatever best we could do. Now it is time for us to sit back and relax and take care of ourselves.”
These are the points he suggested:
Needless to say, I forgot all my plans for the day and enjoyed my time with him and my daddy. Later on I said “Daddy, you weren’t talking so much, he said, “He has changed so much. More than half the time I was wondering if it was the same person!”
I really love my Daddy and grew to love his friend Brig Mumtaz also.
What the heck, I’m already writing four more books – why not a fifth one, and one so close to my heart. My Father.