Drive into the clouds

Drive into the clouds

All my life, I’ve  loved mountains. When I look at them, my heart skips a beat. I feel so much gratitude, and happiness. Just looking at them, makes me feel happy. The closer I get to them, the happier I get! Is it the same for you too?

Every few weeks I want to be out there in the mountains either driving or walking in its trails.

So, when Danyal asked me to join them this weekend, I was more than thrilled. Of course, I was in the middle of so many things to do, but still managed to go along. As far as I can remember, it was always like that; I’m doing lots of different things. So, it is difficult to untangle ones’ self from them.  They also, know, I’ll do my best to go along, as I really love these trips. God bless them.

It was a real treat; While walking, you happen to come across a fruit laden tree, it is a happy surprise. 🙂

These days, with the Monsoon rains, the greens are lush green. The clouds are heavy and low.

The pipeline trail in Doonga Gali is right next to Ayubia. Yesterday, I went there for the first time. It appears, my daughter Nadiya and Haaris, her husband, have been there when there was snow.

So, the moment we reached, we met everyone and decided to go for the walk on the pipeline trail. Otherwise, after lunch it may get difficult. The weather was perfect as we walked, along the curving trail, all at the same level. As father and son went ahead, I decided to walk back, feeling that it may get too long a walk for me.

I also enjoyed my solitary walk back to the lovely place where they had been staying. I made these few videos for my Instagram and took close ups of butter flies and flowers and the view.

There were these beautiful hydrangeas growing in the place.

We had a delicious lunch and then sat and had a lovely chit chat with rest of their family.

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2701457053220903/2701471666552775/?type=3&theater

 

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2701457053220903/2701474723219136/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2701457053220903/2701460116553930/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2701457053220903/2701462249887050/?type=3&theater

 

The treat of Cappacino at the Second Cup, on our way to Doonga Gali, was really good.

You see, everything I wanted, was granted. But then, you also have to make the effort to agree to go. First you wish for something,  then Allah will send you some angels….. 🙂 Cant thank the Haroon family enough!

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2701443303222278/2701440983222510/?type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2701443303222278/2701442303222378/?type=3&theater

 

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/2701433283223280/

A childhood filled with butterflies… and now seeing just one or two sporadically. Where did we go wrong? We had large gardens full of flowers. Lots of space for groups of these beautiful God’s creatures going from flower to flower. Large and small butterflies in the most amazing colors and patterns. Will our great grandchildren see them or not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprise trip to Muzzafarabad

The drive to Muzafarabad was great. There is a rough patch yet to be completed, but mostly in good shape. On the way we saw lovely views,  driving along the Jehlum River. Water falls, streams and pine trees, the bushes along the winding roads, bursting with pink flowers, daisies, and lovely wild flowers. Crisp clean air – Especially, with air conditioner working inside the van! 😉

Muzaffarabad’s sad past:

The name of Muzaffarabad brings with it memories of the earthquake on  October 8th 2005, at 8.30 am there was a horrific earthquake with 7.8 richter scale. The city of Muzaffarabad was completely destroyed. So, what we see today is a completely new city.

Every family in this region has been affected by loss of family members and property. The entire world starting with Turkish Government, came to help in every way they could. C 1302 arrived from different countries, and experts and equipment came from USA and teams of volunteers from all parts of the country, went over to help.

It just shows, we are one humanity. We do care!

(I wish we would stay that way, normally too.)

Why do we have to have an earthquake to shake us into the best version of ourselves?

The adorable and funny group:

Though arranged through Mr. Zahid at ASG, Nigar Nazar was the main protagonist. Almost all group members were her relatives and friends. Her being a cartoonist of Gogi fame, her husband Nazar Abbas’s cousin Shahnaz being a doctor and writer of humeros poems. Then Nigar’s son Nomair an animation cartoonist. So, you can imagine the ‘entertainment’ and remarks at all locations and levels. Yes, it was bound to be fun.

When my friend Naila couldn’t go along, so I asked her daughter Sahar, and she agreed. So, it was great for me to have her with me, also to share my room with. I really love my friend’s daughters too. They all are amazing, and Sahar and I managed to get to know each other better. May I say it was a great honor and pleasure?

Tourist accommodation:

 

Of course, staying at Pearl Continental with its spectacular building and services, would have been great. But, we found staying at the Continental Hotel, quite near PC, was good too. Frankly, a tourist needs clean and comfortable living arrangements, within a comfortable budget.   The food was delicious and they happily added local delicacies.

The décor could do better, but it was fine.

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2598128650220411/2598118866888056/?type=3&theater

Spectacular views:

https://www.facebook.com/shireen.gheba/videos/pcb.2598128650220411/2598118970221379/?type=3&theater

Red fort:

The four hundred years old history of this region was a real surprise for me. Mughal King Akber had camped here once, and decided to develop it further. Then there was Mr. Muzaffar, who lived, built and fought for this land. The past is interesting.  Yes, if I belonged to this region I’d certainly fight for it. It is so beautiful. Its people are basically peaceful people battling the challenges of cold winters on a regular basis.

They have become experts in preserving their culture of warm clothing, embroideries, and amazing food. The best cooks belong to this region. (Abdul Rahim, who was with me for twenty years, and passed away this March, also belonged to a nearby village.) His cooking was out of this world.

 

Pir Chinasi:

The highest point in this area 9500 feet – equal to Nathiagali is truly beautiful with spectacular views at Pir Chinasi. The old airplane Fokker used to fly at this height. So you know how it looked. In fact, my first flight as a college girl in Lahore, was in a Fokker, from Rawalpindi to Lahore. The best thing about it was that it had much larger windows than the present ones in planes these days. So, I loved it. I believe, I’ve even seen a landing from the cockpit while landing in Lahore airport. (Of course I did. In fact, both pilots had wanted to do it, while only one can – so finally seniority prevailed. They even demonstrated to me how it can be done in fog, by putting a paper over the windscreen…. But they removed it near touch down!)

Back to my trip!

 

We are in Pir Chinasi, I’m not on that plane! So here we are after going on that winding road, where several passengers felt giddy. Thank goodness I’m fine. I really loved the spectacular views.

I just looked at some videos of Pir Chinasi trips and realized that it has improved a lot. Also, our guide was saying that there was no ‘shrine’ here, six years ago. (He has been a tour guide for many years!) However, Wikipedia says, there was a Pir named Pir Sayed Hussain Shah Bukhari

https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g1137975-d10159598-i296168690-Pir_Chinasi-Muzaffarabad_Azad_Kashmir.html

 

Here is my daughter Nadiya Najib’s blog post on her trip there:

https://twitter.com/nadiyanajibkhan/status/934016761866997760

You can visit her website here: see her trip to Muzaffarabad.

 

Hydro-electric power plant:

The Korean Government built this Hydro Electric power plant here. It looks great. I’ve heard this region is not only self-sufficient in electricity, but has enough to provide rest of the country also. Usual red-tape is the hindrance. This is what I heard being said by a few people there.

 

Local foods:


The cooking of Abdul Rahim which we have enjoyed for last twenty years or so, is enough evidence. In fact, most good cooks in Pakistan belong to Kashmir. Mr. Zahid told me that the expenses on any other element for a wedding in the home isn’t as much as the amount spent on food. Almost the total concentration is on the food. No doubt their food is wholesome, nourishing and delicious. What’s more, it isn’t hot or full of chilies. It is mild and tasty. So, we got to have three dishes:

Gushtaba which was made in two ways, I loved the one cooked in yogurt. Then there were Kashmiri Bakarkhani which was like a paratha, but I hear the preparation of it begins a night earlier, it is had at breakfast. Yes, delicious. Then there is the spinach, which is  cut and friend almost directly. Even the Maash ki daal was among the tastiest I’ve ever had.

Entertaining poetry by Shahnaz:

 

The food was taken with a ‘tarka’ of humeros\us poetry by Shahnaz which really entertained us. I’m always intrigued by how the poets remember every verse so well! It was truly hilarious. Especially the one on the process of saying prayers, when everything distracts us. Somehow its recording got messed up. L

Then there was the one on ‘Green card ka ishq’, and ‘After getting the Green Card!’ (then you start missing your country all over again)… So many different topics, highly entertaining.

The fun part of traveling:

Let me sum it up like this:

  • Meeting people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.
  • Seeing places you never saw before. Realizing how big this earth is, all full of people, cultures, mindsets, and what not. Surprise surprise!
  • Realizing how well you can live without all those ‘necessities’ back home!
  • Finding pleasant surprises of handicrafts, dresses, styles of people who are different from you.
  • Having the time to have those in-depth talks which never happen at home as you rush around.
  • You love the break. My mother said, ‘I loved the break too!’ My daughter and she had a ball, breaking all my rules of having meals at the table! – (I didn’t ask the staff, I’m sure they also must have enjoyed themselves.) So, we all need the break.
  • Yes, it was definitely worth it.

Must do more of it and stay more blessed. 🙂

Folk Heritage Museum and complex

40012786_2121319907901290_9212941588517355520_n.jpgIt was Uxi Mufti, the son of Mumtaz Mufti, who established this place many decades ago, in Islamabad. Uxi Mufti is the guru behind it all. The one who convinced the government to take responsibility to make a place where folk art of Pakistan is archived, preserved and presented.

Here is also a theater where events take place to give a respected place to the local artists and musicians from all over the country, to perform. 40059012_2121321524567795_8487749979929051136_nRecordings of their talented performances are also preserved in their archives. A set up of shops inside the museum and outside, where there are opportunities to have a permanent outlet for the folk artists’ work on sale.

This gives a source of sustenance to the artists too! I’m so glad he took this initiative, otherwise, a great deal of the treasures of our country would have got lost. This also gave  value to their work, which was previously considered inferior.

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My Solo Trip to Nathiagali

There is something about mountains that just thrills me. I love mountains – the higher the better. It just refreshes you. This is why Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) regularly went and stayed in a cave (Ghar-e-Hira) for several days, on a regular basis. You need to distance yourself from your everyday life sometimes.

It is good to go with your dear ones, but sometimes, it is also good to go alone.

 

Why? To be able to think a thought through to the end. (He didn’t even have a smart phone!) In our cases, we could literally lose our own lives, due to all the distractions we keep having.

So, I got up and went off with my driver who was assigned to my husband back in 2004. Right at the time that i was leaving, I remembered that Hasnain, my domestic help has never been to the mountains. So, I decided to take him along; – In just a ten minute notice, he was ready!

Continue reading “My Solo Trip to Nathiagali”

Lahore Literary Festival 2018 and ….

Who says no one reads in Pakistan?!

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Really don’t want to deprive you of some interesting things that I’ve been up to. Specially, because these could have some value in your life too, wherever you are, and whatever you do. Sometimes, some very unexpected things happen, and you let them happen, and you wonder how you hadn’t even considered them earlier!

Somehow, life takes you to what is really needed by you. Because, it was meant to happen, I was meant to be at the LLF.

It was Nigar Nazar my cartoonist friend who took me to Lahore with her.

She said, “You are the writer, publisher, and you aren’t going! You better go with me tomorrow, I’ll book the seats and take you along.” It was ten pm the previous night at a mehndi function. We could barely understand each other over the blast of the music.

Continue reading “Lahore Literary Festival 2018 and ….”

Sir Syed Memorial & National Museum.

 

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In 2008, I visited the  Museum of Flight near Seattle, in Everett, in USA, with my family. I was happy to see a woman who had come there alone on a wheelchair with a person to assist her. It was heartening to see this woman who must be in her eighties, visiting the museum. Like any Pakistani, I felt bad that one never sees such a sight in Pakistan. Though the elderly do come over with their families, but a person seldom comes on the wheelchair,  as  facilities are hard to find here. It would be the same in case of any handicapped or special person who has the time to visit such museums yet, has no facility of the kind. Anyhow, I’m just showing you this place, so when you come to Islamabad next, do go over to visit this memorial and museum.

28782907_1867972636569353_4196517434990435108_nYou will love it, as I did. It is not too large either and can be seen within an hour and a half if you are in a hurry. Otherwise, a couple of hours would be lovely too.

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However, I have a wheelchair for each of my parents, and decided to take them to see the Islamabad Museum on February 27th 2018. Since I had to take Dad’s helper along, so there wasn’t enough space for two wheelchairs. I thought, there would certainly be another one at the museum, so we went off.

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The Sir Syed Memorial is located on the service lane at right angle to the Serena Hotel in G 5 area. We reached well in time, however, we found that there wasn’t another wheelchair there. So, we decided to leave one parent outside in the car, to enjoy the lovely weather, while the other one saw the museum.  It was a challenge, but what else could we do? Being the sweet persons they are, they happily agreed.

Continue reading “Sir Syed Memorial & National Museum.”

A quick drive to Khajut, near Murree.

 

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I don’t know why we put off good times for stressful times. I mean, that is what it comes to, when someone offers you a drive to the hills – that person wants you to have a good time. You decline saying I have this or that commitment. It is usually something which will be stressful for you.  I mean, a short one-day trip is worth anything! You will return refreshed and in a better frame of mind to tackle your stressful commitments. Believe me, we should just rearrange our ‘work’ to include such trips. If you live in Karachi, a drive to the seaside is bliss. Similarly, in Islamabad, a drive to the hills and mountains is sheer heaven.

Continue reading “A quick drive to Khajut, near Murree.”

PTV World Interview and the drive up the mountains.

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Sometimes, one should let life happen. Specially, when it is the good stuff. All the happenings mentioned in this blog were a surprise. No planning, nothing. Just a willingness to go with the flow. That’s all. Often enough, we ourselves come in between by saying I have this that or the other thing to do. So just say ‘yes’, and hope for the best!

Okay, so do you remember how by chance I made friends with a wonderful person named Amber? (I wrote how I met her in my blog on Power of the written word .)

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Amber is the one on the left, and Neeli on the right. We just clicked, and went off to the movies.

She was the one who later made it possible for me to be interviewed on PTV World.  A few days ago, I received a call from the producer Aamir Butt. Later, I spoke to the host Shabnam Riaz, and it was all settled. I went to PTV World, and met Aamir Butt, then Shabnam arrived looking stunning. I chose to not get the make-up done, because I wanted to look my own self. The producer and host both felt I’d be fine as I was, so we went ahead.

 

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So, anyhow, it was my first experience of the kind. I loved the fact that I got the complete time slot. This was ideal, as I was able to communicate my ideas without any interruptions. The interview was for my latest illustrated publication of Allama Iqbal’s Tulip of Sinai.

As my friend Naila, (and co-editor of the book) mentioned:

‘It was nice to see the interviewer being interviewed!’ Which is a fact. I’ve interviewed people for Dawn and other newspapers and mags for over two decades. So, I appreciated more how Shabnam conducted the interview. So, here is the link to the whole interview, hope you like it, and your feedback would be welcome. It is about fifty minutes, so you can see it later, or now, if you have the time:

So, this recording was on Friday. By the evening, they had sent me the promo of the program.

Next day Saturday, I suddenly decided to drive to Lahore. I was going anyway, but felt that I’d love to go by road with my daughter.  It was a novel opportunity, as we usually travel in turns, so one of us is with my parents to take care of them.   So, this was a good opportunity to go in my own car.

It was so much fun that I wrote a blog on it last week: .Why I love driving

We returned Sunday evening. On Tuesday I had already agreed to go to the TDCP resort at Khajut, with the art group. I woke up late, and scrambled off to Rahi Studios. On reaching, I found out that we weren’t going in a coach but in our own cars. So, I dashed off to get more petrol and check the air in the tires. The gang was at the gate when I got to the Rahi Studios.

27331776_1820076771358940_1722623939207928033_nWe were happy to meet each other, and Yasmine clicked this pic as I went to meet Sir Rahi and my friends. And so we left.

To go on a trip with one’s friends is the best thing. With time, we all have got such a camaraderie, that we can say what the hell we like, knowing it will be taken well. Lots of jokes, and pulling of each others’ legs. This video is of further up the mountains. As it was so cold I put my scarf under the cap and found it nice and cozy. First, we had tea and pakoras at TDCP at Khajaut.

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Hajra Apa and Sir Mansoor Rahi are so romantic and so cute.

26904119_1818867311479886_6001582377937913290_n26907672_1818844134815537_4638164828737954404_n26907721_1818844258148858_7168759376031759173_n26991639_1818319494868001_4055128229512377374_nTheir amazing bond, their softness, and their gentle behavior is an example to us all. I’ve never heard them raise their voices. Always speaking in a gentle way, with a smile, they too, pull each other’s legs in their own sweet ways. After Khajaut, we left for Changla Gali which is much further up with over an hour’s extra drive. It was fun going to find there was snow there!

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The group at TDCP Khajaut, near Murree.

I’ll leave the pictures and videos to do the talking now.

Changlagali, is near Nathiagali, a place located at around 9000 feet above sea level.

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Yasmin took most of the pics here. 

The snow at the end of the journey was a real surprise.

 

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Taqi bhai with Mansoor Rahi. 

Yes, it was very cold.

The lunch of Chicken karahi, vegitables, with salad and naans was delicious and yummy. It was topped with kinnus and oranges.

It was so cold….

I came back feeling so refreshed and happy. I’ve realized how important it is to just drop everything once in a while and let the wonderful surprises happen!

Stay blessed, my dear reader. How do you like the surprises in your life?

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My Year turns into 2018!

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Isn’t it wonderful to be celebrating something together? The New Year of 2018….

Lots of folks talk about how backward this country is. Yes, in many ways. But in many ways it has taken many leaps forward. I know, I’ve witnessed the process.

Lots of progress witnessed by myself:

As I look, I see…. The motorway, internet, computers, mobile phones, smart phones, many television channels, signal free highways, Metro bus systems, reversible air conditioners, Careem and Uber taxis, information access from the smart phone, blogs, e-tickets, emails, I mean I could go on and on. We have  known and lived in times without these things. Just a few years ago, we didn’t have all that we have today. Now, we use the internet to book seats in cinemas, get airline tickets, send articles to newspapers and blog, and do online banking, as well as transfer funds through the atm too. What else can you dream up? I know, I look forward to a more progressive world.

Continue reading “My Year turns into 2018!”