Avoiding visits to Rawalpindi is my forte. Even though it is my birth place, I think it’s the birthplace of all humanity. If you pick up a stone – a human being comes crawling out from under it – in fact you will find one sitting on top of the stone also! All of them are on the roads, and trying to cross the roads, as you drive.
Well, then why did I go? I had to go for my dad’s medications at AFIC (Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology,) and look around for some stuff for him… since he is spending more time in bed these days. For example, a hospital bed, which can make the patient sit up and lie down easily. Also, it has safety rods on the sides, so the patient doesn’t fall off the bed.
“You can get things like these from shops in front of Cantonment Board Hospital.” Shama Apa, wife of General Saeed-uz- Zafar informed me. Her husband General Saeed-uz-Zafar was dad’s cadet. They have been very close to us all my life. Both of them have been very loving towards my parents. So, her calls are always a source of strength for me. Anyhow, she has a lot of inside information of caring for parents. Her elderly parents were with them for over four years and mostly in bedridden state.
“The roads are fine, you just drive down from Mall Road, and go straight down towards Cantonment Hospital, next to Massy Gate. “
I had lived in Rawalpindi for a couple of years before my marriage; Hated it then too, as I had come from Lahore, where I was studying in College of Home Economics. I knew Massy Gate area has always been a crazy place to go to. I used to get my paints and canvases from there. Anyhow, I was inquisitive to see how it is now.
Being a sensitive day for me, I gratefully took the opportunity to go out to do something useful, rather than sit around at home being maudlin. This year, my daughter Waliya was doing the ‘sadqa’ for her dad. She got the food cooked, made it into portions for the friends and the poor persons in our area, and was to distributed it. My staff is all checked out in the process, since I keep doing it on a regular basis in memory of loved ones. So, it was a good thing for both of us mother and daughter to be spending the day doing things for our dads. Her’s in heaven, and mine, in my home.
So, where was I? Yes, in Rawalpindi. The drive was fine. The discovery that Rawalpindi has at last improved felt great. The circular cobbled roads in front of Tehzeeb Bakers near Massy Gate, reminded me of Paris (actually!)
I managed to park my car in front of a shop offering halwas of daal and carrots etc. A man standing there, removed hindrances, for me to park comfortably. Walking into the first chemist shop called Chishti Chemist shop, I asked them for the WC stand with higher seat and handles for easier use of it, by elderly and invalids. It was available. So, as shop was rather small and I couldn’t see any beds there, I asked them where I could get a hospital bed. The senior man sitting at the counter said “Wait I’ll find out, I can get it for you, most probably.” I was happy. Within a few minutes, he had called the factory or distributers and placed my order. It was at Rawat, a place outside Rawalpindi. “It can be here by 3.00 PM if you want. You can give an advance and let me know.” It was eleven a.m. then.
The medicines were still to be taken from AFIC, so I just begged leave, mumbling about getting it tomorrow.
When I went to AFIC I finally parked my car. (I wonder getting to Rawalpindi from Islamabad is more difficult or finding the parking in AFIC, after you reach there!) Anyhow, I got the medicines within record minutes.
So, I was free by twelve thirty. I called Amjad at Chishti Chemist if he could get the bed today. He said “Yes, of course, it should be here by 3.00 pm.”
We both didn’t mention the advance, as I was to get the bed today. So, now I had to find a place to get money out of the ATM, food and a clean washroom.
Where else but Pearl Continental Hotel?
The buffet at PC is really good, and its breakfast is out of this world. So, I thought “Damn my ever present poverty, I need to indulge myself today.” So, I drove into the beautiful and elegant hotel. The uniformed men outside at the parking, took pains to get me a nice parking place, in fact the man requested another car driver to pull out his car to make place for mine! Gratefully, I accepted. I walked into the hotel feeling a bit casually dressed in my joggers, black cotton pants, blue printed shirt and parka. It was the first time ever I was having lunch alone in a hotel. That too, so shabbily dressed. Well? How do you dress up for Rawalpindi Saddar? Shabbily of course! How was I to know I’ll be treating myself to PC?
Perhaps in my future, it won’t be the last time I’m eating alone either. I don’t mind my own company . I was well equipped with my book, mobile phone and my confidence. I needed a bit of a ‘me-time’ anyway. What better place could it be?
Usually I rush through my lunch, now I had a solid two hours for it. So, I really made the most of it. I spoke to Mum and Waliya about progress of things back home. I had the view of the pool in front of me. Remembering how full it used to be many years ago.
Waliya was managing well with the food and its distribution. My blessed cook Abdul Rahim was cooking the ‘deg’ which is a huge cooking pan in which you can cook enough food for thirty to forty people at least. I had filled the portable gas cylinder-cum-stove also yesterday, (just in case the regular gas has a ‘load-shedding’.)
I could relax and have my food while I sipped my green tea and read the book I had with me by Dr. Brene Brown on ‘The Gift of Imperfection’ a book I’ve been keen to complete, I got it from Seattle last November. I loved the fact that her main focus is the vulnerability of a person as a mentor, leader or writer or any human . How important it is to face one’s fear and shame along with the vulnerability before one can be true to others. First one has to get true to ones’ own self. That is hard to handle if one is refusing to face one’s own ‘handicaps’. It’s a book to chew and taste with relish and contemplation. I really loved reading whatever I could in so much peace and without interruption. Reminds one of that case when Holy Prophet Muhammad was asked by a mother to tell her kid to stop taking too many sweets. He asked her to come the next day. He asked the child not to take too many sweets. She asked him why he didn’t say the same the day before? He answered that till the day before, he himself was guilty of the same habit! So, now he had given up the habit and was qualified to tell the child the same.
The food at PC was as good as usual. The place did fill up a bit by the time I was ready to leave. Nice place to freshen up, and recover from the craziness of Rawalpindi. For the first time, I really started liking Rawalpindi, the twin city of Islamabad. The cooperation of the shop keepers was also new, (I remember them as being rude and rather impatient.) Here was Amjad calling me up at 2.30 p.m. during my dessert of carrot halwa, sooji halwa and kiwis. The bed had been delivered to the shop!
So, I paid up, took my cash out of the ATM, freshened up and went to hospital road via the Molti Foam shop from where I got the mattress for the bed, and canvases from the nearby art shop. This is the Massy Gate of older years. Here, I’m sharing an even older version of the place.
I landed near the ‘shop’ which seemed to have disappeared, though I could see the bed leaning outside….
Finally Amjad came and guided me… “I couldn’t see the shop!” I remarked, he said “Our shop is so small, it must have got hidden behind the bed!” he joked. I smiled. Now, it was all folded up. So, I asked it to be fully assembled, so I don’t have any problem at home. So, he and his helpers assembled the whole thing. Then repacked it.
Then he went out and got me a taxi and a rope, helped tie it up to the roof rack. I was ready to go. “How much will you take?” I asked Umer Shah the taxi driver. I knew it is important to decide the amount before-hand.
So, he said “whatever you want! – I heard him mumble to Amjad in Pushto “I don’t want to get into a fight over prices!” I said “I’ll give you more than you expect, Inshallah.”
“Don’t drive too fast, so I can stay behind you.” Said the taxi driver.
I said “fine.” How did he know, I drive fast?
So, I drove slowly and steadily, through the crazy traffic and we reached home. The ‘deg’ was all done and distributed by my daughter by that time. On the way, I had asked her to keep a packet of chicken palao for the driver also. It was ready, so I handed that to the driver with his payment. He helped in taking the bed inside.
As I write, my father is all cozy and tucked up in his new bed. I’m thrilled, he is having no trouble getting fed and relaxing too. All this due to cooperation of folks in Rawalpindi.
Well, Rawalpindi trip wasn’t bad at all. I suppose we need to shake up our ‘views’ once in a while. Meanwhile enjoy these pics of the same place – Massy Gate area- over a hundred years ago, I suppose.
It was quite a productive day for us all.
Stay blessed my reader 🙂