27 Kilometers is the distance from my home to my workplace. This distance is significant for many reasons. I shall endeavour to write why is that the case. Today the 31st of May as I drove back I, as usual, observed and saw people rushing to places where they had to be. It is a very interesting journey which varies in the time it takes me to reach home. The traffic is a mess especially when people are driving using all types of transportation to their homes. I must admit though I have never been piqued or irritated or affected by what happens every day on the road. It is 27 Kilometer of sights outside the car and sound of my favourite shuffled music inside the car.
Today’s drive was special. I listen to music while I drive. This has been my habit as long as I can remember? I always have enjoyed it. Today was no different. Thanks to all kinds of smartphones we have these days one can listen to absolutely anything with good connectivity depending on your mood and taste. Jagjit Singh was the star today. He is one of my favourite singers. I never get weary listening to him. He keeps me awake. I get lost in Time, with both eyes on the road with full senses. While listening to his song ” Baat Nik lay gee toh dhoor tak jaye gee” I thought of writing this post. Instantly I knew what it would be titled – 27 Kilometers. The distance is very significant for many reasons. The madness, the serenity, people travelling in buses cars lost in their thoughts, distress and worries. One can never fail to see in their eyes what they are thinking – how will be next day in their life and responsibilities. Kids returning from school exhausted and fatigued half asleep. Bikers overloaded hazardously as if hanging by the thread. There was a biker with his wife holding her small kid with a feeder in his mouth not bothered what was happening around him. There are no traffic laws between 1600 to 2000 hrs and even after that, not that it is a model any other time of the day. Today when I decided that I would cover the distance of 27 Kilometers with my observations, I suddenly came over with extra keenness and zest to see all sides of objects and people. I enjoyed every bit of the drive.
There are few bottlenecks on the ’27 kilometer’ stretch where traffic suddenly swells up. It is there you witness the entire spectrum of madness ranging from stupidity, insanity, pandemonium and chaos. Not all is bad, saner elements who are not many are seen in this milieu. You thank God for that.
The best part of 27 Kilometers is that a good 20 kilometer is a straight stretch of 5 lanes Islamabad Highway. No matter how many lanes Nawaz Shareef will make the people of twin cities know the driving skills and gift of their driving licence of turning 2 lanes to 4 and 5 to 8. So this is the stage where all circus takes place and all entertainers give their performance. All you need to have that special perception. The poor, the handicapped, the needy the wayside hawkers and makeshift sellers, pregnant women, mothers with half sleep children clinging to their shoulders. Some mothers feeding with barely visible breast when the traffic light turns ‘Red’ along the median. other resting under the shade in sizzling plus 42C temperature. I have been told and I have made a point to especially observe the babies and seldom seen any of them awake or crying. They all seem sedated.
Airport Cross on the Expressway is a major traffic jam point where I have experienced long delays. It is here one is treated with sights and sounds of all kinds of scenes. Today was no different. The change was how I was looking at them. Young boys who appear along long lines of traffic extending into many lanes with trays on their shoulders with fresh coconut slices occasionally sprinkling water on them creating that special cooling effect on passengers in buses and coaches, enticing them to buy the dust and germ laden eatables – but who cares. Their power of observation and marketing skills of few hours a day fetches them at least Rs 800 to 1000 every day ($10). They seem to be part-timers as they are only seen in the evening. Men with restricted growth, serious handicaps both accidents related and birth defects are seen more in the evening. Morning is all women and their children who only beg, all clad and wrapped up in chadors. Few pregnant women who in this summer heat are bone-tired. I see their open air job will soon see the end of their Expressway earning. The Karal interchange will render this crossing “Signal Free” But there are many other places to market their skills
There is no traffic law to deter. The worst violators are advocates, press walas, well to do people their cars and SUVs being driven by arrogant drivers who do not stop flashing their lights for a way in the midst of jam. It is a sight of hubris with mum and dumb sahibs least bothered to caution their drivers. Some slumber and the women all in the comfort of tinted glasses and temporary screens covering their windows of their cars in a hurry to reach home. It is a revolting and disgustful sight. Then you have the truckers who have the ability to overtake each other least disturbed. Their ‘overtaking’ urge takes better toll of their mental health. I do not know why they do not give way, they will continue overtaking till they see no other truck ahead of them. These drivers are a mafia in their own circle intoxicated with opium filled cigarettes lost in the lawless road laws.
I am glad to see that for once the work speed on road and underpass on the Expressway is going at an unusually fast pace. I give another 2/3 months for this to be completed. I have many friends who have plans to shift to many housing colonies mushrooming along the road.
I am putting pictures on this blog post which were taken during the drive with my cell phone. Please overlook any low-quality standard pictures. Today my friend Tabani also called from Karachi and at that very moment I had photographed posters of Baby Bhutto who had travelled on the road to give his Roman Urdu Speech somewhere. Tabani was in a rage over the politics and Bilawal who has no pride in his father’s name – Asif. He suffixes Bhutto and his grandfather’s name Zardari. He is the one who will decide the fate of Pakistan. The public or the “Awaam” are lost in Bilawal’s rhetorics. The next week we already have a big news – Nawaz Shareef’s heart surgery went successfully. Hope some better-uncorrupted heart now surfaces. But we want the Panama Leakage to established first.