the-south-asian.com January 2003
JANUARY 2003 Contents
Letter from Pakistan: January 7, 2002
'Gul Terre' & Roses
Celebrated Eid in Lahore; there was much exchange of flowers; roses and gladioli were in full bloom on Dec 6 and filled our living rooms with much needed joy after the month of fasting –Ramadan. Managed to get a close encounter with the singer Ibrar-ul-Haq at his brother’s house in Lahore at the last Iftar party with the local tents [ tamboos ] and coal fire heaters and of course the kababs and chicken karahi and naan bread The day before I had read an interview of Ibrar with the Herald magazine about his effort to set up a new Hospital project at Kasur with his own donations. He says that people from Pakistan are encouraged to send their donations to their website [ www.Sahara for Life.com ] . The good thing about what he said is to ignore the government and just get on with our work by ourselves.
The New airport in Lahore beckons Pakistanis abroad and locally, to a happy and comfortable welcome, which they need after traveling in the skies. It looks impressive and is situated opposite the Garrison Golf course near the old airport runway. It is scheduled to open by March 2003.
The Lahore Gymkhana has been expanding its buildings; a new swimming pool and a Golf Building are currently under construction and the four squash courts have been enclosed in a brick building .The Lahore Garrison Golf club too has had various modifications to its jogging track and golf fairways; its old tree house still remains nestled in the branches and the main trunk of a huge banyan or pipul tree.
Land Prices have rocketed up as Pakistanis are being hassled by the new immigration regulations in USA. Land prices in the suburbs of Islamabad , Defence Housing Society in Lahore and Karachi have doubled since 2001. One canal can vary in these cities and areas from 35 lakh rupees to about 40 lakh rupees.
The winter Fruits – red blood oranges and kinoos [the original name was kinow mandarin after a professor at UC Davis] are in full cry. Dry fruit such as almonds, pistachios, " chilgozas" or pine nuts, roasted peanuts are to be seen being sold on carts and the smoke from the peanut vendors flavors the evenings on the streets here. On sale also are exotic kilims and carpets from Baluchistan. Carpets and their designs speak and tell of stories from the past of the tribes & women who make them. The music wallahs sit around on the sidewalks of Murree road near Satellite Town in Rawalpindi waiting for their turn to blast music onto the wedding parties. Wedding parties are in full swing and every evening one has to attend more than one wedding. Young men & women flaunt their youth and beauty in their gorgeous eye catching dresses .
The new year came in with a lot of fireworks in the major cities; Christmas was celebrated with great fanfare and the Christian communities made merry with the rum cakes and father Christmas with his gifts. Murree has not really had a strong snow, although Islamabad and Lahore have had their first winter showers about a couple of weeks ago .The dust is settled and roses are in full bloom at the nurseries.
Lahore and Karachi will soon have high speed Internet access via Cable Modems and Cable TV with 80 channels to blow your minds out on. The project is being carried out by World Call Telecomms and Salman Taseer has roped in Khaled Jufali from Saudi Arabia. It’s IPO on the Karachi stock market was oversubscribed and raised about Rs 250 million locally.The Karachi Stock market keeps going up [ 2700] like the NASDAQ used to go up in the Dot.com era in 1997 – 2000. Our sports juniors won the World Squash Championships at Chennai beating England 2-1. [ see photos ] Also the cricket juniors won the Asia championships at Sharjah beating Sri-Lanka – and latest news flash is that the Pakistan under-19 also are into the British Squash finals.
In the midst of the urban madness, I went to the Buddhist caves at Shah Allah Ditta, a small village nestling at the foothills of Margalla west near Pir Wadhahi in Islamabad. There I met with a man in his nineties saying his prayers at the mosque through which a spring gurgled. Further as we came to the caves and wandered in and out collecting rocks with fossils embedded in them , I came across a wood-cutter with his axe and his guard dog . I asked the man what breed the dog was and the Pathan taxi-driver said – "Gul Terre " What the name was actually is a bull-terrier. I took the photograph of the wood-cutter and his dog. Later on examining the result it was the quiet and utter serenity of the man and his dog and the murmuring springs cascading /splashing gently by that I remembered. It was no wonder that the Buddhist monks made this their home for their meditation and prayers in the monasteries on the other side of these hills in a place called Taxila.
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