Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What it means to be in Lahore

Stuck in one of those moving parking lots they call roads nowadays, I noticed the car right in front of me moving backwards in neutral gear. It was about to hit my car! I meant to blare my car horn and put the car in reverse gear but instead I just honked and moved the car forwards right into it. My car's bumper fell off! (There goes my record of driving since 13 years and never having met with a single accident!) To be fair, it was only a minor accident and the other person's Suzuki Baleno's bumper paint came off slightly. He stopped his car and I could've made a dash, but I just wanted to be responsible, you know? So I stopped and apologized, and the two men just shrugged it off. At that point I thought to myself, "I love this city!"

See, Lahore's not just about driving for me. It's about the world of interaction with its people that comes with it. The honk patterns, the meanings of a single beam or a double, the coordination with the plethora of pedestrians jaywalking, the movement of the bicycles in the center of the road, and more recently, the weird looking rickshaws. Lately, you can find dozens of these new-age rickshaws that run on compressed natural gas (CNG), painted in unaesthetic colours, shaped like shoe boxes and that can now hold more than two passengers. For those of you who have been on the Canal Road, you know it's also about guessing whether the next underpass would fall on your left or your right, and for anyone who has never been to Lahore during election time, it's about those hundreds and thousands of cars with all kinds of weird Pakistan flags on them - insignias of various political parties' the owner of the car supports or promotes. You can also see the banners and posters of them all across town.

Pakistani politics... *chuckles*

Everyone I know who is reasonably intellectually sound has their own version to the overplus of stories behind the current and recent 'situations'.

"The emergency was a hoax to just get rid of the chief justice that opposed him."

"Musharraf did the right thing by imposing State of Emergency - this nation needs discipline!"

"They're all liars and thieves, all of them, so my idea is, why bother?"

"Emergency!? What emergency? You see anything that has changed in my life? Has anything changed in your life?"

I don't have my own version I guess. I really don't know who to believe or who to side with. So I'll just leave it to that. I didn't register for the elections anyway so I can't vote and that little piece of red tape means my voice can't be heard.

The love is amazing here. You see it first at the airport, where a bunch of your friends could come to meet you and to hand you a pack of cigarettes so you have something to smoke when you get home without making your parents stop on the way. Not to mention the ten or so relatives who could come to pick you up even if your arrival was supposed to be a surprise.

If you arrive home in Lahore after a long time, all you need to do is to eat some street food and get sick. You will get the massages, the special treatment (that means a load of things) and all the (junk) food you desire. Anything you may want, just u.t.t.e.r.i.t.

It's not all that much fun being sick though, I mean, if you are really sick - you know, with high fever and all (which I was). Then you have got to make trips to the doctors and the pathology laboratories and eat throat-gagging tablets and capsules. But love is worth it, right?

I feel one thing I will distinctly remember about this trip to Lahore would be those medical trips I made - and I made a lot of them in the one week or so I've been here. The specialist doctor's opinion that could cost me nearly five hundred Singaporean dollars costs me five hundred rupees here, which is less than fifteen Singapore dollars. Since I've been here, I've seen dentists (plural, yes), a skin specialist, other specialist physicians and a phlebotomist.

Just to be clear though, I'm not that sick. Well yeah I was for one day and it was totally worth it. But otherwise I am perfectly alright. I am just being greedy by seeing all these specialist doctors who wouldn't even turn to look at you and give you an informal diagnosis for a nominal fee back in university land (that's Singapurah, lah!).

And you know what's the funniest thing about restaurants here? Just like we have smoking corners or smoking tables in Singapore (sometimes) we have non-smoking tables and corners in Lahore!

Only some of these fork lifters have dropped cars in the past:

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