Author Archives: Marriam Khurram
Thoughts and experiences, ideas and ideals, secrets and pains, valued and treasured. We are all moving in our respective lives, some with definite aims and some aimlessly, some following proper directions and some just wandering around. Family, friends, love, hatred, likes, dislikes, pleasures, hardships, our life is full of variety; colors, shades, sounds, music, beauty, ugliness, too much. Reality! Fantasy! Nothing has a clear definition, only some particles of dust on the surface; struggles, efforts, dependence, expectations, selfishness, selflessness, just confusions and ambiguity. Some of us endeavor to sort this mess out and some of us do not want to smudge our hands from mud.
Solitude is a state one often believes he desires or achieves, but the reality is a little different, a human heart is never fond of seclusion, it wants company. And, it is this company that has all the impact on one’s life, all the things that matter, matter because we have someone to share them with, someone is being a cause of their happening and someone is being influenced by them. We have people around us and they all play their respective roles, small or large and this is what makes our life what it is; happy, sad, pleasant, or terrible. It is them who make us aspire for bigger dreams or lie desolate in despair. But what we always forget in this quest for the keys is that they are plain humans, just like us, if they can ruin our lives we can build, if they can generate disturbances we can pacify, if they can create the filth around us we can clean up, if they have power we are also strong because we are all created the same. If we are depending on others, others are also depending on us. We fail because we let others take over; take over our thoughts, our ambitions, our lives. We succeed when we take over our lives ourselves and plan for ourselves, DO for ourselves.
Thoughts like the scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are scattered in my mind. Glimpses of past, dreams of future and shades of present and pinches of reality keep grappling to each other and presenting to me a confused picture, a fuzzy image that makes me very uncertain of what I want from life. I am blessed with a beautiful life better than a majority of people living on this planet; I never had to struggle for my food, or other basic necessities. I got loving parents who wanted to bring the best and the choicest blessings for me, a sincere brother, a husband who has always proved himself to be the best man I have ever seen or met and last but not the least sweet and fun loving in-laws. I have a normal life, it’s an answered prayer. I used to cry and pray to Allah for a life that is nothing more than normal. I don’t want magnified pleasures or extravagant luxuries; I want a simple beautiful life.
Allah has always provided me with everything, with an ease I had not even imagined. Studying what I always wanted, getting married to my dream man, living in places I had always desired, a dream job experience, Hajj, visiting various countries and so many other blessings, it’s like I have narrated my story to Allah and He enacted the play likewise. All these blessings, when were desires, seemed like impossible unattainable dreams. Still I aspire for bounties that seem unattainable to me, I doubt their happening, in my weak moments and think that why do I deserve to have each and everything I want, I am not even worthy of a few. By the time my dreams were coming true I had started building a strong faith in Allah and that He grants whatever you wish for with a true heart and belief that He is the Omnipotent, possessing all powers to grant you His blessings which are indeed special.
Have you ever done pedicure sitting on the shotgun seat of a moving car? Or did you ever thread your eyebrows taking advantage of the visor vanity mirror, got your clothes ironed from a presser of a far flung town coming between highways while moving towards your destination? Or, you would have bleached your face in the scorching sunlight on a lonely road combating desert storms, or changed your clothes in a forsaken petrol station mosque; Have you? Yes, quite a unique experience yet a feeling common to almost all of us; traveling ecstasy, the excitement attached to long awaited holidays and heart breaking end results invoking us to take some steps or at least realise our responsibility. We had planned to spend our Eid holidays with our friends in Kuwait. I had fulfilled all the prerequisites of getting ready ‘like a lady’ in the moving car to save time. Travelling freaks, expecting to experience another country, perhaps keen to get another souvenir for our decoration rack or another stamp in our passports, not considering the hectic road trip to Madina, packed in the last days of Ramadan, sleep-deprived zombies, me and my husband, were heading forward in an attempt to not waste a single moment of holidays by staying at home, oblivious of what was going to come our way.
During seven hours of drive from Riyadh, conducting a full-fledge traveling beauty parlor session, I had a bemused witness driving in desert by my side, my husband. We reached the KSA-Kuwait border. People living in KSA are authorized to get “on arrival” visit visas whenever they travel to the bordering Gulf countries, as me and my husband attained when last year we travelled to UAE and Bahrain. The place was not a very impressive sight; an old building desperately waiting for new paint, busy check posts where clock seemed to stop ticking, a horde of buses parked and their passengers standing in never ending queues to get their visas stamped, eager to enter the country still alien to us. At the last hurdle, weather suddenly seemed to be very pleasant where the clouds of hope started gathering upon our heads. But that one and a half hour proved to be the most fruitless wait of our lives, when we were refused the visit visa in the end. As we received a big ‘NO NO’, visas were given away like peanuts to other people. My husband was stunned and wanted a valid reason for the refusal. An engineer! Holding an official passport! Deputed in KSA! Having Saudi residential visa! and still getting no visit visa for only 4 days, the answer was simple and of course heart breaking, the person encircled the reason on the computer printout, ‘Pakistani’.
Agonized, ‘a Muslim country stopping another Muslim national and resident to enter’, there was a long silence in our car on our long drive back home and then we both uttered our remorse. This incident reminded me of another incident, landing on the Stockholm Airport, Sweden, both of us were late in reaching the counter, the man at the counter was speaking to us like we were some criminals caught red handed, ‘where were you?’, also checked if we had enough money to sponsor our tour in Sweden in an interview that longed for about 20 minutes. All our happiness of arrival on the Schengen ground for the first time had evaporated. Were we some other nationality, had he not been nice and comforting seeing our puzzled, lost faces? Landing at the London Gatwick Airport, not even late this time, and waiting in quite a long queue we reached the counter, what use?, we were asked to step aside and undergo an interview on ‘terrorism’, ‘extremism’ and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ for about 45 minutes, only for that single reason, ‘Pakistani’.
Both of us, once proud Pakistanis grew up listening to the stories of ‘Pakistan, the fort of Islam’, are shattered from the thoughts of being Pakistani in the international arena after facing the reality of how we are perceived worldwide. Carrying inferiority complex, shame, which we assume doesn’t even belong to us, honest in our dealings, sincere in our faiths, dedicated in our work, capable, hardworking; confused and perplexed, we ask from ourselves, ‘why do we deserve this?’.
But then another series of questions strike my mind; Are we not selfish as a nation, contented in our cozy homes not bothered by the sleepless nights of many in our society. Do we not want to snatch the rights of our brothers, or kill our sisters, have we not lost faith in our religion, are we not worshipping graves, and mere men, are we not killing innocent people in the streets, have we not forgotten our history, lost our ideology, disregarded our culture, our traditions, are we not responsible for our sorry state in the world? Who is responsible for this? Our leaders! Have we not chosen them? ‘Why do we NOT deserve this?’
After this coarse sailing into the stream of questions, the estuary leads me to a stone carved with an unadorned question, “Will we ever realize our responsibility?”
With an apology to the artists .. cz i actually don’t draw it just happened that before leaving for our new posting we had a few free days to stay in the army mess and i had nothing to do .. I plunged into drawing
I can start well while having this yummy taste of that one piece of pizza still in my senses and my mouth still watering, being one of my initial tries I baked only one regular size pizza and there are four of us to eat; being the host I let my hubby and his friends eat the rest. Sadly so, I plunged to bake one today as I got chedder and mozerrella cheese all the way from Islamabad, 18 hrs of drive away, after the wait of one month as the cheese available here, in the only visible shop, in my neighbourhood is the ‘happy cow’, processed cheese, which can happily make me a cow but not so happily a yummy pizza. Yup, this is Gurikot to you.
A feeling known to all of us is a feeling of dreams coming true, yes, very seldom, but dreams do come true, in my case, they do more often, as I always say and the people around me can complete the sentence before I do is that I feel I have given God my own script and so he has made my life exactly like that, well, now I believe that’s a little exaggeration because I so want something for a year and I’m still waiting for God to answer my prayer. He must be planning to add the adjective ‘amazing’ to that ‘something’ so it’s taking longer to come.
Coming back to dreams, when I got married to my dream man we came for holidays to a place called Skardu, one of the most beautiful places in Pakistan. I wished then, around four years back, to have our posting in a similar place, where I would have a beautiful wood cottage, surrounded by the snow peaked mountains, a wide lawn, an orchard full of fruit trees, a river running right in front of the orchard, where weather stays pleasant 24/7, and you can witness some good amount of snowfall in winters. Coming from plains of Punjab, snow is a heavenly luxury for me. Well, this is also Gurikot to you.
After two months leave, on completion of our deputation in KSA, Kingdom Saudi Arabia, we were told about our new destination, ‘Gurikot, Astore’. It was the first time when I heard this ‘Name’. The first reaction was of course a relief as I was going to be with my husband. It was a dream come true, because after a long period of deputation we were expecting either a war zone or at least a non family station, although work here’s very hard for my hubby yet he’s loving the place. The first thing that I did right after receiving the posting order was to Google the place, and the information I found was so huge, so plenty that I could grasp that in less than a minute. There are so many beautiful things about our country but to all my sadness, the world only knows what’s bad here. Today you go Google about it and you will find that stuff, and it’s actually so huge, so plenty.
Anyway moving back to the dream place, there’s no airport over here, of course there’s a helipad. If you are coming here from the capital, Islamabad, you land in a city called Gilgit and from there you find an HMT, hired mechanical transport, if you are not some high official or something something you definitely cannot get a helicopter, dream on. You can also come by road to Astore through a bus with an adventurous driver who loves to risk his life and delightfully yours. Weather here is akin to Pakistan cricket team, predictably unpredictable, conditions do not allow regular flights, and sometimes plane has to go back without landing. Moving on the curvy crooked road, on one side of which are mountains and on the other, deep down, the ferocious river Astore, this road definitely is a marvel of creation. I salute the people who work here, clear the roads, maintain communication, and protect the border. Sometimes the road gets so narrow that you feel that u will move right into the river and sometimes the snow clad peaks are so close that you feel that you will stretch your arm and touch them. You probably will also feel, sometimes, that this is the last journey of your life. Well that’s Gurikot … ahem … road to Gurikot for you
On my arrival I was served with ‘trout’, that’s found in freezing cold waters and it swims in the opposite direction of the water flow. I’d never eat fish even in my dreams but that day I loved it, and now eat it quite often. I’ve heard it’s one of the best fish, probably it is also the cook who does wonders with the recipe, please don’t be envious, it’s the only thing that he cooks good. So, as soon as I could, I got over the kitchen myself, now he only makes me fries, cuts veggies and helps me with other chores in the kitchen. One thing he also does great, being a local, he owns a cow, so he can provide us with some fresh milk, two glasses of hot milk daily which he says will not last longer especially not in summers. Yea we asked for it, and to our surprise he said it cannot be arranged as here they do not consider it as a good gesture to sell and buy milk, they give it for free to friends and relatives but never sell it. It was quite strange to me and sad too because my only source of fresh milk is gone on leave, and I can only have it in my dreams. I created a little controversy recently by putting a picture, on my Facebook profile, of cooked Markhor ( Himalayan Ibex, you can call it), it’s a goat like animal found in places like these,
national animal of Pakistan, and an endangered species, hunting it can cost you loads of money in fine. Still, some people get this extremely costly licence to kill it. The money is used in their care and protection. I told my friends, had it come alive to me, I would have given him some grass to eat and some water, but poor Markhor came to me in cut cubes and I had limited options. Now this is specifically Gurikot to you.
My husband is terribly busy, we cannot even complete a single sentence of our conversation that his official phone rings, he also has to go ahead to detachments for days and I have no single lady in my neighbourhood, yup not a single woman or any neighbour as such. A good number of helpers at my service, a baking oven that I gifted myself once, my books, my prayer mat, my Quran, this centuries old dial-up connection, a land-line, a satellite dish T.V with majority of Indian channels showing advertisements of products like ‘Shakti Prash’, trust me you don’t want to know what it is, and some Ayurveda medicine for knee problems, and ‘HBO’ and ‘Star Movies’ have always ‘Rocky’ and ‘Mummy’ to show, and the likes, yea these were good movies in their times but it’s not that you can watch them like forever. I have some unwanted guests too, every day I meet a new one from their family, they are called beetles and flies. I am happy I have not yet encountered the alive rats, but yes, I had arranged the funeral of the two dead ones I found. My first project was to get all the holes blocked in the house, because I cannot bear such creepy creatures even in my dreams. So, that’s my Gurikot to you.
And hey did I tell you, you see ‘Nanga Parbat’ on your way to Gurikot, ‘the killer mountain’, 8th highest peak in world and deadliest, and you can see it from Gurikot as well, but all the mountains seem so similar to me so I could not find it, probably it was hidden behind the clouds . Yes this Gurikot is in the northern areas of Pakistan where Karakoram and Himalayas exist and where K2, the second highest peak in the world, also happens to exist.
My husband is quite successful in making me jealous of even his ‘boring’ official trips which he has around the town like visiting Deosai, the second highest plateau in the world, after the Tibetan Plateau, on snow vehicles; these are closed for tourists now and open in summers once all this snow is cleared up. Then, going for a VERY tough job at Minimarg, a beautiful small village. He has promised to take me to the neighbouring places in summers and I hope to share some more tales of this place called heaven.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed and keep dreaming because dreams do come true, sometimes.