|Wagah , Lahore|
On a bright sunny day and sky crystal-blue.. I along with some other friends was touching the road of a suburb area of Punjab, when little dots of light touched my eyes. Then I saw a young girl, adorned with jewelry and bangles, wearing a traditional, glittering dress of sky blue colour that was shimmering under the sun. That was actually where the light was coming from, I thought. I took a closer look, she was wearing sun glasses as well while a duppatta (scarf) wrapped around her head. She was coming from an opposite side driving a lovely pink colored scooty (bike) at some 40 km/hr speed, I guessed.
It was something new and surprising for me! My heart boomed “Welcome to India!”
It was the last week of March 2011 when I was invited as a delegate to attend the Festival of SAARC Writers and Literature being held in New Delhi, where I went with Ali Akbar Natiq (from Islamabad), Ajmal Kamal, Nayyara Rehman, Kiran B. Ahmed (from Karachi), Wajahat Masood and Ammar Kazmi(from Lahore). I crossed the Wagah Boarder with them and stepped in to the land of ‘Hindustan’. We were travelling on foot. Soon after crossing the border, we reached on the other side called Attari.
Moving onward with each step I felt like I am walking into some scene of a Bollywood film where I have walked in right from my home. Most of the things I saw were pretty similar back home, like trees, roads, sky, sun, even temperature. But the difference was there, I felt it. Different characters were written on sign boards. And it was not just the hording boards, the people also seemed different. The way they were talking, behaving, reacting and their gestures seemed so unusual.
We waited for a while at Attari, at a Dhaba for other delegate members to join us who arrived in a while. Most of them were strangers to me, but they introduced themselves as writers, poets and song-writers. Anyways, we hired a WaganR (a vehicle) and started moving towards Amritsar which is about 30 odd KM from Attari. We reached there within half an hour and, took lunch at local hotel. And just loved the taste of Paalik Paneer which I had there for lunch!
Everyone seemed fresh with a smile on their face and was also cracking jokes at one another in the meanwhile. Cutting it short, it was a pretty nice beginning of a long journey.
We reached Jalandhar just before the sunset and stayed at a famous tourist place named ‘Haveli” which proved to be a really nice place to take a short tea break.
Moving away from Jalandhar, we crossed Ludhiana and reached Ambaala and had dinner there.
That was the time when everyone started getting exhausted. The G.T road was under-construction process, and we were compelled to travel only at the speed of just 60-70 KM/Hr and thus the amusing jokes turned into a depressing discussion.
Everyone was waiting to arrive at Delhi, but someone right said that “Dilli Duur Ast” [Delhi is far away] and we virtually felt that it was rightly said.
There were no signs of Delhi till 10 PM. We then had another tea break at Sonepat, at a truck hotel type of Dhaba, where there was a young driver named Aman who shocked us when he told that Delhi was still 3 hours away from us. Oh God! I thought,
“Dilli bohat (too) Duur Ast”
Passing through different small and big cities of Punjab I saw cycle-rickshaws, auto-rickshaw, liquor shops, temples, gurdawaras and females driving scooty-bikes, a scene that was new for us Pakistanis as I never saw a woman driving bike on a Pakistani road with such confidence. Put aside the confidence, I never witnessed such scene back home. But I was impressed by the self-confidence of these Punjabi girls, who were driving bikes on the main road without any sign of panic on their face which signifies their freedom and self-confidence.
After a frenzied effort the driver was able to locate the place, where we were supposed to stay. Nearly at 4 AM, we reached at Sai Dham Dharamshala (The Guest House) and found our rooms.
It seems that the journey was over as we have reached our destination, but it was just a start…. Delhi was waiting for me. And I was waiting to explore the city.
But then I just fell on to the bed and tried catch some sleep. But despite of the long tiring journey, I was feeling so much energetic that I could not sleep.
I was living in a dream.