There is something about mountains that just thrills me. I love mountains – the higher the better. It just refreshes you. This is why Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) regularly went and stayed in a cave (Ghar-e-Hira) for several days, on a regular basis. You need to distance yourself from your everyday life sometimes.
It is good to go with your dear ones, but sometimes, it is also good to go alone.
Why? To be able to think a thought through to the end. (He didn’t even have a smart phone!) In our cases, we could literally lose our own lives, due to all the distractions we keep having.
So, I got up and went off with my driver who was assigned to my husband back in 2004. Right at the time that i was leaving, I remembered that Hasnain, my domestic help has never been to the mountains. So, I decided to take him along; – In just a ten minute notice, he was ready!
Off we went.
Wali-Rehman my old faithful driver who worked for my husband long time ago, is still in contact with me. He is wonderful enough to come (and his bosses are generous enough to give him leave).Though I can drive on mountains now, but somehow I feel better if he is doing it. It was a good decision, as the already narrow roads in the galiat or valleys were dug up on one side for putting a gas pipeline. The traffic was horrendous
I asked several friends, each one had an issue. So, I thought, ‘it’s time to get real.’ My friend Birgit always travels alone, and lives alone in Germany. Let me take a leaf out of her book.
In Pakistan, ‘alone’ means, with driver and batman! So, we all drove off and had an amazing lunch at TDCP, Khajot, which is another favorite place of mine. (The bill had got more amazing too!)
Then to Bhurban, to meet Uzma and her family members.
Usually, we only go to PC there which is an amazing five star hotel. Right now, my budget was pretty low, (remember my girls’ engagement and several other overspending bouts these last few months?
So, I’m a big believer in living within one’s own means. Otherwise, it makes one mean with others, for no fault of theirs!
So, we met Uzma and her sweet family. Had a wonderful chit-chat Neelofar, Zainab and Samina, and they were insisting again that I should stay with them. They were terrified of Ursula’s dogs. Somehow, I’m not. (I’ve tackled more terrifying human ones … !) So I left for Nathiagali, in spite of it. Joking with them, ‘I’ll come to you after they bite me!’
On the way we saw many monkeys, several with babies clinging to the mothers…
So, by dusk we were in Nathiagali. I was so happy Wali Rehman did the driving, it seemed as if the roads had become even more winding! We landed in the market to get my favorite Sajji or Broasted chicken which is delicious from the restaurant there, along with naans.
We decided to have the food after getting settled in the rooms. I was received with so much warmth by Ursula, and her domestic help. It literally felt like a home coming. How long had it been since I was last there?
It felt odd coming here without Uzma, Haroon, Daniyal and my girls. There were memories of them everywhere. Life goes on, and we have to go on with it. Wishing them all the best in life, and wishing the same for one’s self. We writers, need to be with ourselves to collect our thoughts, have new experiences, and know ones’ self first.
Why didn’t I take pictures of the food? I ate it up before I could take them. 😉
So, anyhow, we all were dog tired, even though the place was comfortable.
But somehow, I found it hard to sleep. Hardly any internet, no television – cable was not fixed yet, I was offered movies to watch on the dvd player. I mean to come here to watch movies? Honestly? I love company, but I’m fine on my own too. Alhamdolillah. I wanted to meditate and enjoy the silence.
I’ll get used to it. We only children, are pretty good at it. I’ve travelled alone before but always with a group. So, it wasn’t so alone. I had arranged a proper room for my staff too, so they could get a good rest too.
Finally, I woke up around 4.30 am after a bad dream. I was happy to wake up and find out it was a dream. I’ve lived through times, when I got up from a dream to find out that my life was the nightmare. At that time, I couldn’t wake up from that reality. I thanked my Allah, for His blessings.
I sat up in the bed to watch a fully grown monkey, outside my window jump on the wire-mesh boundary, sit there, for a while then hop onto the roof of the neighbors and scramble up to its roof. He was calmly enjoying the views from there. The sun transforming his beige fur into a glowing edge. Before I could set my phone’s camera, he had scrambled off. Yes, the memory of my phone’s camera was full.
Is my memory full too?
But it’s good to delete some memories for good.
That is what I did.
Watching the morning slowly appear with the twittering unique birds, the sun shining on leaves one by one, the glistening pine needles of pine trees, the sun rays on the brilliant green grass, the moving shadows… I watched them all. To lie down in my bed and be drenched in sunshine, was a novel experience, (my room in Islamabad faces North.)
It was a lazy beautiful morning. I had made my breakfast myself. Another novel experience, my batman spoils me hollow and I let him. After all, I’ve spent at least 35 years of my life, making my family and my breakfast. I bathed, changed and sat outside reading my Quran.
The first words I read were…
We have not created the heaven and the earth and all that lies between them in vain.…
(Surah Saad, 38, Ayat: 27.)
Truly! This awesome world is here for my benefit. Each little pretty bird has a function. The fluttering butterflies around me, the orange black dotted ladybirds in the brilliant green grass, and croaking ravens… everything.- A tonic for me to absorb and divert me from my daily struggles, desires and objectives.
Wali Rehman and Hasnain came, we took a drive around the place, and saw the church built over a hundred years ago.
I got a shock when I saw it was orange colored. I mean, I’ve seen this church in black, gray, white but orange? (It happens to be my favorite color) But when I saw the pictures, I realized, it’s not bad after all. No matter what color you paint it, it is cute and charming. What hurt me were the strong security mesh wall around it. What a time has come, when places of worship have to be secured? So sad. I know of a time in history when the Jews and Christians preferred to live under Muslim rule of Abdul Rehman I, during the Muslim rule in Spain.
They felt secure and able to live a satisfying life. This was during the golden age of Muslim rule in Spain. (Yes, the Dark Ages in most Western History pages.)
At least the church was being looked after, and we have to be happy for that.
We saw the glimpses of snow-capped mountains and couldn’t help feeling proud that my own little Waliya had just been to the top of those mountains just a week ago! I showed you the time-lapse film she made, in my last blog.The time of my life
So, we went to see the Green Spot which is another high security area now. Skiing is done here in winters. But we had to get special permission to go inside now. My status as the wife of an Air Commodore in Air Force of Pakistan, helped. We walked in to so many memories:
So many trips here, first as newly marrieds, coming with our Squadrons almost every summer. Then with kids. My husband and children rolling down these slopes. Then, for our twent- fifth wedding anniversary, Nataliya had booked the rooms up here for us. So we spent a night here. My husband was apprehensive staying here, as the staff lives elsewhere, and we were alone here. One of the waiters had informed us how a girl going to school had been attacked last week in the jungle nearby, by a snow leapoard. (They come down from the mountains in summers sometimes.)
My husband, murmured to me, ‘what if a snow leopard comes here at night?’
‘Don’t worry,’ I told him, ‘I’m here with you!’
I never knew how much those words would be coming handy some years later.
I told myself to stop feeling maudlin. I’m so blessed. So many beautiful, happy and wonderful memories I’ve got. How many get to do so many things, travel so much in their lives?
Several families were coming there with children too. One couple was there, with the wife, obviously expecting. I offered to take their picture for them. (Was it just yesterday? When I was expecting my first child?)
We drove off to see the Governor’s House. We weren’t allowed to go near it even. So we took pictures from outside.
So, Wali Rehman said, ‘I have to leave, You have done all the sightseeing, but why are you staying back? Let me take you home.‘ I had a chat with Ursula explaining I had to leave after all. It was wonderful chatting with her Jinnie sitting next to her. She said, ‘I can only have people who are all right with my dogs. I cannot be without them. I understand. I know the bond that one has with one’s pet. My Paprica was a gem, and will always be missed. Seeing this brave eighty two year old wonderful person living alone here, felt good. She said, ‘I love being here, I’m happiest here.’ No wonder she has driven here from Karachi for over fifty years! It was great sitting there and enjoying the lovely breeze. earlier I had written about this place: Ursula Ansari’s Cottage in Nathagali
I have great regard for Wali Rehman, I had to agree with him. So, I went back to pack. Wali Rehman got me back by 5.30pm after a lot of fast driving.
It was good we came back, as my mum’s new maid hadn’t arrived. So, I happily took her to the loo. Thank God I had come back, in time. See? How God makes things happen, for a reason? So, one should go along with one’s gut feelings. No matter how odd it appears to be.
So, here I am. Writing for you. This was supposed to be a short blog! I’ve still got to share with you the wonderful Meet-up of writers that I had held at my place a day earlier.
Stay blessed my wonderful Reader. 🙂
Note: All photographs provided by author. A few taken by Hasnain.