house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Islamabad Club

You stop at the gates of the Islamabad Club and - as the guest of a member - small miracle! they let you in. You drive under glittering palm trees, roll past an army of people opening car doors for the Illustrious and the Important. As they step out, my word, how shiny their shoes are, how remote their eye.

You meet your friend - the Member - in a Lounge of fine carpets, discreet lighting, smooth, low voices. You sit, smile and, before the first greeting is over, you're out in the hallway again, ushered by the most suave of slaves. Children are not allowed in the Lounge. Kira pales a little, in the glare of rejection. 'What did I do' she seems to say.

You all walk to the azure swimming pool of the Islamabad Club - surely, water can't be this blue, this clean, this fresh, tiles couldn't possibly stand so equal in their place. As a guest, you can't possibly swim (but you can look and you can dream...)

You walk again, to the Family Dining Room. There IS Another Dining Room but your best clothes are not good enough to get you there. And your child, well, your child disqualifies you downright. Not that you know this just now, or that you'd care either way. The company's great, the waiters know exactly what to ask and when to smile, the food arrives fast. The fish meuniere swims in oil, the burger reeks of slaughterhouse fear, but the dhaal is good, not too hot, not too dry, the spinach mush much hotter but the yoghurt helps if you will try...

In the glitter of jewelry, in the clink of crystal, you talk about the millions of Pakistanis who - right now - live in sodden tents or worse, under the stormy sky. When it starts raining, your host now tells you as you sip your lassi, they flee their crumbling houses, and sleep under the clouds. Chorus of laughter from the other tables at the Islamabad Club. Kira draws a picture of the waiter as a two-headed Picasso character. One fierce eye rests in the haystack of a half-moustache; the other, closed or very-very small, seems to say 'not now, later, later...'

On the way out, we come across the library of the Islamabad Club, a place of worship almost, like trees or ancient art. A plaque of polished oak, up on the door, says: 'Children under five (5) and maids not allowed.' Oooh, God forbid a child should try to find a pastime in a book, or that a maid should display Curiosity. Children and maids: know your place, no mess, no noise, no play. And should you happen to walk by, pass this door on tiptoe, in utmost silence and leave NO TRACE.

The Islamabad Club is a much-sought-after place. I don't believe I'll join the queue and wait for a member to die.


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