house of happy

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

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Kira started school last week. I sometimes walk to pick her up in the early afternoon, when the sun is high and the city shimmers with heat. I wrap myself up in my longest shalwar kameez and proceed with equal steps that use as little energy as possible. It's a technique mastered to perfection by all dwellers of long scorching summers (remember the Maldives?) - a slow gliding, straight back, no unnecessary movement, not even an eyeball rolling sideways to check the traffic.

I remain in deep awe of these people: the first time I walked to school I wasted way too much time and energy readjusting my scarf, looking around in a effort not to get lost, and getting lost. Yes. Most streets in Islamabad have numbers, not names and I'm no good with numbers. So I forgot the street number, I didn't see the logic in the street layout (is there any?) and I kept going until the streets ended and the hills began. I called Moona.

A Jeep slowed down and the front window rolled down. Inside, a handsome man with long hair and black shalwar kameez signalled and smiled. I looked away and tried to pay attention to Moona's instructions. They were: a) turn around NOW and b) walk back. Some more stuff about turning right at some point. Also a couple of loving observations along the lines of 'how much of a numpty can I be' etc. Beside the point.

I walked back and while crossing an insignificant-looking street, noticed a long line of cars idling, waiting. 'How funny' - I remember thinking - as I walked on. And, five steps later, stopped because didn't Moona say something about 'lots of cars' and 'turning right'?

As I took the road with the endless motor-queue, the Jeep containing my admirer reappeared and, once again, he offered me a lift. 'There's a dude in a cool jeep offering me a lift', I duly reported to Moona who was checking on my progress. 'Don't take it', he shouted as if I were Snow White and young Imran Khan here was handing out The Red Apple. Priceless.

By this stage I had guessed something vital: this queue of cars was making very slow progress TO THE SCHOOL GATES! I walked past shiny BMWs, countless Corollas, a few purring Mercedes, Jeeps and OK, some old bangers too (but very few). Inside each car, a driver and a passenger, perhaps a servant or secretary? They hopped out and rushed to the school gates. Stepping on each other's toes, they shouted the names of the child they were collecting. The gate-keeper repeated the name into a microphone. A minute or so later, a pupil was spilled from the belly of the school out onto the pavement, to be accompanied by the butler to the expecting vehicle.

Impressive. And here I was, a white woman - alone and wheel-less - making majestic progress to the school gates (read: shuffling in heat-induced stupor, adjusting scarf rather obsessively, carrying awkward bag, dropping phone and displaying unpainted toenails!) - I whispered Kira's name to the porter only to be handed the mike. What?
'KIRA' I croaked into the thing and sure enough Kira arrived, looking stricken with parentally-induced mortification. 'Aaah' - the porter beamed into the microphone - 'KIRA-FROM-SCOTLAND'! She took sudden interest in a random leaf and started walking.

We walked together past the endless line of cars, and watched by all with fixed incredulity like some memorable moment in a soap-opera.

I SO look forward to doing this on a daily basis.


At 11 October 2012 at 13:13 , Anonymous Elie said...

What an amazing school-run! I can just imagine you walking, descriptive. Thanks and I look forward to more.

At 11 October 2012 at 16:19 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snow White and Imran Khan...what an image arises ... I think the comment thing does work. But....all will be revealed in a sec.

At 12 October 2012 at 10:40 , Anonymous H & Eli said...

Send Kira a giant hug from us, hope she's enjoying the new school. H & Eli XX

At 25 October 2012 at 20:11 , Anonymous Jill said...

well, of course, you SHOULD have taken the lift if it had been imran khan! glad you didn't tho ;) great story - i felt as though i was shuffling along beside you. keep them coming please :) love you, jill xxxx


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