house of happy

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

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Polar Ponies

FOR THE DURATION OF THIS BLOG YOU ARE AN 11-YEAR OLD GIRL BORN AND RAISED IN WESTERN EUROPE. Now in Pakistan, and today you're off to Punjab, a day-trip to an unnamed village, a lunch invitation. This is what you see:

An empty, endless motorway. The 'keeeeooow' of a falcon, suspended like a kite in the empty, endless sky. The hills around you: someone says they're pure salt and you immediately want to jump out and lick a boulder, to check. (Erm, so does your mum).

Slim chimneys above mounds of red clay, heat and dust - brick kilns, apparently. They put children in there, they tell you, to stack bricks inside the ovens. You see one of those children scurry by, matted hair, dusty shirt, dry lips.

Gaping carcasses of goats are being butchered by the roadside (it is after all Eid Saturday!), grim gatherings of men hunched over long knives, carving into ribcages that hold no hearts, just air. Pelts, seemingly unconnected to the scene, are stretched out to dry in the grass nearby.

The car stops in front of a whitewashed house. The front door is open and you can see inside. Corridors the colour of smoke, decorated with ancient swords and family portraits. The rest is echo and haze. A father and son in spotless kurtas walk out to welcome you.

They take you to another house, for the Eid-feast. Glass veranda, airy and full of small birds, yellow with noise ('Don't forget to close the door!')

People in crisp cotton and clouds of perfume, gold-rimmed glasses, cups of tea and all the light, pleasant banter reserved for family reunions.

A sumptuous feast, tables upon tables laden with food - and you try them all and discover only one dish that is NOT spicy. At the same time, your dad bites into a flat bread and one of his front teeth falls out. You drink Coca Cola to take your mind off a) your burning tongue and b) father's new smile.

You go for a walk round the garden and find this: a deep pond containing mammoth orange fish that leap out to swallow your flat bread and any attached finger; and a shallow pond inhabited by exotic birds, cranes, flamingoes, painted ducks. Wow, flamingoes. Pretty but nasty, you conclude as you watch two of the pink-feathered pansies having a squabble, cawing in that honking deep voice they have.

Back to the gathering then, lazy chatter in English and Urdu, badminton on the lawn. Some boys are shooting an air rifle at an empty milk carton. You get a shot or two; you hunch over the weapon and your sunny hair falls around the black muzzle but you strike the target and the boys cheer.

You have no idea what they're talking about, this sport they all play, fast and on horseback. Sounds fun and dangerous and you can't just 'try it out'. They train for years, they've been riding from before they could walk and now there are these tournaments and they MUST play all the time. They mention the name and you forget it instantly because something new catches your gaze. A tree that flutters. Leaves or wings? Both. Butterflies on each leaf, too many to count. Someone tells you that this tree only blossoms every 20 years or so. It is in blossom today and what are the chances of THAT?

Before you leave, a friend takes you to a dusty corral full of these dark, beautiful Arabian horses. The friend whistles: 'Check out those polar ponies'. One canters over to the gate for a pat on the velvet nose; it towers above you and the lip trembles 'what, no carrot?'

On the drive back, stuffed and sleepy, you go: 'Wait a minute: why on earth do they call them 'ponies'? And there was nothing 'polar' about them either!'


At 13 November 2012 at 14:35 , Blogger Magnus said...

Wow you pretty much captured it all there. Tooth and all. For me there was this amazing garden like an oasis surrounded but the usual bleak villages. Not thatpeople seemed to mind. All busy with goat skins and that cricket game. We drove back at night and your heroine insisted we play 20 questions and just a minute..

At 14 November 2012 at 19:02 , Blogger emwolfem said...

Sorry but the tooth was beyond capturing... and I completely forgot about 20 questions (was I asleep?) but the cricket match was GREAT! Went to one today, and the team that won (indistinguishable from the team that lost, by the way) made such a racket you'd have said they'd won the World Test Series or Something. I still wonder what fun the women have, in those villages...

At 19 November 2012 at 23:12 , Blogger Unknown said...

beautiful.. :-)) love, jo


Post a comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home