house of happy

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

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

'We Scare Because We Care'

I'm driving through Islamabad at night. Always a high-adrenalin venture. Like an impure drug, you never know what trip you're going to get.

People, goats, dark coats. Bicycles. Stray dogs. Children carrying bundles of grass on their heads. Party-goers. Soldiers with guns. Women laden with logs.

What I'm getting tonight, on the darkest and windiest street in this town made of squares, is this: an entire family, women swathed in dark veils, men with purposeful gaits, children playful at their hems. Children, my Sweet God, children: they trot along in little shalwar-kameezes of midnight blue, utterly invisible. They hold on to their mothers' dupattas. They run in little arcs sweeping into the middle of the street..

Now, cars are coming from the other direction, headlights full on, of course. Jeff Buckley is singing Hallelujah with that voice of smoke and despair. I am blind. I am deaf. I am exhausted.

At the last moment, I see this lot.. I can't swing out into the other lane because of all the oncoming traffic.. I break so hard my brains rattle. The family carries on, slow and oblivious, like a small herd of protected wildlife straying into the city. As I overtake them, I blow the horn, twice, long and hard. An Islamabad reflex: C'MON PEOPLE! I am screaming because there could have been dead children in the road.

Instead, I realise a moment later, there are scared children in the road. They had absolutely no idea of my drama-on-wheels. They don't understand traffic. They don't know pavements, what they look like, where they should be laid. They, finally, do not decide how to get from A to B, in the dark, along windy streets with no pavements (there was a path, but the Alpha male chose the road and the clan followed). And now the children are scared. But safe. But scared. But safe. But scared.

And so on. I am aghast with shame. What did I do that for? Why, once I managed to avoid them, did I blow the horn?

Then a thought: The adults will curse the gori and carry on, but the children, shocked to the core, may remember and feel the dread long into the future. I hope this moment has put cars at the top of their list of monsters, a fear as irrational and unshakeable as you get. I hope one day they'll keep their own families away from roads (without even exactly knowing why).

'We scare', in other words, 'because we care'*.

*Monsters Inc., with thanks for the rhyme that is right for the night....

1 Comments:

At 30 October 2013 at 15:59 , OpenID swimminginstormyweather said...

Wish someone had taught me what the sound meant before I learnt it the hard way...

 

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