Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer Plans I

Over the next two months I shall be summering in Lahore. Now, while it is true that summering has a touch of obnoxious elitism that is associated with phrases like "summering-in-Hamptons," or "summering-in-the-riviera," rest assured summering-in-Lahore is not the same thing. Indeed, it is hardly the same species of the genus. Summering in Lahore involves looming threats of heat-waves of the 45 degree plus variety, rolling blackouts every other hour (known locally as load-shedding, a wonderfully delightful term that implies austerity and something of a healthy diet), and a general dearth of activities (read: its too damn hot to go out and when its not the fundos run amok--no one is putting fun in fundos clearly). Thus, terms like vacations or holidays are very misleading for a visit to Pakistan during the months of June, July, and August. Summering, used with the kind of self-conscious deployment that post-colonial scholars of modern Middle East and South Asia relish when employing terms like nationalism, community, and secular, is the only thing that fits the bill.

I shall be chronicling parts of my summer in Lahore, things which I think the reader(s) of this blog might find interesting, any possible sights or archives visited.

A word to the wise, flying to Pakistan has now become less a major journey and more of extended session of bumper carts in the sky. Things may have changed since Ibn Battuta's time but traveling to Pakistan is still filled with hardships that gives one enough material to complain about when called upon to make polite chit-chat over tea, but not enough to write a safar-nama. None of this applies to first class passengers who are given pajamas to change into, and are escorted to their seats as opposed to being gently nudged into a row of compressed, antagonized people trying to find a seat, stow their luggage, and convince some aunty that the seat is not hers and no, you do not wish to give up your aisle seat for hers which is joyously squished between four other people who do not understand the concept of personal space. If you fly PIA, expect a limited arsenal of television options so sleeping pills are a must. Do not pack a book on Islamicization in Central Asia. I did that once and though it was an interesting read while in the comfort of my home, I was jealously looking over at the person reading Archie comics over in the next row the entire flight. However, PIA has the advantage of reaching Pakistan directly, which, given the bizarre-depressed-disney-land airports of most Gulf country hubs, is no small mercy. However, this time I flew Etihad, an airline with an enviable array of television channels but no concept of serving dinner rolls warm. No one told them that ice cold bread and butter does not go with the credit card maxing plane ticket prices. To add insult to injury, the dinner options  were between chicken and fish, which, on a flight headed to Lahore, might as well be a choice between two vegetarian dishes.

till next time!

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