This morning Kabir left for the UK and Nadeem flew to Karachi on business. There have been four major terrorist attacks this week, one on a mosque yesterday which killed over seventy people. None of them, thankfully, are in Islamabad and tend to be prevalent in the turbulent tribal areas near Peshawar. So today is the first day, since landing, that I am not to be a part of Nadeem’s nor Kabir’s outrageously busy and energetic schedules. I look forward to the rest and am particularly excited about sending emails to my friends and family.
Shaguthta, the house cook, is on form as always. All week we have had freshly cooked meals, whatever we fancy, and the dining room table has been set in case we decide to eat. She cooks the best Indian cuisine I have tasted, and it is very different to the Indian meals I am used to back home. There is far less sauce and the food is healthier.
Before arriving to Pakistan my friends had joked that I would have to fend off all kinds of insects and monsters. I know they exist out here but I’m happy to say things havn’t been too bad. In Noon Bagla, I noticed a nest of about twenty spiders underneath the overhanging roof, but they were all legs and no body and that sort I can deal with. One night, in Islamabad, before getting into bed I saw a strange grasshopper-like creature, but I took care of it by throwing a boot. Its remains are still on the marble floor. People here do mention that Dengue Fever is occurring in areas of the country, especially Lahore and this is also mosquito season. Having said that, I used my mosquito repellent on the first night and since then have complacently neglected it and have not been bitten once.
All week it has been very hot, but it gets dark at about five o’clock and then the temperature drops to 8C. I noticed in Noon Bagla it was even colder than that. The locals here find the night time temperature uncomfortably cold, whereas I am uncomfortable with the daytime heat. Several sounds are constantly audible in Islamabad: barking dogs, crickets and insects at night, birds during the day, the sounding of horns in traffic (though not in quiet Bani Galla), and the intermittent Call To Prayer from the mosques. I seem to have accidently synchronized my smoking habit with the Call and every time I leave the house for a cigarette, “Allah Akbar” resonates. The Call does not sound attractive to foreign ears, but slowly I am getting used to it. It may sound better if the mosques sounded the same call, by the same Imam, at the same time, but one can hear several versions of it at different volumes depending on the proximity of the minarets.
Frankly today has been a lazy one in terms of activity, but I spend several hours writing up my journal, recording my experiences. At twenty eight minutes past eight in the evening however, there is a gunshot. It sounds quite close and also sounds as if it came from a sports rifle, I pause and listen and then there is another one only a minute later. I walk to the front door to investigate and can see nor hear nothing. I speak with Waheed and he says it is a frequent occurrence in Pakistan, and that it is probably someone’s wedding or birthday. People fire guns here in celebration and a couple of single shots is quite tame; normally a burst of bullets from an AK-47 is the fashion! This will explain why Pakistan is one of the world’s largest consumer of bullets.