Stories about road

We’re twins, not aliens!

Being a twin has not been easy for me, especially living in Pakistan. We’ve been stopped at restaurants, airports and even in the middle of the road by well-intentioned but annoying strangers. Some would ask us if we were twins (as if it wasn’t obvious) and would marvel at our likeness when we confirmed it while others preferred to waste our time by playing ‘spot-the-difference’ and bombarding us with irrational, overly-personal and clichéd questions. At the passport and driving licence offices, our National Identity Cards (NIC) have even been locked repeatedly because the computer detected one of us as a ‘suspect ...

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Help, I am a pedestrian!

While walking in Lahore, I stepped onto the footpath like any other pedestrian. I had only walked for five minutes when I realised that being a pedestrian in Pakistan is the saddest thing that can happen to a person. Apart from the government, that waves away the concerns of pedestrians quite often, car owners also make sure that things are not easy for those walking on the road. This wasn’t the first time I had walked down the street. In fact, I have been a pedestrian for eight years now. I have always been an outdoor person and hence, I enjoy walking and ...

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Craving GT Road dhaaba deliciousness? Try this channa daal

Whoever has travelled on the Grand Trunk (GT) road in Pakistan knows what a driver’s hotel or a manji hotel is. Four ideas are the usual elements which make up such a hotel; truck drivers, plenty of manjis (Punjabi for beds), karak doodh patti (strong milk-tea) and affordably epic desi food. These informal restaurants are where all the long haul trucks make in-between stops to eat, drink and rest before heading to another stretch of their tiring journeys. The GT road is South Asia’s oldest and longest road, originally built to link eastern and western regions of the subcontinent. The road was rebuilt by Sher Shah Suri in the 16th century. ...

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Capital encroachment: Laws, promises and a delicious piece of pie

“Silence is a source of great strength” – Lao Tzu As an optimist will confirm, waking up is supposed to be the best part of the day. It doesn’t matter what time you wake up, or what sleep cycle your body follows, waking up full of energy is part of the charm of facing a new day and the new challenges that come with it. So why this weak feeling? Maybe it’s the school up your street. Maybe it’s the office next door. Maybe it’s the VVVVVIP next door (they love their V’s don’t they?), or maybe even ...

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Functional cities need mass transit

Much has been said and written about lack of predictable and efficient public transport system in Pakistan’s major cities – to no avail. Former mayor of Karachi, Mustafa Kamal, who built a swirling network of flyovers and signal-free corridors during his four-year tenure, was smarter than that to realise, and voice, that adding more roads was only a short-term solution. True unclogging of our major cities’ blocked arteries would happen when you remove a significant number of vehicles from the road, which is only possible when you provide commuters with a viable public transport option. But the argument for a mass ...

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The man who taught me how to give

I was not too surprised when I saw the elderly man on the side of the Islamabad highway. Beggars are a common sight on the road and drivers are used to ignoring them. But as I waited at the traffic signal, I noticed the man stepping onto the road. The light had just turned red and the timer had started. He only had a few seconds to get someone’s attention. Watching him from the car, I assumed he was asking for money, but his movements suggested otherwise. There was no weariness, no weakness in his movements, which is usually associated ...

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Alarming traffic situation: Donkeys in the fast lane

Time and again, the menace of child labour has been deplored by organisations, social workers, politicians and people in general, for obvious disadvantages and cruelties associated with it, but recently I came across another dimension attached to it. On a typical morning, I was rushing to a school in Defence in Karachi where I teach, and had taken the Ittehad route. Those familiar with the route would know that cars usually move at relatively higher speeds on that particular road. So here I was trying to reach school on time; I’ll be honest that I wasn’t over-speeding. At a distance, I ...

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Roadblocks: A field of a hundred bombs

“We are standing in a field of a hundred bombs.” One of my colleagues has a penchant for dramatic statements, but this time he was not exaggerating. Having recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan, he was in a position to talk about what constitutes a security hazard. A hundred cars packed snugly into the space before a road-block, with most engines running on CNG, is not merely a question of inconvenience. It is a disaster waiting for ignition. It should be self-evident that the elements seeking to strike terror look for maximum impact, given their resources. Shrines, mosques and market-places are ...

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Flood crisis: Descent into darkness

During our descent towards Sukkur Airport, all heads in the cabin peered over shoulders and towards the windows to catch a glimpse of the floods’ devastation. Gasps abounded as the Indus suddenly appeared below in placid, expansive pools engulfing everything that had once been land. All that was now visible was a shapeless, silver deluge shimmering in the evening sun, dotted occasionally by green treetops. Brown, rectangular roofs of what had once been homes or schools now lay empty, abandoned and completely lifeless. There wasn’t a figure around, not a soul visible from our vantage point in the air. ...

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Driving on the moon

For the past few months, driving in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has turned into a tough and expensive task. Tough, because of the ‘brilliant’ sewerage lines laid right in the centre of the roads. Cities are planned with the future needs in mind and these people couldn’t even plan an area! These geniuses thought of a new way and style for sewerage lines: Right in the middle of the road and lined with gaps for the water to fall through. As if the water will collect at every gap between these lines. There are countries in the world where ...

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