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Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Travelling Experience

Someone in the past said, “Travelling leads to success”. This proverb is not applicable in our country; it can only be true if one reaches one’s destination quite safe and sound.
The transportation system of the world is making progress but so is not the case with our country and the reason why it is so is the government’s indifference. Here a traveller is considered to be one of the most pitiable fellows who travels at the risk of his own life. The bus drivers drive at a very high speed. You might have found a passenger travelling by a very speedy bus saying, “Travelling leads to the hospital”. Such drivers are always in a hurry. The scenes of a passenger getting into and then coming out of the bus are quite funny. Sometimes it happens that a passenger is about to enter the bus, half of his body is inside it and the rest is outside, but the driver has driven the bus with a jerk and you know where the passenger is? He is down on the floor of the bus and has also heard a few people laugh but as he looks up, every one gets serious because the same thing has happened to almost all of them.
A good thing about Pakistanis is that they get used to everything, so most of us have got used to travelling by a speedy bus, but the doctors of our country advise the heart patients not to travel by a bus about which they are sure that it will go fast, but there are patients who do not listen to the doctors and if such a man unfortunately travels by a speedy bus, one may hear him say:
It’s my life; it’s now or never,
I ain’t gonna live for ever,
I just wanna live while I’m alive,
It’s my life; my heart is like a broken highway
Would that for me everyone pray,
That I should live while I’m alive,
It’s my life.

Wise people say we should go step by step with time. A driver read this line somewhere but could not understand anything because he was a train driver.
I do not like Japanese for inventing rickshaw but not travelling by it. They exported it to our country, where people are bound to travel by it. ‘Qingqi’ is the latest and the most dangerous form of rickshaw. I, one day, saw a man sitting on the back seat and I am still not sure whether he was laughing or weeping as the chingchi passed over the speed breaker and maintained its original speed. I, one day, in a chance meeting with a Japanese asked him why they had they thought of making such a dangerous vehicle; he replied, “We Japanese are fond of doing experiments”.
Once, I thought to take the views of different people about travelling by bus. First, I went to a man who had recently bought a second-hand car. I asked him why he had bought a car that consumed a lot of petrol. He only replied, “Man learns by his mistakes”. Later, I came to know that he had faced several accidents and every time he was sitting on the front seat. Then I met another man who had got his own car but preferred to travel by bus. I asked him why did he not fear accidents. He replied, “Practice makes a man perfect”. I came to know, later, that he was a miserly man and always feared the rapid increase in petrol prices. Then I met another man who liked to travel on the roof of the bus. I asked him whether he ‘got kick out of’ travelling on the roof of the bus and maybe this guy took my question for fun and in a pretty ridiculous way replied, “Why! I can jump down if I see that the bus is about to face an accident”. Later I was told that he was a college student and did so in order to escape from purchasing the ticket. However, one day when I met the same guy with a bandage on his head I thought whether it was the consequence of jumping from the bus or escaping from the conductor.
Today people say that the passengers have lost charm in travelling but talking about Pakistani passengers, it would be appropriate to say that they cannot lose what they never had.
A good thing about Pakistan is that here you can find everything, where there is speedy transport; there is also another kind of transport that moves at a snail’s pace. Once I asked a passenger why he preferred to travel by such a slow moving bus. He replied, “Better late than never.”
The outlook of such buses is incredible. These buses appear antiques. Even some of the famous historians have failed to tell anything about the model of these buses, though we can find “MODEL 2003” written in some corner, and the most interesting thing is that the years also keep on changing with the arrival of the new year. Some of these buses have passed their retirement age but have still been seen crawling on the roads, especially in the countryside where no better transport is available. Since these buses are old, people have to start them by pushing. These buses even do not have brakes, but the conductors are very clever who always keep a piece of log with them, which does the job of brakes. I asked a conductor about this technical and ‘new millennium-method’ of brakes, and he replied, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Some children of these villages, sometimes while they are riding bicycles, are found challenging the bus driver over a race competition. One can understand the feelings of the driver at this time and the remarks that he receives from the passengers.
Our transport is well known for its literary taste, i.e. the sentences that are written on its body. Some of these sentences have far-reaching meanings. I, once, saw a badly damaged bus: no windscreen, no windowpanes and the sentence written on the entrance door ran, “Khair ho aap ki’. A wise man will surely never dare ride such a bus.
In our country, people criticise the bad transport and the damaged roads. They are unaware of the fact how valuable these things are! In foreign countries people ride in a van-like thing, which keeps on shaking at one place and inside only the picture on the screen moves so the rider feels as though the van were going on a very bad road at a very high speed. They call it enjoyment, but here we call the same thing a trouble for the passengers. We lack the ability to praise such valuable things that the foreigners enjoy riding. Just a problem with our system, perhaps.
Composed November 2001