“Dir was not at all as I had expected. It seems much nicer! Biased by too many other people’s opinions. I am sure the people could be terrible and cold, but one night is not long enough to judge!!
Stayed the night in a ‘good’ hotel. Uneventful.
I met an interesting Pakistani guy, fresh from the States! He works with a ‘development’ organization. We had a very good discussion about the pros and cons of his country. He does not seem to see, as I do, the negative, capitalist manipulation from the West (advertising etc.), but instead believes that it is Pakistan’s problem ,alone, that they accept that kind of propaganda so readily. I still believe this is a ‘richer’ mans point of view. Education is the key factor in informed decision making, education and experience. The Western market place know they are dealing with a continent were the huge majority of the population have little or no education and are therefore easily led and still they continue to advertise, push the luxurious, dream-like picture of Western living around products like cigarettes, cars, electrical appliances etc. Is it really up to Pakistan to say “No.” or should it really be the West who just stop ‘pushing’ their economic, falsities on other civilizations? I certainly am not proud to be part of any culture that behaves in that way.
The Pakistan government seems to be being persuaded into wanting “the icing before they have baked the cake.” A ‘third’ world (god, I hate that phraseology), developing country, with one of the most advanced airlines in the world and yet, still, no decent road, power, water or rail systems. As this clearly shows their heads are in the air! I pray one day they will acknowledge their own, national poverty and structural problems and realize the only way to successfully improve and develop their country is to work from the bottom…up!
This guy, in Dir, believes it is not the fault of the Western system of world market domination, but that is Pakistan’s responsibility to control this ‘invasion’. I wish I could truly take this perspective as then I would feel less guilty!
Bought a real DIR knife. Very pleased. But still cannot open it very well…my fingers keep slipping. Very annoying.
Local taxi/jeep over Lowari Pass to Chitral.
Incredible scenery. Great people. Still feeling a bit too obviously “woman alone in the wilderness”, but it seems that Islam is against me and it is a case of lump it. At least India will feel like a walk in the park after this.
Chitral is, again, wonderful. It is pretty strange to be back. My old friend seems all of a sexual jitter when he is around me and I am sure, already, the town is talking! I hope it is only my paranoia. Was invited to dinner with his whole family. Chaotic and weirdly estranging, but also very comforting to see them all well. I will stay tomorrow night with them.
His hotel is finished and is very successful, in fact, I heard about it from other tourists before I arrived, but hadn’t realized it was his! He has lost weight and dyed his beard!
I find myself wondering about my friends in Gilgit and Swat. There has been a lot of trouble there between Shi-ite and Sunni muslim….
I do not really know where I am going or what it is I am doing, I only know it feels right. India is becoming a kind of goal now…(or a reward?!) and I am determined to explore more.
(oh-oh…back to being a tourist, the others have returned.)
The plan seems to be…
Birer – 20th-25th for festival time.
Bumbaret and the Kalash.
Return to Chitral.
(If weather is good to Shandaur, Gilgit.)
Islamabad. 10 month visa for India.
Amritser via Waga Border.
The small people (the kids have been left to run the Garden Hotel) are sleeping now so I will sign off soon.
It really is all very different a second time. More normal, easier, in a way less exciting, but also more intense!? By returning I feel I have made some sort of commitment.
Tomorrow I will try and find the English teachers here. That’ll be interesting. Meet the face behind the voice and find out how Chitral is treating them. Well, I hope.
I’ve had day dreams of buying the Garden Hotel. Now I see it again, I’m having even more ideas. It really needs so little to be an excellent, low budget hotel. A slap of paint and brighter buckets, kitchen etc. A ‘cleaner’ attitude and some planting and flowers. Shaili. (Beautiful.) But dreams they will remain.
You know, sometimes I feel I could, happily, spend the rest of my life here!”
“So I am back in Pakistan. It feels so strange. It is as if the last 3 months in Britain were are dream…not my adventures in Asia! It is extraordinary the way I feel so comfortable here again.
Already I have come from Karachi to ‘Pindi and encountered, again, the kindness and generosity of the Pakistani muslim.
The long train journey dragged on, the scenery uninspiring. Flat and continuous. The only things of any real interest were the nomadic tent ‘towns’ and grazing goats and cattle.
Half way it began to rain (barish) and rain and rain. That familiar damp ache began to invade my body and I could feel my enthusiasm dying.
I was in a compartment with one elegant lady (Rawalpindi) and another lady with her daughter’s child (Peshawar). I had hoped to reach Peshawar, but the train began to run very late.
“The hotels will all be closed.” I said, genuinely worried.
The elegant lady suggested that I stop in ‘Pindi for the night, it was 9pm when we arrived and I decided this was the best plan. Together we left the darkened station (power cut) and then she invited me to stay!
Her name was Bibi. In the dark we walked to her open house. The rain poured in the central courtyard and their grandchildren played around me. They lived with their son and his wife and their 3 boys (10, 8 and 4) and their youngest daughter (17). They were all so typically kind.
I was left alone with her husband to discuss, in English, politics and the state of Pakistan, differences in culture etc. and in between I could laugh and play with the children and help in the kitchen.
The, to me, strange, Islamic attitude to women is one that constantly plagues me, but despite a few questions of physical freedom I find their lives very agreeable!
They are far stronger than their male counterparts. The men become like children in their seriousness, the women are more natural and realistic! Pakistan’s aim seems to be to perpetuate their religious state…without these women and their child bearing this would be impossible. I have found women, in the main, (contrary to Western propaganda) to command immense respect. As they are not allowed (and often do not want to!) go outside in the dirty, noisy, male dominated world of the bazaar, it is easy not to recognise this fact. Sometimes I feel the men are almost embarrassed by this obvious reality!
I left Bibi and her family this morning and with some chasing around found a reasonable hotel (80 rupees double – no single currently available?). The horns are hooting and the rain continues to pour down. Strange garments made from plastic bags jostle with the umbrellas of the ‘drowned rat’ people below.
I am drinking a cup of hot chai, happy to be dry.
Oo…they have a single room now…gotta go….”
“The ‘blah’ has begun again.
And now? A red car blasts past slowly. Entertainment on wheels. A young thing. Constant traffic. Another coffee…I think so!
If fluency of the ‘thinking pen’ is something to work on, so is the formation of my visual ideas. Somehow I aim to ‘work’ the link between living day to day and recording in order to communicate its beauty, sometimes frightening and unforgiving. To live in this way is often worrying and always lonely. In moments like this I have to train myself to let go of the ‘gloomy negative’ that always seems to want to be allowed in. If I do let it in, this free, ‘way of seeing’ will be spoilt and I will loose the ‘magik’.
It would all become too heavy, too contrived. Like planning a journey. I am proving that this perspective works…it is simply mind over matter. I am penniless (well not quite, but must be very careful, as I will need money for my return to Asia!!) in Paris with no familiar connections, OR, I am on the adventure of a lifetime…writing my story…living my life.
“Listen here….(American voices)…it is be-ur (better) than a sangwitch (sandwich)..”
It is not the same Paris of before, but a new one and this change must be accommodated and explored.
Shut up! And get on with everything unexpected that comes up for you!
Relax. Smile. Enjoy.”
“Staring on a flat page…..it is no use fighting the stubborn page before.
Paris is ,again, a shock. Different from the mad-cap adventures of years gone by. Possibly (definitely!) my mood is casting a shadow over these avenues and hustle. Also this Champs Elysee area does nothing for me….I am aching for La Bastille and my old familiar haunts. I am meeting a friend in 1 1/2 hours and am too drained to move from this brasserie to…anywhere!
It is a stupid mood. Unjustified and irrational. As yet I have no place to stay….no reply from friends…..answering machines, tone and leave message after the “beeeeeep”!
Some things in Paris remain the same. The leering men and that strange aloofness. My confidence, like my French is rusty…so I sit and try and conjure up the living, living life enthusiasm of before. I fear that some of my recent, emotional, adventures have handicapped me for a while. It might not be so easy just to choose to be free to ‘fly’ again…..
A blonde German? with handwriting like my father’s twitches her freckles and chews slowly. The sun aches, dimly in the summer storm sky. The paper table cloth, which will be so quickly whisked away when I leave, is stained with the remains of my latest meal.
Hotels and balustrades, flat-fronted avenues, Vittel and cigarettes, chic cleanliness and frothy coffee rings. Tiers of glasses ‘clinking’ to the constant horn tooting, the low rumble of the eternal traffic and the occasional flapping of pigeon feathers. Finding peace with this cacophony and longing for some ENERGY! Perhaps, as I acclimatise, it will creep up on me.
The bar is now propped up by typical Parisian men, different dark, tanned complexions, gossiping. Opposite a woman in a lime green, sawn off top gaggles quickly with another in a chemise, silk print. The quick, pink lipstick smile that says “I know…its dreadful isn’t it…..but that’s the way it goes…” Mouth moving so rapidly, a waterfall of “je ne sais pas”! Matching Parisiene ladies.
I am searching for air. I open my mouth to breathe deeply.
Red feet. Pat, pat. Clockwork head. Peck, peck.
Shadows flit across the pavement.
Tut, tut, my pigeon friend. Don’t stop there. Its a double yellow line.
Intrepid birds, pit-pattering around the bike wheels and the ever uninterested feet come and go.
Slowly I am refocusing. Bringing the lens around…..Paris.
Somehow my coming here was soured – no build up – only wishing that I was not here. I wanted to be somewhere else. The better plan. But Paris it has to be and I must find myself here again. Old ghosts to lay to rest and a mission. To prove the alone, selflessness. Taking Paris alone is making me nervous….but it tickles me in all places as well!
To make fluent again this faltering pen and soup the trueness until you see all colour. Go easy on yourself.
I hope it is o.k. to sit for a whole hour. For I must wait and collect my thoughts.
Tick-tocking, drinking. Feeling foreign. I sit too long. Please do not let me be in the way. I like just being here.
Tra-la-la…hum ditty….tra-la-la….sing myself into that right feeling. Melt into the newness of it all. Why isn’t it like Asia where one just gets swept up in it all?
So conscious of judgement it is RIDICULOUS!
“To begin again……another book to remind and feed the urgent gathering….living in record. Finding a route.”
And now here is the next diary.
This journey story contains so many gaps.
I am starting to really enjoy this, as I realise how the structure of these entries highlights the spaces in between, and I am realising how many short stories and potential novels are hidden, not only in the existing text, but also in these glorious spaces. Stored only in my brain.
The fact that I am not sharing, in this, blog, any ‘peopled’ entries (the whole gambit of what so-and-so said, who I was hanging out with, love affairs etc. ) lends ‘another world’ly aspect to this record. But I am committed to completing this project of transcribing my doodles and thoughts/poems before I begin exploring all these possibilities as this is the skeleton that holds it all together. Hope any followers continue to enjoy this journey, as and when I get around, in my busy family life, to committing it to type!?