I am sitting in a car. The driver (Saleem? Already names are eluding me) is playing some Pakistani song on the radio. It’s too modern, too racey for my father next to him. I sense my impending embarrassment, for who, I’m never sure. Perhaps sensing something, he digs through a cache of CDs and changes it to a Qawali. This is the good stuff, he says and goes on to explain who it is and what it means. Again, too much drums, but at least he’s tried. His hair is middle parted, floppy and shiney, exactly the way I picture Pakistani men’s hair; flip-it-over-the-shoulder-esque.
There are colorful umbrellas strung along the road. And carpets, and pashminas, all wet, waiting for the sun to dry them again for tourists. Men sit around smoking fires, children with runny noses, in plastic sandals run up to cars, knocking on the windows.The queues are already beginning. Locals on holiday. We sit with an old woman at a curve in the road bargaining for pashminas. ‘Yeh wallah, yeh wallah, yeh wallah,’ she announces as she squats comfortably on the gravel (we, awkward, bent over, inspecting, bargaining). She reminds me of someone’s grandmother whose vocabulary, broke down completely to ‘wallah, wallah, wallah’ in the aftermath of a stroke.
The mist gets heavier as we climb higher. Saleem(?) buys us corn roasted over the fire at the road side. It’s chewy and burnt and I can’t finish it. I try to give it to someone else. I feel bad because I asked for it. And because someone sat in the rain and roasted it. And was probably hungry himself.
How long do I have to climb,
Up on the side of this mountain of mine?
Cold Play’s speed of sound is playing on my iPod and the road is rumbling away underneath and the mist is growing and I am sitting with ten beautiful pashminas, of which the pink one is mine. My mother is next to me and my father in front and a mountain before us and for one moment as Chris croons into my ear, I feel after a long time, incredibly content.