For over three years now, I take Murree Road to work and then back to Islamabad. It sounds like a great road – it’s name inspiring thoughts of pretty hills (now not so pretty but even so) and cool breezes. In reality, this road is a traffic-infested hell that I have to endure atleast twice a day – every working day and sometimes even on the weekends. And it’s almost always noisy and sweltering most of the year.
Today, it got exceptionally hot when protesters decided to – well, protest in rush hour (which on Murree Road, is every hour) and held up a whole lot of traffic which was already threatening to push my little (and hopelessly useless) vehicle on to a kerb or into large menacing “wagons” (that’s what they call the dangerously swerving Toyota Hiaces which serve as buses and are overflowing with sweating people) or even larger menacing SUVs with tinted windows and important looking number plates.
Tires were burning everywhere and the smell was making things worse. People (mostly young boys with school bags) were standing around grinning. Some people were holding banners. Near the Benazir Bhutto Hospital, things got more serious. There was a huge fire and people were shouting. I think I spent about 2 hours stuck in all of that and I never did get to work. However work did manage to come to me but that is another story for another time.
I got two lame pictures from my phone that I’m posting here. The huge fire was too impressive for me to remember to click. I guess I’m just getting slow in my old age.
I spent about 45 minutes watching at this point as the protesters got bored and left to protest somewhere else. In retrospect, I should have gotten more pictures.
Soon, more people collected and random beggars appeared on the scene. This also reminds me – there were policemen everywhere and they were standing around and some were yawning. Others were more watchful but they kept a safe distance. It was very hot and everyone was sweating. A begging woman with a very drugged-looking baby kept telling me that I should give her a thousand rupees and when I rolled up the window, she kept knocking. She was very serious about her job.
Eventually, I had to turn around and it took me a while to come back home. On my way back, the same drugged-looking child was being carried around by another begging woman while the previous one sat on the kerb eating something.
I wonder what these protests will achieve. On a brighter note, my kids managed to get to Islamabad and we had excellent discussions in random places. We went to Bari Imam (a shrine for a saint) and documented/recorded rituals. We also spoke to exotic looking old people who were very happy about being photographed. In the shrine, life went on as always. The protests seemed very far away and dream-like.