Journal - Napló
|Posted on May 14, 2010 at 6:35 PM|
Days 195-199 Lahore
Having reached the city of Lahore it still took a long time on the train to reach the station. The railroad tracks are followed by garbage on both sides, together with the tents of those, who live from or on it. A guard went through the compartment and wherever possible, he pulled down the shutters of the windows. When a stone hit one of the shutters close to us, it became clear, why.
Throughout the world there are ever stronger aspirations for solving the problem of the accumulation of garbage. Do these projects deal with the fate of the millions, who life off this garbage?
Fairly close to the railway station we found a cheap hotel. We set out to visit the city without a map.
As it was Sunday, the parks, small streets but even a few lanes of larger roads were invaded by cricket players. We chatted up a guy and asked him about the bazaar but the conversation soon took a turn towards the ”Taliban question”. As it turned out, many do not attribute the current domestic situation to the Taliban, but rather to India (I later heard in Delhi as well that the Indian leadership supports the actions of the Taliban, further increasing the tensions that have been present between the two countries since the secession of Pakistan).
We reached the bazaar area after crossing a road full of carts, rickshaws, cars and motorbikes and entering one of the main gates of the city. We were walking in a desolate, dark, small street when a young man addressed us from a small door of a flat and invited us to step inside.
As I was walking upwards on the narrow and dark spiral staircase, I was thinking that the environment is a little suspicious and whether I would have accepted the invitation if I had been alone. We stepped into a bright room of ca. 25 square metres. There were a few men kneeling around 3 pieces of textile sewn on to long frames. Strengthening the letters drawn on to the textile with long, silver-colour rods, this place produced three-dimensional advertisements. They shared their lunch with us. As they explained, neither of them had a school degree and they learned how to do this job while doing it. They gave us a needle and the end of a thread to put it through the needle. I for a few minutes struggled with the tranquil knowledge of having no chance – without any success. The man sitting opposite to me kindly took it from my hand and pulled the thread that was as thick as the rope of Tarzan and ”united” them with one simple move.
We were already on our way back to the hotel, when a small group of older people asked us the take a picture of them. When the picture was ready a guy invited us to the home of his family. They led us to an ornamented living room and offered us to sit on the couch. Several members of the family honoured us with their presence and the small table was soon covered by tempting desserts. We also got two huge cups of tea. They also gave us some sugar on a small plate. At least I thought. I put a lot into my tea, and then I was unable to drink it. The crystals that reminded me of sugar...tasted very much like salt. As it turned out, many drink green tea with salt there but still, I overdid the amount. By far.
There were some misunderstandings but we were still able to communicate with some members of the family in English. They guy told us in the end that his uncle wants to see as and indicated that he is ready show us one of the beauties of the town. Although it was getting dark, we were happy to accept the offer.
We took the car to the police station where the uncle was working – in a high rank, as it turned out. There was a blackout so he greeted us with a torch lamp. He took us to the prison cells. The prisoners were lying on the cold stone floor in the unheated cell in the dark, some of them looked at the torchlight with eyes half closed. As if we were at an exhibition, they told us that we could take photos.
We entered a large room. The uncle sat behind a huge table. Beside this there were just a few chairs in the room. Soon a few men arrived. Two prisoners, relatives and two guards. We witnessed a short trial in the almost completely dark room. We were not sure what the result was.
Nevertheless, when the light came back we left the room and sat in a car. The uncle appeared as well and escorted us in a police jeep with three armed colleagues. We went to one of the oldest and most famous restaurant of Lahore. Not to eat of course. We climbed the narrow stairs to get to the top level of the restaurant, to the open terrace on the top of the building. The city in night lights, a huge mosque, the city walls, an open kitchen behind the building where they pulled up food on a rope....it was difficult to get saturated by the sight.
The day after they really wanted to show us a school. We didn’t really understand until it turned out that this belonged to the Montessori family. The guy proudly showed us the unheated classrooms. He took us to almost every classroom. At such occasions the children, who were wearing school uniforms, stood up and greeted us loudly. Not just the teachers but we felt awkward as well. The guy expected something from us but it wasn’t clear what it was. We went to see the headmistress, who offered us tea. This is when we realised that he wanted to present us as supervisors. Not just in front of the children but also in front of the teachers. At the headmistress, after the lady gave a presentation about the operation of the school, our”guide” even told her that we would return after a year.
Heck, no! When the headmistress asked about us, we told her happily: Joe is a musician and he goes to school and I earn my money by training sled dogs.
The lady clearly became insecure and the guy a little sad. But he didn’t give up. Even though the classes weren’t over yet, they asked all teachers to come down to the foyer for a common photo. We took some fast pictures and then said good-bye, thanking them for their efforts. The guy told us that unfortunately school awaits him so he can’t continue guiding us. We – even though the adventure the previous day made us grateful – were not against this.
Next day we took a bus to the border with India. Just in time to see the famous closing ceremony...
Translated by Szegi