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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Adventures in Sadr Bazar Peshawar,Saturday, 03 June 2006
Adventures in Sadr Bazar Peshawar

Two smart "Bolagai" from abroad looking for Ghani Khan's book in down town of Peshawar.

By Deeva
One year my cousin and I ended up spending our summer together in Peshawar. Both lived abroad and we were not particularly close, but that summer’s adventures left us life long friends and all due to Sikandar Kaka and Batoor.

Sikandar Kaka was the only driver that was old enough to be considered safe for the two silly girls from abroad to be trusted with. He was in his sixties, had a handlebar mustache, and died it red like his hair with henna. Sadly, he did not think much of us and ignored us completely or pretended not to understand a word we said. Even back then, we spoke pretty decent Pashto, but Sikandar Kaka being who he was, always complained that we made noises that sounded little like Pashto but more like “pa teloo ki chi pikorey takey gi”. Most of our summer was spent trying to get even with him, but it hardly helped, since it made him more determined to ignore us.

Let me introduce Batoor to you, he was about 5-6 years older than we were and engaged to a mutual cousin. Batoor really did not think highly of us (or for that matter, girls in general) and always said that our parents had done an awful job in raising us, we were in his opinion, too spoilt and open-minded. In Batoor’s selfish and arrogant opinions, women were good for having children and doing housework. Batoor had dropped out of college and did not believe in education for girls. Well we did not think much of Batoor either and usually ignored him and would start talking about subjects we knew he had no idea about e.g. abstract thinking, string theory, impressionist art etc.

Now let me give you some background on us, my cousin and I belong to a moderately influential family in Peshawar, we were not Bilours, Arbabs, Saifullahs or Sherpaos but close enough and since my cousin does not want her identity revealed, I will stop at that. Our parents had decided that a year or two of college in Pakistan would be good for us, and though they vehemently deny it, we are pretty sure it had a lot to do with getting us married off.

We both found ourselves enrolled in Jinnah College for Women and Brekhna’s parents were more understanding, so she got into a good humanities program while I slugged in the pre-med classes. Mrs. Hidayathullah was the principal back then and Jinnah had a fierce reputation of being the top producer of straight A students. We were staying at our uncle Lalaji’s house in University Town and on weekends would go to Kakaji’s house in Hayatabad because that was how our grandmother Abai divided her time.
It was Sikandar Kaka’s duty to drive us too and from college and he was fine with that but if we wanted to go somewhere else, he would turn deaf. We could both drive, but in our Pakhtun family, that was a big NO NO. Women in our family did not drive, period. Our male cousins thought it beneath them to be seen with females (or should I say females related to them) in their fancy cars. In short, we were totally dependant on Sikandar Kaka.

Brekhna and I both fell in love with Ghani Khans poetry after listening to Takkar. So one hot summer afternoon we decided we wanted to get Ghani’s Kulyat and it would be an excellent way to learn reading Pashto since we had Takkar’s CDs. Brekhna and I had never got into the habit of taking afternoon naps and the house would get very quite from 2-5 every afternoon. Everyone was asleep and Sikandar Kaka was no exception; he always stayed by his cars, winter and summer. After a lot of commotion, we only managed to get him to open one eye, take one look at us rolled over to the other side so he had his back to us and promptly fell asleep again. Asking Abai to intervene was out of the question since she had drunk a lot of shomley and secondly her favorite quote to us was “pa takanda gharma kho lewani spi aw sarikhwara garzi no”.

After much consideration, we decided that we should do the practical thing and arrange our own transportation. Taking the car was out of the question and so was a rickshaw, but if we walked two blocks we could take the bus into Sadr. As long as we covered our faces, who would ever know who we were anyway, right? Plus, Abai had told us that Lalaji and Kakaji would most certainly kill us if he ever saw us with our faces exposed. Luckily, for us they were both out of town and so what if they returned, since these were the only two we needed to cover our faces for we would cover them anyway. In fact we could borrow the burqas of Sikandar Kakas wife and the cleaning lady’s that were very conveniently hanging out to dry.

We were giggling hysterically as we left the house through the servants entrance. The walk down the two blocks was not as hard as we had feared and we were happy we could navigate through the little windows in the burqas. The bus didn’t take long and we were lucky to find seats though they were closer to the men’s section.
Just as we were settling down, I felt someone’s hand moving in a caress from my elbow to my shoulder, I turned around to find a bearded man smiling like an idiot. I slapped him one good one, seeing that it made him happier I wanted to yank him out of his seat and give him an earful, but the bus slowed down to let a couple of policemen get on and the man quickly got off.

We got to Sadr and got off at the Army Stadium stop. We were feeling very proud of ourselves. There were four big bookstores in Sadr that we knew of. We walked through Kochi Bazaar and went towards Querishi Ghee store, taking a right at the corner we went to the first bookstore. The shopkeeper was a kind old man, who kindly told us that though he did not have any, the bookstore near Bluebells might have a copy. So off we trudged there, by this time were dying inside our burqas and seeing other women do it, we just flipped the fronts over our heads. Brekhna has very fair colored skin and the bluest eyes you will ever see and she stuck out like a sore thumb. Although I didn’t have her problem I was 4 inches taller than the average woman and the burqa belonged to someone most definitely shorter. Thinking back now, I realize how strange we would have looked.

We had not realized it would get so hot under all those layers. Both of us had been on the track team back home and Brekhna thought if we sprinted some of the distance we could get out of the sun faster. I pointed out that everyone was already looking at us funny and running would not help, just then Brekhna let out an ear-piercing screech as some jerk pinched her tusch. She turned around and the guy was smugly walking away she ran right after him (I ran after her), caught up to him and punched him in the nose, the look on that idiots face was priceless.

In London Book store, we found a clerk who looked at us funny, and said without even checking that we should try Saeed Book Bank across the road. We crossed the road and asked the check out clerk if they had any books on or by Ghani Khan and he very proudly told us that if it had been printed they would most certainly have it. Excited we nearly tripped down the stairs only to find a very uncooperative clerk, who looked down his nose at us when we asked for the Pashto section and then just disappeared. We looked around for a while and not finding any books by or about Ghani, we left the store.

Seeing Jani Cone across the road, we decided to grab a cold drink. Surprise surprise, who should we see there but Batoor (our, oh such proper Pakhtun cousin who never tired on preaching the qualities of good Pukhtaney girls). Whom should he be sitting with, but a pretty, young lady (someone totally unrelated) and we were mutually, definitely very shocked to see each other, but Batoor more so, since he nearly choked on what ever it was that he was eating. Actually, we had forgotten about the way we were dressed and Batoor’s jaw nearly hit the table. Thankfully, Batoor did not acknowledge us, but he did turn a couple of shades pale.

We were scared but we had one on him too. Finding a secluded corner, we sat down and ordered some something to drink. I do not know what Batoor did with that certain somebody but 15 minutes later he was standing beside us and hissing all kinds of stuff, we just calmly asked who the special guest with him was. Batoor sulked awhile but when we pointed out that Abai would be most certainly like to tell Lalaji and Kakaji about his extra curricular activities and boys are not very attractive when they sulk. By the look on his face he could have killed both of us right there and then, that too very gladly without a second thought. We had an ace up our sleeve and after much implied threats coated in sweet talk, he agreed and that too under great duress to take us back home. Batoor promised to get us the book if we promised never to come to Sadr alone and that he would personally kill us if he ever found out that we had even dropped a hint about his secret friend. For Ghani’s Kulyat we could have promised to kiss the very ground he walked on let alone that.
Batoor with all his defects was an honorable Pakhtun, he kept his promise and we knowing that he probably can’t read this are sending it to Zahid to post.

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