Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Road Goes Ever On and On

Normal people are scared of fire. Abnormal ones, like yours truly, see fire trails in their nightmares.

Ever since I read The Hobbit, I have sometimes dreamed of gathering my belongings, tying them in a bundle at the end of a stick and going out to explore the big, beautiful world with the stick over my shoulder and an apple in my hand, whistling as I walk along the road. The only hurdle is that I don't know how to whistle-yet.Practically, persistent lifts are a hurdle too, but let us forget about that at the present.

In spite of my horror of social gatherings, large crowds and missing the bus, my friends dragged me to a party that was scheduled at a place quite above sea level. To be exact, I had to drag myself on the mentioned day, since they were too busy dragging their own selves; all the dragging they did to me was done beforehand. We decided to walk there of our own free will.

Walking was the easy part. Then came a wall of rocks and stones; the angle it made with the horizontal was closer to 90 degrees than 75 degrees. It was the fire exit, and I embarked on this vertical path.

I mean no offense to the fire trail; for all I know, it might have been an excellent fire trail as fire trails go. Since I am no expert on the subject, I cannot offer an opinion here. However, the fire trail and I had some serious compatibility issues. My attire did not support the high rate of respiration that an ordinary hibernator requires during such strenuous aerobic exercise. To make matters worse, it had to be supported by a hand all the time; one precious hand that was absolutely required to clutch rocks and stones all the time. My shoes were utterly raaang for the type of walk I undertook. It was while on that trail that I realized how much easier it must be for animals to climb.

I don't remember much about the actual trail itself, except that I made more stops then steps. Quite  a number of time, I liked some particular stop so much that I wanted to stop there for a long, long time. At one of those, I contemplated closing my eyes and sleeping till the evening with my back against a stone. There were some points I took a fancy to, so much so that I considered living there.

The only thing that made me get up was the look of patience on the faces of the people who were unfortunate enough to be the rear guard. I tried to shake them off a number of times, but they were way too decent to leave us alone on a trek. They did not show the dismay and irritation they must and should have felt. They did not mention the word 'drama', and they did not laugh when their laughter would have been perfectly justified. They tried to motivate me to walk on, blissfully ignorant of the fact that I am simply not made of the stuff that gets motivated.

All I can say is this: decent people get eaten alive without a knife and fork in this world.

A couple of my friends helped me by giving me their hand. Smothering the voice of their heads, they helped me up when it told them to kick me down. They did not take advantage of my blind trust, which is a novelty (the trust thing, let me clarify) and led me along the right path when they could have led me anywhere.

That trail went ON, and forgot to get OFF.Maybe it had a volatile memory and its power went out.

After I had truly understood the meaning of forever, it ended suddenly, reinstating my maxim that all things end eventually; I had begun to be rather suspicious of its validity. Ghalib's thousand journeys to the raqeeb's door might or might not have been an infinite loop, but this one had seemed close enough to one.

The rest of our adventure consisted of more walking then climbing. The view was nice at times. One could see lots and lots of trees with beautifully symmetric leaves. The houses in the valley looked as far away and small as ordinary life. We did not come across any form of animal life, not even birds. At some places,the path was hardly three feet wide. I looked down and thought about how easy and convenient it was to fall down from such a place. It was there that I started compiling a list in my head, a list of people whom I intend to take with me to that place one day.

During our walk, for fifteen exciting minutes, we thought we were lost, since there was not a single human being in sight . Twice, we had to decide between two paths, all by ourself. But eventually we again caught up with the rear guard, or maybe they caught down with us. Some old-fashioned people e.g. parents consider walking alone in such places to be highly perilous. In a logical world, I should have been able to show my unscathed self as a counter proof. However, this being a highly illogical world, I must remember to edit my story when I tell it to my mother.

In a logical world, four girls would not be counted as being alone either, I guess.

So-we walked. And walked, and walked. Then we walked some more. Still, we were far, far away from the destination. We tried all manners of walking : slow, fast, with hopes in our hearts, with a dejected tread. We walked as if in a daze; we walked with a painfully clear mind. The gist of the story is: we walked.

Eventually, we  reached the place where the party was being held. We spent most of the time staring grudgingly at other people who were receiving their orders.We discussed the merits and demerits of many people as eatables.  We all remembered that we had forgotten our breakfasts. Though I hadn't forgotten mine (never have, never will), I pitched in just for the sake of unity. We thought about our lunch-to-be for such a long time that Hafeez's words seemed to come truly from our hearts (and stomachs):
اگر تو اتفاقاَ مل بھی جائے
تری فرقت کے صدمے کم نہ ہوں گے

Our lunch finally arrived and we wolfed it down it with a number of human timers ticking on in the background. Then we raced downwards, dragging another innocent person away from his lunch.

At a traffic signal, we encountered a child of about seven or eight who was selling a bouquet of flowers. The roses were red and fresh; the child was pale and dejected. He must have been cold too, since he was not appropriately clad. The pessimist in me smiled at the bitter irony. At times, I fail to see the entire point of human civilization for a fraction of a second. Then I conveniently shut my mind down.

The most interesting thing on the way back home was a possibility in the plan that I might have to wait by a road for some time in the dark of the night. There are always a number of people willing to offer a lift to one in such places, provided that one is a lone woman, but it is not considered socially correct to accept their offer. My mother is the only person I am ever afraid of, but a more socially apt friend of mine who was following my plan detested the idea of me waiting on a road.However, her nightmare (and my adventure) was averted, since I did not have the opportunity to wait at the stop.

There is one thing I can say with certainty now: it was definitely an adventure as adventures go, and it involved a lot of planning and cooperation from a number of people whom I did not bother to thank. Being a natural critic, I see the rest of the world through mistake-tinted glasses. Really, its not my fault.