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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Country roads take me home

Back in the days, nursery and primary school curriculum included a lot of poems, but the best of the best was:
Rain, rain go away,
Come back again some other day,
Little me wants to play.
The best part of it was that the teacher had no idea about the seeds that she was sowing. I am not saying that our school did not encourage playing and fun learning. Nevertheless, you know school was school. Despite all its fun and love, it was routine, schedule and obedience.
Yours truly did not like all three of the above-mentioned attributes. So, school was a necessity, not a choice.  With this understanding of life, one spent more time on inventing methods of not going to school, rather than learning the arithmetic of life.
But, hey it was still a learning experience. What does school do? It helps you learn, and following that learning, you are supposed to become a more capable person. At least that's the theory if not the fact. So, school was helping me learn, not only the beloved poems, but methods of research and invention.
Thanks to great teachers and a high quality schooling system, I learned in a very early age to find reasons for not going to school on rainy days, the cloudy days and the sunny days. At school I would recite in a course with my class mates – rain, rain go away. But at home, I would look up to the sky every evening and pray – Please, let the rain begin!

You can understand how one hated the sight of clear star studded sky! Because being a bright kid, one learned it very early that clouds were necessary for a fun day.
The sunny days were no exception. The only difference was that on sunny days one had to make use of one's knowledge of medicine. Since one had limited knowledge of medicine, one's sincere efforts seldom bore fruits. You can say that on sunny days the grapes mostly turned out to be sour.
I will not tell you the details of my craftiness, in skipping school, but I will tell you about one such day, when I touched the horizons of success and stayed at home. Let me take you into my home. My mother was a teacher. The school, where she worked, was 19-20 km from our home. Hence she had to leave early in the mornings, because her commute involved a bus ride and buses had schedules.
Those were the best of my school years, because all I had to do was to get-up a bit late and start getting ready for school. My mother would be frantically looking at her watch all the time, trying to feed us breakfast and making sure that all of us had left for school before she had to go.
I'm not trying to boast here that I was the brainiest of all the siblings, but the rest of the lot somehow couldn't clock their procedures properly, to have fun and enjoy life. On the other hand, maybe they liked going to school.
Anyway, all through those heavenly years, all I had to do was to delay my actions a little in the morning and then in the evening make sure that none of my "beloved" siblings squealed. And trust me, they did squeal from time to time, turning my paradise into an inferno.

As I was telling you, my mother worked at a school somewhere far-far away, but I have had the pleasure of going to my mom's work place several times. This was a rural girls’ school, so all those trips had left pleasant imprint or even a footprint on my mind.
Frankly speaking, I liked the village life more than our stagnated city life. I had even asked my mother a number of times, why we could not move to the village, because I fancied farming and cattle herding etc. Well you know I thought that if I would tell my mother that I would be a very useful member of the family, she would make the move. But I never knew that she always had the shivers, when she heard her son fancying a peasant’s life over that of a doctor, pilot or a commissioned military officer.
So on one of those blessed mornings, when I successfully stayed out of my third grade, leaning out of the window, I came up with a rare idea. I thought; “why not go to my mom's school?”
Going to her work place was not the genius part of the plan. It was the question of how to go, which stimulated my brain into producing ingenious thoughts. After some contemplation, I decided that it would be fun if I would walk to her school. Yes, you heard it right; I decided to walk for 19-20 kilometers.
I had no idea back then, what it meant. For me the important part was that I knew the way to that village and it never seemed too far away by the bus.
As I was not pedantic and punctual, I had no watch, so I do not exactly know what time it must had been before I started-off on my journey of a lifetime. I guess it must had been around 10:00.
I just took the keys. Locked the door and off I went. The only thought that I had on my mind was to surprise my mother in a grand way.
Soon I had left the neighborhood behind and ahead of me was the wilderness. The wilderness, which might had been scary for any city kid, but for me it was more like going home. Interestingly enough, I was dressed in shirt and pants. It was a rarity in Pakistani rural areas in those days. The people, in the villages, used to wear kurta-tehband, and sometimes, during some celebrations, shalwar-kameez. So as soon as I escaped the urban monotony, I became a white crow.

As I was walking down the road, everybody looked at me with astonishment and sometimes concern.
A couple of times, people even asked me if I was lost or did I know, where I was going! They didn't know that I was fully aware of my destination, and that I knew my way.
They had no idea, how high I was flying, thinking about my extraordinary undertaking. I knew that none of my siblings or class mates or peers in general had ever walked out of the city. I was doing what no one had done before, and that was an adrenaline shot. On top of that, I very naively believed that after overcoming her astonishment, my mother would praise my great accomplishment. Naive I was, of course!
Anyway, singing aloud, sometimes walking, sometimes hopping, inhaling the freedom, and feeling like I had conquered the world, I kept getting closer to my destination with each step that I took.
Nevertheless, the destination was not so keen on getting close to me. The more I walked the farther it seemed. A lot of time must had passed, because passing by a village I saw children running around in their school uniforms. They must had come back from school. This meant school was over and my plan of reaching my destination before the end of school day had failed.
But, failures don't scare conquerors. I picked-up my pace and now paid more attention to reaching my goal rather than enjoying the abundant liberty.
My guess about the end of working day was correct, because the buses coming from the opposite direction were now full of schoolchildren, who were returning from that same larger village, where I was heading, to their smaller villages.
Looking ahead, I could figure out that I was not far from the last major stop before my destination. At that time, I must have been a couple of kilometers from that last stop and from there my destination was just another 8-9kms. But back then, I had no idea of distances. Everything was visually estimated. My visual pointers told me that I was not far away.
It is needless to say that a little bit of tiredness had started to sink in. But in those good days, I did not know the word tiredness. Anyway that last major stop before my destination, proved to be the very last. Before I had even reached the bus stop, a bus coming from the opposite direction, honked and stopped near me. I could see the driver waving at me and signaling me to come to the bus.
My thoughts: he is stupid. He thinks I need a ride. I can walk. So instead of going towards the bus I just shrugged him off saying that I was not going towards the town. I was heading to the village.
And guess what? Before I could finish my sentence I heard a familiar voice and saw a face, which I thought would be generous in appreciation. But the face was all furious and the voice was angry. It was my mother looking out of the window and ordering me to come to the bus.
Do you remember that I wanted to surprise my mother in a grand way? Well, surprised she was and the fury showed the grandeur of her surprise.

That was the end of my journey and the beginning of a deep investigation into my psychiatric condition. The adventure turned rougher than I had thought. I never got tired of walking, but soon I was tired of my mother snubbing me and trying to scare me, and most of all I was tired of her waking me up earlier than before every morning after that and shoving me out of the front door, before leaving for her work. I was also tired of her more frequently going to my school and making sure that my school skipping research projects never succeeded.
That was not the last of my walking adventures. The only difference is that now I call it hiking and trekking. The best part is not that such activities have fancier names. The best part is that they never end with my mother shoving reality down my throat. Most of the people I know like to go to the mountainous areas for hiking and trekking. People spend a lot of time planning their trekking and hiking trips. But, for me the best hike is still an unplanned walk out of home and then, let the games begin!

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