During the post-exam frenzy, I often fall into daydreams, trying to relive the ‘good ol’ times’ when the workload wasn’t as much, and when two plus two always made four; back when the world made better sense.
They say; ‘The past is history, the future is a mystery and the present is a gift from God, that’s why it is called “present”’. I agree with this cliché as the present is indeed a gift from God because it is in the present in which we can relive the beautiful memories that we have.
Of all the memories that I can recall at the moment- ahem-at the present, one in particular jumps out towards me as a mixture of scents, sights and textures. I remember curling up in my car watching with immense awe, the breathtaking sunrise on the open road. The great ball was rising majestically, unraveling exquisite hues of orange, gold and yellow, bringing in view the dancing fields of greens swaying with the early morning breeze; each leaf being weighed down by a drop of radiant dew. And the best part was, this was just the beginning, the beginning of an epic journey to the northern areas of my beautiful country; Pakistan.
It had been four thirty in the morning, when I had felt a curious ticking sensation upon my feet; reluctantly I peeped out of one eye and saw my dad smiling mischievously. Then it all came flooding back to me; the time I had been preparing for was finally here! Today was the Day! In an hour, my family and I had dressed quietly, creeping around as to not arouse the rest of the house. Then, like fugitives from the law, we stole out of our house, into our car and after weeks of imagining this moment, we were finally off!!
So here we were curled up and cosy, watching the sun slink from the horizon, the landscape full of rural activities slip by as our car raced on ahead. My sister and my brother looked serene, for the first time in a long time they were not arguing, both with dark locks falling on their faces with their heads touching as they slept on. My mother, my father and I were all enjoying the view. I was taking pictures, and my mother and father were deciding on when they would switch seats, so that my mother could also have a chance on the wheel. Unlike other families, the ideal vacation for us was to spend time together, eating both junk and health, travelling and being merry.
Soon it was time for lunch, we stop at a driver hotel; you might know as the ones alongside the roads for truck drivers and travelers. There we have the most delicious meal of daal mash and hot chapattis. We wash our hands the traditional way from a hand pump and are soon back on the open road. It is indeed the small things in life that give the greatest pleasure.
My father says that if we travel all through the night, we can make it to Lahore (our first destination) by dawn or at the latest by midday. But by unsaid consent to make the journey as long as possible, we end up staying the night at a rest house in either Bahawalpur or RahimyarKhan, both in Punjab, as it is not safe to stay the night in Sindh. We wake up in the morning, bright and early all set to leave the premises of the guest house and make our way to the North.
Back in the car, the sound of the car tires on the gravel of the road, the hum of the engine, the five simultaneous breathings of my family, and the murmur of my siblings playing (yes, playing) and most of all the energy radiating from the strong family bonds are very clear to make out in the car. There are innumerous things I would love to talk about, things I love that are impossible to explain like the feathery bareness of the trees, the size of the sky stretching blue-white from horizon to horizon, and much more. The time passes, with every five minutes the chime of my siblings breaks into my thoughts; ‘a 100km left to Lahore’, ‘80km left’ ,and especially; ‘daddy, I need to go the washroom’. This is the beauty of the trip, trying new things along the way, eating fresh sugarcane; unprocessed and not even cut small, and best of all being together as a family and making discoveries, finding adventures. We catch up with each other, our likes and dislikes, make plans about what we want to do once at the mountains; my plans usually are about food and drink; the lemon soda at Jinnah Super, and of course; Nathia Gali’s special spicy roast chicken.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to the national highway, as we entered the village of Gujarat, in Gujranwala, then go on to Lahore. After staying a day in Lahore, we went to the twin cities. It was the 30th of December when we left for the Northern Mountains, my favorite time of the trip.
While going up those mountains, we usually prefer to take the old route. The new route, namely The Expressway, was too new for us and we only used it on the journey back to Islamabad. Going up using the GT road is like a family tradition. The beauty of the mountains of Pakistan is completely unparalleled. The russet and gold leaves hang from the ancient coniferous trees, dancing with the wind and its whispering song. My ears are affected due to the higher altitudes, but I seriously don’t care; the love for mountains courses through my veins, I belong here. Where the air is fresh and clean, where my cheeks turn pink from the cold and I lose the hollowness in my face. It was in the afternoon when we reached Mall road in Muree. We spent the entire day wandering on the streets; had lunch in ‘Us mania’ restaurant; with creamy hot soup and cold drinks. Outside the air was biting cold. And I loved it. I loved eating ice cream (ice cream is more fun to eat in the cold) in the market while my parents brought dry fruits, and later we each had a steaming cup of coffee warming our fingers and our innards. At night we stayed at an army ‘mess’, which was in such a secluded and picturesque location higher up the mountain. It was the first time in a long while that we slept hearing the crickets chirp their night songs, instead of the constant racket of the vehicles back in Karachi.
On the 31st of December we went toward Nathia Gali, where I fulfilled the longing of mine to eat the famous spicy chicken. Just try to imagine my experience; your mouth is literally on fire due to the spices involved and the atmosphere is freezing cold, with the cold transferring onto your fingers. You are sitting out in the open, observing the beautiful sunset in the mountains, with a fear of monkeys. All jokes aside; this is the life.
The next day was the best day of my life. It was the first day of the new-year, and it was my birthday. And best of all, it snowed. I had the best gift ever from my parents; they had brought me all the way from Karachi to the place I loved the most, to see the thing I loved the most; snow.
We spent the first half of the day on the Expressway. It was sad at first despite the fact that I knew that nothing lasts forever; I wanted the serenity I felt in my heart to do so. But our time in the snowy peaks was over for the year and it was time to go back to school. School started on the 2nd of January, we were still in Islamabad at that time. I had to take a few days off from school and rejoined on the 5th. But I neither had, nor have any regrets, for it was a time well spent.
Events don’t last forever, but memories do. Whether they were good memories or bad; they stay. It’s up to you on how you use those memories to help bring a positive change in your life. My time in the mountains helped clear my head, helped make me set goals in my life and renew my personality. I am grateful to my parent for giving me this golden opportunity to make a difference in my own life.