FROM WHERE WE BEGIN – Karachi to Khunjereb Pass.
“Hurry up. Everyone, put your luggage here, and take your handbags with you. Go get settled down at the back of the bus,” said my older brother Bhaiya.
“l wanna take my bag with me, Mama.” called Hadia from down below, in her own language only I can understand. Her cute eyes scanned the bus just like a four-year-old would do.
I had traveled across Pakistan many times before. This trip was different as it was my first time travelling with all four of my kids, my loving husband, my three sisters, two brothers, and their families. All in all there were twenty-five of us: eleven were elders, four were teenagers, and the rest were kids ranging from twelve to two.
Every single kid was excited, and so was I! though I am over thirty, my excitement was not less than any kid there.
We settled down in the bus. Happy as half of the bus was occupied by us. Our plan was to travel from Karachi to Islamabad in a public bus and then switch to our privately rented coaster bus.
The engines revved and we were on our way to the toll plaza of Karachi. It was a bumpy ride from Karachi to Hyderabad because the highway was under construction. Our bus had to go through detours that were barely even paved. But we survived. It was just the start of our trip and all of us were so charged that we could bear almost anything.
We crossed Sindh and entered Punjab while the sun was slowly dying, taking the light with it. The orange beams were visible through the huge windows of the bus mixing with the blackness of the night. Simmering from beneath the trees and making reflections in the small canals on the sides of the road. Soon it was dark enough that we couldn’t even see the road.
“Baba, Baba, Baba,” said Shaji, my youngest son, a two years old. He was the light of our trip, everyone was enjoying his antics amongst his elder cousins.
“Look, there is a baby,” Nehdia, Api’s youngest, was pointing towards Shaji and saying those exact words again and again.
“Baby Nehdia baby,” Shaji said, although he is almost a year younger than her, both call each other babies and treat each other as one too.
As night fell, everyone tried to get some sleep. Some of us slept for the whole night ‘the sleeping beauties’. Some took a nap for few hours only.
But the youngest, Shaji, Nehdia and Hashir were up all night jumping up and down over the elders who were trying to get some sleep. When I was finally about to fall asleep, there came a thunderous sound, as if the bus got hit by something. I jumped up, worried, and looked around.
“Oops, ouch, ouch!” called Omaina, my niece.
“Are you alright?”asked my husband.
“I think so…” replied Omaina.
She had toppled down from the back seat to the floor of the bus and almost looked like a curled up toddler, even though she’s almost eighteen. Her shawl was up on her face. She looked so funny that we all started laughing, including her.
After all this drama and mayhem, the sleeping beauties kept on sleeping.
At last, when the sun came out, we could see the scenery outside, a totally different scene from what we experienced the night before. Some baby beams of sunlight started to show up on the horizon changing the color of the sky along with it.
The trees were greener, more thick, and huge, with fruits on them. The road was clear and clean. Overall, the atmosphere had become more freshly colored than the one hot dry desert we travelled the day before. Our bus took a stop for the Fajr Prayer and breakfast. Straightening and stretching the legs was the most beautiful gift one could ever enjoy.
We ate the nicest omelet with paratha, the flat bread. It was a refreshing morning and we were near Islamabad. The fresh mint smell of the flowers nearby and the soothing sound of crickets flying around added an amazing depth to the scene.
Phase one of our trip was about to end. Everyone was looking forward to the next phase. The real road trip awaited us in Islamabad with our own rented coaster where no one would be aboard but us.
To be continued…!