Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rollin' sevens...

The auspicious occasion of July 7th, 2007 (7/7/7) has fallen upon us. I've always liked the number 7 and I think all kids go through a phase like that. Out of ten kids I'm sure seven of them will tell you their favorite number is 7. When you're rollin' sevens it just means you're on point. Today is a good day to start. You've won the jackpot! ;)

Delhi has knocked me out. The past two days have been 40+ degrees and Jay and I have been on the hunt in the small corners of the markets searching out booty. We just wander from store to store comparing, analyzing, bargaining and sifting through what needs sifting through.

After being on the road for the past however many moons I grew to love the food from the small food stalls on the side of the road and the street vendors selling their aloo chaats, chana masala, gol gapas and the like. Yesterday I ventured full power into the street refreshments. First was the long awaited return of the gol gapa (a small piece of dough deep fried resulting in a hollow ball that is filled with some kind of vegetable filler and then dipped into a liquid mixture of spice, lemon and the street vendor's hand), then it was on to the ruhafza (rose water beverage), some paan and then finally an aloo chat (slices of potato mixed with a 'chaat' and lemon). Most people would shy away from these stalls but I couldn't wait to get back to them. They seem to balance out the lining in my stomach and I've grown immunity. Locals tease me and tell me that I'm 'full desi'.

Some Belgians told me that they escaped the heat in the new metro system that they have here in Delhi. They told me that it's the cleanest subway that they've ever been on., not to mention it was a great escape from the 45 degree sweltering heat. I'd take 17 degrees in a subway any day to beat that kind of heat. So now I have one more thing to look forward to in Delhi, just sitting on the 'yellow line' watching people get on and off the subway and making their way...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Thermal displacement...

It was 45 degrees out today.











That's all I've got the minerals for...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The down and dirty Delhi...

It's more humid in Delhi than it is right beside the ocean. Speaking of which I was just reminded of how beautiful my last day in Goa was ;) The sun was shining, people were in great spirits and my experience ended superbly.

So now I'm in Pahar Ganj which is a well known tourist spot and regarded as a very seedy area. There's no denying that. It's the ideal location to be in to try and sell off a bike in. It's crazy busy and has store after store of everything you could think of. If you forgot to get something in the south when you were down there, no problem, Pahar Ganj has it. Forgot something in Rajasthan, no problem, Pahar Ganj has it. It's unbelievable and so overwhelming. It was hard to even go into one store let alone twenty others that have the same things that the other stores had in stock.

It's a sensory overload that I'm actually quite calm within. I dreaded coming here because of the chaos I was thwarting myself into. But again, once in the chaos it fits like a comfortable worn in flip flop.

I was fortunate to share a lift from the airport with a chap from San Francisco, Jay Vallow, and we ended up just going to the same hotel. We had quite a bit in common and we had the identical things on our agenda of to-do's. We went off to find some brass statues near Jama Masjid. I had never been in a showroom/warehouse with so many statues before. It was quite incredible. We sifted through a few tons of brass, bronze, copper and silver and it was time to move on. Next stop, paper market. Now anyone who knows me knows my love of paper. The hand crafted paper that you can find here is astounding. We arrived to see hundreds of paper shops. Some on the main street, others down narrow corridors and some just on the street. Paper everywhere and the sweet smell of ink permeating through the thick humid air. Might not be your thing, but it's mine ;)

I used to dislike Delhi like a sickness, but the dirt of Delhi seems to be finding a soft spot within me.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Boss, boss... the plane, the plane...

Nothing is ever on time in India. You say you'll meet for dinner at 7:30pm that means you have to add and hour and fourty five minutes to that, so make sure you there by 9:15pm to be on time. You have a train that departs at 4:05pm, well then make sure you're there at 5:50pm to be on time. The point I'm trying to make here is that the unpredictability is the only predictable thing you can expect when travelling ;)

I got to the airport an hour and fifteen minutes before my flight. I get to the ticket counter and they tell me I'm delayed half and hour. Ok, not so bad, very doable. I had a great book with me that I recovered in my luggage in Goa, 1001 Arabian Nights. I didn't get through a lot of those nights because I seem to have about nine hundred to go ;) So engrossed in my book I didn't even realize the flight had been delayed even longer. I think we left at around four thirty or so. Our flight was scheduled for one hour to Mumbai and ended up being delayed in a holding pattern to land due to heavy traffic on the runway. We flew in circles for forty minutes and then trying to leave Mumbai delayed due to congestion on the strip. The arrival in Delhi was at twenty after nine and the temperature outside was 32 degrees ;) Ahh, good old Delhi.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Law...

My bike was fully loaded with five tin cans and a backpack. Both my helmets were missing in action. One is in a restaurant in Goa and the owner went back to Bombay and the other was pretty much stolen ;) So the law in Goa states that in the city you do not require a helmet and on highways you do. Well I didn't load up my bike to galavant around town, I had to move down closer to the train station in Margao which was over an hour away. I was fortunate that I had Shree, a local who lives in Chappora, lend me a hand and drive down with me.

We both did not have helmets and decided to just go and go slowly. We made it about twenty minutes when Shree pulled over and then I asked what was going on and he pointed ahead. What lay ahead were five police officers stopping mostly motorcycles. It's a ticket of a nominal amount but still it's the hassle of the police. We turned around on a one way highway and hit the back roads. We avoided our first check stop and we knew there were two more ahead, you gotta love people who help you out ;) So we came upon our next one and we decided to wait for a bus and drive behind it and then beside it as we passed the check post ;) I know, I know... but it was such an exhilarating experience. It's nothing like what it would be if I were to try and duplicate that behaviour back home, that would not go over so well, it's not taken too seriously here

So we ended up getting a tip from another motorcyle rider and his wife and we followed him through some small villages and down sloping and winding hills to come up back on the highway after 10 kilometers of sight seeing. Sure enough five minutes after that we got waved in by the police and our engines were off. Good thing Shree was with me. It ended up being a small fine which could have been a lot worse since I was whining about unpacking all my stuff which would take half an hour to repack just so I could get them my registration. I didn't show them anything and they still wrote me up the ticket, that's just unheard of. Later Shree told me he knew one of the officers and was letting us off very easy. So we had tickets in our pockets and no longer any worries about police.

Like a pit crew at a race a couple more uniforms waved us in for a pit stop. Engines off. Hand in my back pocket to reach for my ticket to present to the officer. He looks at it up and down, looks at me up and down and motions to go along with he hand.

We finally reached Margao and headed to Colva Beach (6km away). Grabbed a guesthouse, dropped off my backpack and travel tin and the rest I rode off with to the train station. Packed the bike, paid for shipping and even had time for a bite to eat. It was a good day and with each new one getting better and better.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Two ferr seven three six five...

It's raining it's pouring, the old man is snoring...

It's not that bad really, the rain I mean. It could be worse, up to my knee caps in rain in Mumbai ;) That's definitely worse. So I'm thinking of skipping over Mumbai on the way back to Delhi. Yes that's right, I'm going back to Delhi. The bike is being shipped tomorrow and then I will be shipped myself the following day.

Spending a day at the mechanic's shop you get to meet what's left of the Enfield owners in these areas. This is the ultimate source of information. I found out everything I needed to know to decide what I should ultimately do. And that is to hang out in Delhi and sell my bike to some lucky traveller destined to Manali or Ladakh. These are the best areas to be in India at the moment.

It was overwhelming at first to have to deal with all these things again but it's like riding a bike ;) Everything is flowing naturally and taking it's intended course. It's interesting to see the pieces fall into place and having it be so familiar that it was almost like you have seen it already.

Oh by the way if anyone plays the lottery I'd get a quick pick and then choose 3 11 19 24 31 32.

Guaranteed smile ;)


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

There's no place like home...

I told my mom the other day that I missed home. She said it was the first time she heard me say that and she was elated. For my mom to hear that I'm missing home means that I'll be coming home soon.

What started out as a three month tour through the sub-continent and resulting in a year expedition into unknowns has been one of the most amazing series of events that has occurred in my continually written story. I can't find the words to even begin to describe the events that have occurred over the past year of my life. Enormous.

I left with the intentions of attending a wedding, get to know my family and maybe do some sightseeing in India. The real reason was to run away from everything that was known to me since birth. To run towards finding 'me' or where I belong in this world, my purpose. An exhausting task to only come full circle ;) But before I could run towards something that means I ran away from something, and that something will be there when I return.

The caterpillar to the butterfly, the metamorphosis that has affected me and changed me forever. I will never be the same as when I left once upon a time so that means that now everything I've known since birth takes on a new perspective. A perspective that I have grown into and only to know as love. I love my family. I don't say it enough and feign at attempts to be part of the 'Wakil Compound'. Well, the 'compound' has a new perspective and I am fueled with the greatest happiness I have known.

With all these lessons under my belt the one that sticks out at the moment is the one about learning what is important to me...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Right as rain...


The downpour...
Originally uploaded by theusual

I'm not sure where the saying of 'right as rain' came from but I definitely have yet to experience the right of rain during monsoon season ;) I spent the entire day on a balcony watching the rain as it floated past me, whipped by me, hurtled down to the earth and even slid sideways across the sky. Soft rain, hard rain, pouring rain, mad rain, all of the moods of rain except the right one.

If indeed the saying means that there's nothing at all wrong then I have to agree with it because I am thankful for the opportunities that have presented themselves as challenges in my life as of late. For example, the stress and unneccessary attention I placed on coming down to Goa and escavating my motorcycle, having to find someone to buy it in a the hardest time of the year to sell a bike. It's why I'm down here facing the everpouring rain and having to figure out where the new home for this Enflield is.

Least of my concerns really. I had bigger fish to fry over the past few days. I was graciously taken into the home of a mother and daughter who like to yell for no apparent reason. They had their volume and chaos levels set to 11. Non stop 'belagan' is what I refer to it, absolute chaos. It really pushed my sanity levels and it was difficult to find a peace in that environment. The power went out for nearly two days and that's just a bit too much humidity and disconnection from everything electronic which is almost my I.V. drip feeding me my sustenance.

Let's just say I needed to get out and out I got. I'm now a little bit further south into Goa in one of the major hubs, Mapusa (pronounced Mapsa apparently ;) I'll spend the next few days here and then I'm sure something will happen and I'll do something and then possible go somewhere... we'll see ;)

Formerly known as...



Formerly known as...
Originally uploaded by theusual

The Enfield formerly known as Purple Reign and I have been reunited. Attached is the neglect state in which she has been abandoned. I am here to show her some love and tender caring. The story behind this is quite humourous, let us recollect now shall we?! In December I was driving from coast-to-coast from east to west and managed to reach Goa. Not even a few kilometers into the chaotic state I was hit by two bulls whose horns were stuck together going around 60 km/h.

I broke my arm and had some nasty road rash on the other. My bike wasn't in such bad shape but the tank still had an impression of the cow's head in it. So I decided at the time I would get it painted so it would be easier to sell. It was prepped and ready for the final color. I wasn't coming back for a month or two so it was better if I left it unpainted and then just called down a week before I came. Well one month turned into two and two into three and by the time I was ready to go back it had already been raining and the bike sitting for almost five months.

That's a lot of neglect to make up for in a short period of time. The paint I had purchased for it originally was supposed to be a two tone camel on chocolate, but the paint went bad. I opted to spring the extra couple of bucks and upgrade from the last brand of Apsa and head on up to Deltron, the metallic paint. I found a color suited to a bike of such lineage and the new and improved will be dawning a coat of Lavender Mist. The bike has been renamed all on it's own and is indeed, The Enfield Formerly Known As (symbol attached).



Wednesday, June 20, 2007

When the tough get Goan...

I saw a little boy in a school uniform this morning standing at the edge of the sidewalk in staring down. On the street resting up against the curb lay a lifeless body of a cat. I looked at the young boy's face and the sadness that was weighing down overwhelmed me. He shifted his head with his neck tilted slightly to the left with the greatest acceptance of what had to be; in the blink of an eye.

On the "to-do" list today was purchase a ticket to Goa and fly out today ;) I used makemytrip.com to find my flight, a site that filters through all the Indian airlines to find you the cheapest, but they do not accept international credit cards. So I used the Taj's Flight Center to try and arrange for it. He told me he wasn't able to accommodate me in either paper or plastic. So I went directly to the airline and booked online; great success. My flight was at 4:15pm and it was already 11am. Not much to do other than pack, get some nourishment and head to the airport.

This time through security was a breeze and thank goodness for that. I was running late and caught the last transport from security to the plane. The flight was short and sweet and even included an in-flight nap. Upon arriving I headed over to the prepaid taxi stand to order up a taxi to Siolim, 52km north of the airport. I was appalled at the price but had absolutely no choice, it was practically the same price of my flight

I arrived to be greeted by the Belgian woman whom I met my last time through Goa. She was gracious enough to open her doors to me. My motorcycle travel tins had been stored with a local restaurateur and musician, Arvin, across the road and had all my rain gear in it which is desperately needed. My mobile phone has one bar on it for a signal (sometimes), there is one computer in the vicinity that provides internet service if it can connect and I'm four kilometers from any real hubs of life. It's a blessing in some ways to be this disconnected and I just have to find a balance

The objective for this mission in the height of the monsoon is to reunite with my motorcycle, show her some love and get her to drier times. I'll go down to Mapusa tomorrow to the shop and hopefully be able to get a signal on my phone to make the calls to the mechanic and my loved ones. I have no idea how long I will be able to experience this monsoon without losing some sanity but I hope for it to be shorter than longer, I like the sun too much ;) I accept that this is just one more of the blessings that I will be thankful for

But like the saying goes, when the going gets tough...


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bombay the hard way...

Phenomenally beautiful architecture graces this city. From the airport for an entire hour to Collaba I was swinging my head back and forth to capture the sights of buildings hurdling past.

Sitting in a cafe in Delhi waiting out a couple hours before my flight my mobile rang out with a text message. SpiceJet, the airline I was travelling with, gave me a text message to let me know that my flight was delayed an hour. Then my phone rang with a prerecorded Indian accent telling me my flight is delayed and witll be departing at nineteen hours ;) So I thought it best to be there an hour before my flight, so I finished my beverage and found my way to the airport. Along the way I get a call on the mobile, it's the familiar Indian accent telling me that my flight is delayed and will be leaving at twenty hours. I was already on my way, nothing I can do...

I go through the airline's security, got my boarding pass and on to the next security check. Travelling currently with a backpack and a big metal tin, I checked the backpack with the airline and was carrying the metal tin with me. This was my first flight in India and completely forgot about some of the rules and regulations that they have in place. They asked me to open up the tin and they started going through everything and asking a lot of questions. Then they pull out a knife... oops... I completely forgot that was in there, it was a gift. Then they pull out a five foot chain and then a Leatherman set with pliers in plain view. The next thing they asked me was for my passport and boarding pass. They stamped my boarding pass as "CANCELLED" and told me to check my tin under the plane.

So I went back to the airline desk and they tell me that my luggage is 6kg over the maximum weight that I can check. So usually something like this means it costs you some extra money, exactly the case here. The gent and lady were sympathetic to my story and decided to waive any additional costs and sent me on my way. What I found was funny was that the girl's name was Khushboo, which translates to "great smell" or "beautiful fragrance". The girl's name wasn't funny, it was funny because of my love of flowers and just needed to be reminded at that particular moment.

The flight was quick and painless. The airport was not so intrusively armed with taxi drivers awaiting their victims. I had to find a taxi which struck me as very odd. An hour later I'm in Colaba and reuniting with Akshay. We immediately left and started wandering the harbour and the architectural masterpieces along the way. I've gone from one extreme to the other extreme. I'm lavished with pampering and relaxation with thanks due to Akshay and the Taj Properties that surpass there commitment to keeping their customers content. I am fully enjoying the moment.

The 36 Chambers of Delhi...


Anand Lok...
Originally uploaded by theusual
I managed to squeak out 36 hours in Delhi and got a ton of smiles.

I had the fortune to spend a month here while struggling to obtain my exit visa from India. In that time I spent a lot in the Anand Lok, a small community in south Delhi. I met a lot of ex-pats, embassy types and the like.

Not many of them were left this time around but I did get the chance to meet up with one of the three Molly's, grabbed a meetha paan, had some gulab jaman, stopped off at the coffee shop and of course the internet cafe - all regular pit stops in my previous stay. They remembered me at every place and greeted me with an ear-to-ear and sometimes a hug ;)

Everything was familiar and flowing...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Up to speed...

I'm cutting beads down each temple as I realize today is the middle of the month. It's not that I'm nervous or anxious, it's the fact that I have a large set of curls on the top of my head and it's forty degrees out in the shade ;)

I left Dharamsala on Wednesday evening after a long drawn out wait in the pouring rain for a bus that pushed out so much A/C that the rain and sweat literally froze up on my chinny chin chin. Haaachooo! That was the sound I kept on making.

I arrived into Delhi first thing Thursday morning. Everyone I know with the exception of a couple people have since vacated Delhi. So I checked into the first air conditioned joint I could find, The Royal Inn. Let me be the first to inform you that the name is deceiving and there is nothing royal about this place. On second thought, perhaps there is. They royally &^#$# me over. I woke up this morning in a pool of sweat and saw the lights were off on the air conditioner. So I call down to the front desk to inquire and he informs me that they are running off of a generator and they'll be back fully power in half an hour. Then he tells me that I have five minutes before I am supposed to check out. Check out?! It's bloody eight in the morning, the sign on the wall says check out is NOON. So I go downstairs to suss out the situation. The manager shows me the receipt that was made the day before and he slyly placed "24 HOURS" on the receipt without informing me. So we began discussing the principle behind trying to deceive me and finally settled on extorting 400 rupees out of me to stay until 2pm.

I had a moment after all of this; I was crestfallen. The difficulties of travel is strenuous to say the least and at that particular moment, it got the best of me. I was quickly reminded of the awesome power that I possess of thought and how energy will indeed follow it.

I have a flight in a few hours to Mumbai and am absolutely looking forward to it. I've never been for one, and secondly my good friend Akshay is there so I will have some stellar company for the weekend and thirdly, it's Bollywood ;)

My planning has ceased and I exist solely on a day-to-day basis. I operate much better when I am just making the call when it happens instead of orchestrating them before they even occur. I have been given a great gift today.

Time to work some magic...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Life's a garden, dig it?!

I haven't been able to take a "look" inside myself lately. I try to see whether I am unconsciously creating a conflict between my two worlds - I call them my inside voice and my outside voice. So I spent some time with my self and just listened for a change. Where I am, who I am with, or what I am doing asks the outside voice while my inside voice speaks softly about my thoughts and feelings. It appears to me that I am internally standing in opposition to what is. That's the only explanation I have to describe the aching pains I inflict upon myself.

Even within the seemingly most unacceptable and painful situation is concealed a deeper good, and within every disaster is contained the seed of grace. -Eckhart Tolle

The war that started years ago within me between the opposing battalions of internal and external have grown tired and apathetic to what once had great meaning, a cause, a purpose. The war will cease at some point and when it does you recognize and realize that you are now free to give up on this ridiculous conflict and live in harmony. In place of the barren war torn land will emerge a seed to courageously break out the light of the world. Take a moment and breath in the perfumed fragrance.

Oops! There I've gone and done it again, I've evolved ;)

When you give up the energy that you consume gossiping with the outside voice, the less you have to spend listening to the inside voice. But if you really listen, I mean really listen to all the sounds around you, all the external voices of everybody else and begin to hear a symphony, one note - you begin feeling the music instead of listening and the inside voice sings...
Acceptance of the unacceptable is the great source of grace in this world.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Workin' the Roman Holiday...









I am truly blessed to be able to travel the sub-continent and work from anywhere that there is an internet connection. I ran out of money a long time ago but I have been quite confident in asking the questions that I need answers to or ask for the things I need. I have been supported in so many forms that I have no other point of reference now.

The work is always flowing and I will now admit that I am a designer and it isn't something I just do to make some money. I design, I'm good at it and I love to create. However, travelling and trying to meet project deadlines for something you know would take you half the time is trying my patience. I spent all day hunched over a computer although the splendid lemon honey ginger tea flowing did not make the situation any worse ;)

I am truly stretching and testing myself with existing in two time zones. I'm eleven and a half hours ahead and I'm up during waking hours there as well as here. I have set a goal to have everything finished by Wednesday so that I may spend the rest of the week collecting my self since I have been out of sorts. My attentions have wandered and my intentions unclear.

I'm caught up in two worlds that confuses me to say the least. There is the fantasy world of me wandering about experiencing and the real life where real things that matter happen. Sometimes I get lost in the details when I'm just supposed to be paying attention to them. We all get 'out of sorts' sometimes and it's important to have someone to share it with.

I'm starting to have travel wear on me and am beginning to see what is of true importance. The sacrifices, the commitment, the struggle, the triumphs; they are all there waiting for me to experience. I am revisiting cities that I've been to before and can see where I was the first time around. My perspective has changed and I have a point of reference to where I am. Where I am is where I am supposed to be but why do I keep seeing myself some place else?!
“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go” -Oscar Wilde

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Laynlow Since '75

On coming into my thirty second year I was flowing to destinations I had no understanding, rhyme or reason for where I was travelling to. Something else was drawing me to where I ended up. I was in Amritsar on my way to Rishikesh. I made a call to my friend Akshay and he tells me that he never left Delhi. So I decided I would see if I could squeeze on to the Shatabdi Express that speeds towards Delhi in 5 3/4 hours. I had to wait a half an hour before the 'chart' would be ready and I could get a stand-by ticket. In case I couldn't get a seat I wanted to make sure I could get a non-government run bus to Delhi.

The driver and I had different perspectives on our issue and so I told him that he could be on his merry way and so would I. So I found my self at the bus stand that was filled with government run buses ;) I ended up jumping on a bus almost immediately that was heading to Pathankot, a place I've never heard of until that moment. It is a hub to get connecting buses to Dharamsala. That's where I was heading...

It was Saturday afternoon and the bus left Amritsar at half three and ended up arriving at half six. Then I run to get my 'connecting' bus that arrives at 8pm... hours to be stranded in Pathankot. Well I guess I wasn't stranded, there were some Israelis ;)

The first bus arrived at 8pm and was rushed by locals to fill the limited seats, the rest left standing. I wasn't having any of that. As I was up on the roof loading in all the packs I decided I'm riding on top of the bus and the rest of the Israelis followed suit. That is until the police showed up. I tried arguing with them but they claim to have a rule in place that it is not allowed to ride up top during the night hours. I sat with a couple of younger Punjabi lads after the commotion had settled and just told them it was because we were foreigners. If it was a pack of Indians up there no one would blink and eye and if one fell off they couldn't be bothered to stop. However, a tourist falling off would require a lot of paperwork ;)

So my bubble burst and the bus left. The novice travellers dictated rule and we stayed to wait for the 9pm bus which woudl land us in Dharamsala at around 1am. Same thing happened. The bus was charged towards by the locals, elbowing, shoving and just acting belligerent... some would say that's 'par for the course'?!

I managed to procure a seat with the aid of my trusty mobile home and friend, in other words my pack. I put my bag on the roof and came to sit down. But I wasn't about to give up on my dream to ride on the bus through the moon lit sky. Rolling down the road approaching the very hour that I was born (12:43am) as I stared up into the sky and tried to measure the wisdom that has found me in this quickly passing last year, that's exactly how I wanted it to be.

I gave my seat to an elder wiser looking chap and told him that I was a young man and was no matter for me to stand. The first stop the bus made I made a mad dash to the ladder on the back of the bus, surreptitiously navigated over the bags to find a nice little divot. Laying on my back with my feet up and the cool breeze rustling through the branches as they whipped my ears nearly taking an eye out now and again was blissful ;) Then I heard a voice invade my moment demanding we "come down from up there, you three!", busted. The last three hours of the journey was spent standing up holding on to whatever I could to prevent me from falling over as the bus whipped from side to side through the twists of the valley.

I arrived...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Point A to Point B


Flowing stream...
Originally uploaded by theusual
My mission was to get from Point A (Pakistan) to Point B (India) today. Let's just say this mission was much easier than my last mission of getting from Point B to Point A. I got dropped off at the Wagha border, gave some hugs, grabbed a pack and tin can with a maple leaf plastered on the side. Navigating through all the import carriers dressed in a sea of blue made the transition go along even more swimmingly. At the Pakistan side they scanned my passport, took my picture and told me to have a great day. No bag checking, no hassle, no nothing, just free floating and flowing.

I guess it helps when you name drop though ;) I mentioned one of the custom officers and that seemed to make my travel through customs go effortlessly. I got my stamp and I was off with a porter porting my belongings... it was hot and I didn't feel like sweating that much. We arrived at the Indian customs area and again, no problems or issues. However, the Indians checked just my tin box since either it looks suspicious or I do?! ;) Nonetheless, after only fifteen minutes I was officially stamped into India.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Once in a...

Full Sturgeon, Harvest, Hunters, Cold, Wolf, Snow, Worm, Pink, Flower and finally Blue Moon. According the Farmer's Almanac these are the names of all the full moons that I have experienced since acting out The Alchemist. It can be experienced at different times depending on where you are geographically situated. Back home there was a Blue Moon but I won't get it until the end of June.

The phrase, "Once in a blue moon" was noted down many moons ago ;) It usually refers to infrequent occurrences, though not truly rare. Two have two moons in one month is not at all uncommon, it occurs on average, about every 32 months.

I am in Lahore preparing myself to cross over into India once again. I have been working a little bit lately so my time has been spent sweltering in the heat drinking lots of water and keeping my eyes open with toothpicks. I want to finish this project so I can once again decompress and resume flowing.

I've been stuck in my head with plans, thoughts and worry - the quote I keep hearing is "Life happens when you're busy making plans". So I am embracing the real experiences as they come. Ouch... that hurts. Something I only want to hear once in a blue moon...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A day in the life...

It's been a while since I wrote last and it will take a while to recollect what happened since: I got my flight the next morning from Gilgit; landed in Rawalpindi and then headed back to Islamabad; stayed there a couple days or sum such amount and then hooked a ride with a train down to Lahore; spent the weekend in Lahore; was India bound after the weekend but I went back to Islamabad; now I'm here and tomorrow I head back to Lahore. There, all caught up on locations - now the details.

My mom told me how much I've grown up today. A relative tried to coerce my cousin Anjum to get me to cut my hair and he told them where to go. He accepts me for what/who I am and says that my hair is part of me and would hate to see it go, it was cheered on by everyone at the table. Overheard in a conversation that my father's greatest gift to Pakistan was me. My family surprises me when I least suspect it ;)

The past week has been filled with just running around and taking care of the small details, the fine print. My attention was needed back in Islamabad and I don't know when I'll make it to India. I'll make it there when I'm supposed to I guess ;) I have had to make unplanned twists and turns in my programme and that's just allowing for it to unfold. I don't know where I'm going, I don't know when I'll be back and I forgot how to even say I don't know, but I'm glad I've remembered. What's my next move? I don't know. Try it... it's great. I don't know...

Surrounded by family and surprise visits, I have not appreciated them enough in my experiences since I left Canada. I was holding my little 19 month old niece started crying knowing I had to leave, I really have become part of the family. My father was so adamant about family in his last few months on this earth and I just didn't get it. I thought I grasped at what he was trying to communicate and imbue but it didn't register until today. It made it's guest appearances in the past but nothing like what found me - it was nice to feel Professor Sheikh Parvez Wakil (may peace be upon him and may he be in everything) in full force throughout my day. I was told of an old proverb that my father on occasion had used and fits quite nicely...

Poh patna

(light breaks for a new day)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Cancel that...

My flight was cancelled this morning :( I had a strange premonition that it would be but I chalked it up to my over active imagination and tried filing it at the back. This means that I get to spend a dreary day in Gilgit; not that Gilgit is all that dreary but the skies are overcast with drizzly mist falling. I would have much rather liked to spend one more day in Passu, now that would have been utilizing my time well.

This is the fourth flight in the past week that has been cancelled from here. I remember looking up information on Gilgit when I was coming up here and reading someone's blog and that they waited a week before they could get out of Gilgit ;) Well, Insh'Allah there will be clear skies tomorrow morning and will get to experience the mountain ranges from a new perspective.

"We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us." -John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A moment to get...

Stillness speaks...


Head in the clouds...
Originally uploaded by iamkhayyam.
Karmibad. What can I say? The tranquility of northern Pakistan is staggering. The people that you meet along the way are filled with a happiness that I can't quite explain. An elder gentleman said, "we are poor people, but we have big hearts". Understatement. The hearts are enormous and only filled with a goodness that I wish upon everyone.

After my sunrise hike I was exhausted. A nap ensued during the extreme warmths that the sun rained. That evening I was to head to Passu a little farther north and closer to the Chinese border. I eventually found my way to Passu a day after I wanted to be there, but what to do? The roads along the way were nearly barren if hadn't been for the other 'coasters' (15 passenger vans) along the way, nothing. Coming up through glacial landslides and narrowly navigating through the tightly dug pathway through it. The water of the river right up against the highway was an amazing backdrop for what surfaced around the corner. Massive mountain peaks topped off with snow caps. The pictures are beautiful captures but they do not capture the absolute mammoth proportions that these peaks reach. I am humbled being in such amazingness.

Passu is a very small village with a handful of guesthouses. I ended up setting up shop in Passu Inn. First stop in Passu and was recommended from Abbas, the young gentleman who runs KADO. So I jumped out in the rain and made it for the reception. Got myself a charming little room and waited for the rain to let up. It finally did and I walked out the door. Left or right? I chose left. Walked a few kilometers and decided there wasn't anything worth seeing. Then the daisies made their appearance and reminded me what they represent to me and knew that I wasn't alone. When I was huffing and puffing up the mountain, I wasn't alone; when I was saluting the sun, I wasn't alone; and when I retire to sleep, I'm not alone. I decided to turn back, there was suspension bridge or the Pasu Glacier I could go quickly see before the darkness settled in. The suspension bridge sounded like the best option. I met a young man on the road who was very well educated and spoke pristine English. He offered me some tid bits about this and that around the way, he invited me for chai ;) I had to keep on going and so I did through the twists and turns of the KKH (Karakoram Highway). I finally see the bridge and I'm getting close. I finally get the point at which I think I can get to it and walk down a mountain only to find more mountain filled with cliffs. I opted to go back, I figured 16 kilometers was good for a warm up.

When I got back to the guesthouse the power was still out. Four people were huddled in the dark and I heard a "Hello" come from one of them. We began introducing to one another in the dark. Travellers. Paul from Canada, Oliver from Germany, Francesca from Switzerland and Veronica from France. We were all famished and went to order our meals. The guesthouse owner told us the cook went home and that we'd have to go down the road to Glacier Breeze guesthouse and restaurant. I am so thankful that the cook wasn't there because I got to enjoy my first real Hunza meal. There was walnut and apricot pasta salid, Ghalmandi (thin chipati's cooked in apricot oil filled with yak cheese and mint), Hunza pie (spicy vegetable pie, spicy...), apricot juice made from real apricots. Top notch, all of it from top to bottom (I forgot to take pictures for you Gogal). The five of us engaged in our travels stories bringing back the camaraderie that is shared by the warriors. It was delightful to hear more stories of the north of Pakistan, places I wish to see.

The five of us moved out of the guesthouse we were in and moved down the valley to Hunza Peak Inn ;) This immaculate little guesthouse was just perfect and even more so when we met Akbar Shah. A retired military officer with a smile that doesn't seem to slip of his face. So accommodating, thoughtful and caring. We had breakfast together and set out on our day of trekking to a couple suspension bridges and a lake. I managed to fall off five feet from a cliff I was trying to get around and landed in a thorn patch. Poked and bleeding I continued on like a good boy scout should. Then came another obstacle, a gigantic boulder in the way. I decided to drop a large stone in the water and use it as a step to get around the boulder. It just dropped with the hollow thud. I decided that I had already signed up for more than I asked for so I jumped into the glacial water and went into thermal shock from how cold that water was.

The destination was no where near the excitement of that of the journey, but alas, we arrived. The suspension bridge. A few cables strung from one end to the other with dried out old and brittle looking wood. I was a bit apprehensive about going but then just walked out without holding the side cables. My balancing act was cut short when the winds blew through the valley and nearly knocked me over. I grabbed on to one side of the bridge and closed my eyes. The feeling of flying was never so comfortable.

I crossed back and left the others behind. I watched from an elevated perspective a yak crossing the river. These men had harnessed up a three stage crossing for this yak using ropes and linking them with the bridge. The final portion of the river that the yak had to cross was the deepest. The current pulled him a hundred yards down stream and must have been submerged for almost a minute; I could barely handle 30 seconds knee deep in that water. I can now say that I've witnessed my first river crossing Yak experience ;)

By this time I was exhausted after climbing up the mountain to get back to the highway. I flagged down the first vehicle I came across, a chicken truck ;) As I was rolling down the hills I managed to find Paul, then a bit onwards, Oliver and Francesca. We were all about The Murghi Express and heading back to the valley. We stopped in at our favorite Hunza restaurant and had some impressive Apricot Cake.

Arrived back at the guesthouse and found three Australians who had ridden their motorcross bikes from Australia ;) We shared in motorcycle stories and they couldn't express how impressed they were with how fabulous Pakistan was. I couldn't agree with them more, at least Northern Pakistan. There is nothing like it and the hearts are very big... made me feel right at home, just lovely.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What a funk...


Upon arrival...
Originally uploaded by theusual.
I can't believe the funk that I had created for myself the last few weeks in Islamabad. I've since done a complete one-eighty and am on top of the world, literally. I am where the three highest mountain ranges in the world converge.

I was delayed in Gilgit one day because I was in such a rush to meet the ride up here that I didn't have time to go to an ATM machine (oh ya, that's right, forgot to mention I have a bank card once again;) I was assured that there was one in Gilgit. There was one but there are two links that exist here, one being for local and the other for international. I was not lucky in that department and couldn't get a cash advance on the plastic because I don't have a PIN for that ;) So lucky I know people in high places. My cousin in Islamabad, Inam (Anjum) works for National Bank of Pakistan and the gentlemen who was hosting me in Gilgit is the Vice-President of the branch. They arranged for a wire transfer of some sorts and that is what I was waiting for. Lucky I am.

So I'm fully stacked with cash and was off to Karimabad in the Hunza Valley. My mom was so happy to hear that I added this to my list of destinations. I spoke with her on the phone and I could feel her smile boom through the phone. I had two gentlemen from the bank escort me to the bus stand and took care of me royally, Habib Sahib and Sheikh Akbar Shah.

When I arrived in Karimabad after a fantastic three hour trip through the valley I was set up with the president of the NBP here in Karimabad. He made sure that I was well taken care. He came along with me to the hotel and spoke on my behalf. Since I was his 'mehman' (guest) the accommodations ended up being free of charge?! I am staying at a very nice place called Park Hotel in Karimabad, so if you're ever in these parts of the woods make sure you stay here ;)

The air here is so fresh, so clean. I feel an amazing power here. I went for a sunset walk through the main bazar and then on the backside of one of the ridges to plot out my course for tomorrow morning. I am going to wake up around five thirty and hike up the mountain side to the Eagle's Nest and enjoy the sun coming over the Golden Peak, Rakaposhi ridge and the rest of the wonderous peaks that are snow covered. I have no set programme for my stay here but Hunza Valley is full of glaciers, mountains, valleys, forts and a bunch of other stuff I will find to occupy my time. Gilgit was beautiful, but this is something else. To stay or not to stay longer... I'm funked if I do, funked if I don't...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Flow, don't push...


Karakoram Highway
Originally uploaded by theusual.
Great words of wisdom... and so I followed them. I was presented with a spur of the moment opportunity to make a fourteen hour road journey on the Karakoram Highway to enjoy the majestic wonders of this northern Pakistan. The words 'nature is our ally' kept playing through my head.

The trip to Gilgit began with being introduced to three men whom I've never been acquainted with prior to this high way. A Toyota Landcruiser and three men I don't know from a hole in the ground, this would prove to be an interesting road trip. These men all worked for National Bank of Pakistan and were colleagues with my family. They were quite quiet which was nice for it meant that there was no need for unnecessary or forced conversation. I sat with my thoughts trying to analyze them while being bounced back and forth; not sure if it was the vehicle or me doing it. We drove through Taxila which I had visited recently and the surroundings were comforting and familiar. We drove by the store fronts and passed by the statues/lawn ornaments. There is this one that if I could I would buy and ship back home. No one would understand the purchase and I can already see the heads shaking. It's a cat, rather, a panther sitting on it's hind legs in a royal attentive position with it's mouth open roaring. The exceptional part of this cat is that it is coated with thousands of square cut mirror pieces. I didn't buy it and I won't... stop shaking your heads ;)

As we were driving through Taxila I recognized the man who was moments ago in my thoughts and here he was riding a bike turning onto the main road as we drove by. When we were visiting the Sirsukh remains he was our ominous looking guide who had the most amazing gold rings on his right hand that I took pictures of. Interesting that moments before he only existed as a memory in my head and moments later manifested to cross my path. Power of thought is something else I tell you. I'll try it again... hmmm... right now I'm thinking of something that means the world to me- it's not shoes, so that narrows it down ;)

Mansera was the next town we passed through, or at least tried to. Traffic had been halted due to some construction or repair. We sat there forever, I even saw ants on the road passing us. Finally, Shahid Sahib, the driver, exhibited his exemplary driving skills and maneuvered his way through the bakwas. We were on our way once again. Further up the road we cam to a kebob stand where we placed a drive-thru order... kebobs, check... 7up, check. Let's go. Around half and hour to forty five minutes later we stopped at a very quaint rest stop to enjoy the now cold kebabs, 7up and a spot of tea. Tea was finished and away we go...

Next stop was Dulas for a short pit stop involving more tea and some prayers. A peak of a mountain was the background along with a bridge which was full of kurtas belonging to old men going to and fro. The water rushing by made the most melodic noise and had to just close my eyes and listen. Prayers were finished, tea was barely drank but we were on a schedule. Twisting and turning through the postcard sights, I was now experiencing those postcards. I snapped picture after picture with most of them coming out blurred having been bounced uncontrollably from the debris of landslides. At this point the fatigue and the company of those that missus not to mention the music that jogged my memories allowed me to start wandering into fits of slumber. It was dark out and whenever I would open my eyes and the stars illuminated the sky with dark outlines of the mountains blocking out the twinkling lights. I imagine I will be blown away with the views that I have when I wake...

What a country! ;)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Family Man...

I have had the glorious opportunity to raise three girls having the ages of seven years, eighteen months and five months. I have literally been Mr. Mom and loving every minute of it.

My three nieces are the most precious beings that I've been fortunate to spend time with over these past three and half weeks. In one night alone I had all three of them crying and frustrated with everything and anything. To be in that moment and not have any frustrations, anger or tension and replace it with love, acceptance and understanding was a triumphant moment. My mom called while I was rocking the youngest one to sleep and thanked her for all the frustration and worry I put her through, all the diapers she changed, all the crying she had to endure. She told me that she was long over that and she had other worries now... Oh, mom... ;) I was raised with a very lenient set of parents that allowed me to grow quite freely. I'm not saying there weren't moments of a strict law, fear mongering and some old ways that were handed down. We all have our disturbed childhoods because we are the ones that get to define them. And as my brother once told me, our adult lives are spent trying to cope and deal with those memories we created.

I've got them sorted now and am looking forward to bringing miniature little Khayyam's into the world bouncing about with their springy hair and lofty ways. The running joke of me having multiple wives and girlfriends in various countries have given explanations to my relatives as to why I am 'expert' with the kids. They can think what they want, but I have to equate my expertise with the fact that I found that innocence that children possess and it lives with great passion within me.

My initial definition of success has been altered severely and now understand what it means. Had it not been for all the mistakes to learn from, the family to influence and the events to have occurred, I'd still think that working my fingers to the bone to amass copious amounts of dollars so that I could have my 2.3 kids, white picket fence while dawning a box top fade, glasses and a pocket protector was the way. The best thing about the way is that there is no way, no wrong or right, no good or bad, it's all of it and it's up to us to lead the way.

Lead by the way you live...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Souled Out...

My acescency towards my stay in Pakistan has dwindled into the faintest after taste, but one thought of it's stench brings me whirling back. Good thing the pollen count is so high and my nasal passages have been unable to detect the smells of my surroundings ;)

The complacency and numbness of my existence in Pakistan has indeed taken a toll on me, the price - I've souled out from being a traveller, a fool. My schedule consists of waking up at six or seven, checking some emails, going to my new office where I have been providing consultancy services to the Pakistan Engineers Society, going to this place and that place running errands that aren't mine with relatives, then spending exuberant hours with facebook when I should be reading a book or trying to squeeze in some creative works. By the time I realize it, it's three in the morning and realize that I need some sleep in order to repeat Groundhog Day.

I have felt no desire to create as of late which has been my sanctuary, even my sanctuary has been invaded. When I sit down to concoct something that has been flowing through my thoughts, my mind goes blank. When I want to express some thought or experience through writing, I have no motivation.

I feel tired and drained of energies. If I were to have only 100 units of energy in a day, I've used them up by 9am. I hear loud talking, tension in the air, cars honking, people screaming, power outages - the common everyday in the sub-continent. However, what I found to be the most glorious of chaotic harmony is now fingernails on a chalkboard. I am allotted 100 units to use wisely throughout my day and currently going into debt. Debt is a horrible way to exist with it's lingering tension. I am changing my environment and have enrolled in a quick debt reduction program of travel. Does anyone know if there is a karmic debt reduction plan? I definitely need to reduce that one, sooner the better ;)

I have had one medium in which to share my existence and it has been my saving grace (thank you). I am feeling the blood course through my veins and my breath is steady and supportive. My mom tells me she loves me, my love tells me I'm loved, my friends tell me they love me and my imaginary friends tell me they love me, except in different languages ;) The allergies and sinuses are clearing up and I can faintly pull in the perfumed garden once again.

So I have received my Indian visa, my NICOP card is on it's way and am packing away clothes that will encumber my travels. Reducing the weight and excess so that I can start trudging about as a wandering traveller. No plans, no guides, just a backpack and a desire to experience the experiences...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

An Old Skool...

Da mayor don't bother nobody and nobody bother da mayor...

Let me tell you the story of "Right Hand, Left Hand." It's a tale of good and evil. Hate: It was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: These five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: Static. One hand is always fighting the other hand; and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But, hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that's right. Ooh, it's the devastating right and Hate is hurt, he's down. Left-Hand Hate K.O.ed by Love.


Friday, May 04, 2007

May the Fourth be with you...


40 acres & a mule...
Originally uploaded by theusual.
I met an English chap at the Embassy and got along swimmingly with him. He invited me out to his home in Kallar Syedan (pothwar.com) which is about forty kilometers outside of Rawalpindi. He just described exactly what I needed. Serenity of birds chirping, beautiful naturescapes and a once in a blue moon chance to experience village life in Pakistan. I had been starved for the spontaneity and here it was. The hills and valleys in what is known as 'tribal' areas but I later was in formed housed all the thiefs, dacoits and murderers ;)

Imran called me while he was still in Rawalpindi and on his way home. Fortunately I had just finished visiting my Tayyee Ji and so I was game for an adventure; adventure is what we had. Night driving on the thinner than usual roads of Pothwar and then traversing the off roading of boulders and carved out roads to his home almost had me gripping the dashboard, almost.

When I walked into the courtyard it literally was a scene out of a Bollywood movie. I met his brother, Zaheer, who was the reason for the family coming to visit from the UK. He was married less than two weeks ago. We stayed up chatting about this or that and finally we all retired for the evening after they told me of the ghosts that wonder about their land and visit them. Most people would be scared but I was looking forward to a chance meeting with the unexplainable. I slept outside under the slendering full moon, crickets, bugs and whatever other instruments that were part of the symphony of nature.

I woke up to the rooster call and the sun rising over the trees and popping through the low cloud cover. The morning was met with their father who was quite the laid back character, how could it be otherwise being in this area?! That morning's drama was that the pump to the well had broken and a group of men fiddled away with it trying to repair it. Lowering the motor down the shaft of the well and then to see a man scale the side to install it was my morning entertainment. I had an amazing whole grain paratha that I've never tasted before and those farm eggs were splendid - real farm cookin...

It came at the right time and slowed everything down to the point where I could hear again. I put my face to the wind and listened...

I got my answers ;)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Visa accomplished...

I walked up to the counter and there were five people waiting in line. I had urgently needed to release the pressure on my bladder, but I thought to myself that it is worth it to sit out the five people instead of the fifteen that might be there when I came back. I did my dance then stopped thinking about it and I was finally relaxed. I sat there visualizing my turn walking up to the window, smiling and saying thank you for seeing my visa glued into my passport was what I saw. The gentleman at the window recognized me right away and smiled. He retrieved my confirmation letter from the Canadian High Commission and told me to give him my passport. I told him that the office already had my passport which he responded to with a firm, "No."

What I had envisioned moment before had none of this in it. The fellow behind me asked if I was from America. I told him politely that I was from Canada. He didn't have to tell me where he was from as the thick London accent poured through his lips and over his tongue. I explained briefly what had gone on and just then the man behind the glass in the air conditioned office whose cool air was escaping through the tiny hole informed me that he indeed had my passport. He opened it up and there is was in all it's glory, a stamp that was finally glued in place. I thanked him, smiled and was on my way.

As I was walking away admiring the handwriting on my visa I stopped admiring when I came across the word SINGLE. They had issued me a single entry visa when I had applied for a multiple entry visa. I was informed by both Pakistani and Canadian High Commissions that because I applied in Pakistan I am only given a single entry. If I needed a multiple, only my home country would have been able to accommodate me.

This throws me off kilter. Everything happens and for reasons unknown to me at times, but I'll accept it and see where it goes.

It is easy to be pleasant when life flows by like a song, but the man worth while is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong. For the test of the heart is trouble, and it always comes with years, and the smile that is worth the praises of earth is the smile that shines through the tears. -Irish saying


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Back to back sentences...

Imprisonment. That is what I've been feeling and the bitterness of a thousand lemons resides in my chest at the moment. Not like me to be bitter, but this country is wearing extremely thin on me. I think I've complained here and there and as I write this feel no need to rant on about what rubs me like 80 grit sandpaper any longer. It's like one of those letters you write and choose not to send.

The days seem to roll by effortlessly with me doing absolutely nothing. Regularly I invite the bliss of nothingness into my life but I can't accept being in a house all day without venturing anywhere except the internet. I am ready to throw this computer at someone if it weren't for one of two reasons that I need my I.V. of one's and zero's. I have had the accumulating weight of anger on my shoulders and as they say there is a straw that will break the camel's back. I think I managed to find that last straw. There is a wise man that rings into my ears as I write these words, "Each day gets better". Ain't that the double truth Ruth?!

I just want to leave this country. What was once beauty has turned into a beast.

It's coming up to Monsoon season in India and I don't like continuous rain, the bottom of your trousers always get wet and it's so difficult to care for shoes ;) So I have no idea what my plans are other than vacating the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as soon as I can. One of the determining factors remains to be the lackadaisical staff at the Indian High Commission. They have my passport but have forgotten about the big note on the front of my application that states to contact me when the work is complete. Lesson in having expectations ;)

The other matter that has really kept me here is my NICOP card which I can't leave the country with. My visa expired long ago and visa extension seemed to be the best solution. Aftere $66 US dollars I arrived at the visa office only to be told they need another $50 for a multiple entry visa. The only reason I opted for this route was so that I could leave the country and come back at a later date to retrieve my identity card. So, here I've ended up waiting a full month for it and over forty days for the visa. The funny thing is that it took less than a few hours for the Indian High Commission in Canada to approve and clear my visa. The staff here must be having a hell of time finding a glue stick to affix the visa into my passport ;) Every time I visited the High Commission here they promptly offered me some kind of reason for the delay, every time something different. They spewed out some tutty just so they could prove their authority. I've become quite proficient in the dialect of bureaucratise and offer the answer to all their suggestions, with a smile of course. They offered me a job ;)

My sanctuary exists in a world of magic, headphones and continuous creative jobs that keep flowing in. Thank you to those that fuel my sanity, you have no idea what it means to vanish from everything for what seems like an eternity. I am very grateful.

You must not for one instant give up the effort to build new lives for yourselves. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway to life. This is not an easy struggle. Indeed, it may be the most difficult task in the world, for opening. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I am not a terrorist...

Like my life couldn't get any worse. A judge jailed five "cruel and ruthless" Britons for life on Monday for plotting al Qaeda-inspired bomb attacks on targets across Britain ranging from nightclubs to trains and a shopping center. One of the five was named Omar Khyam, the alleged ring leader. Isn't that a slice of pie?! ;) It's taken almost forty days to get my Indian visa, took me a month to get out of India to begin with because of this whole terrorist thing. So in case of my mistaken identity as a terrorist I am posting this letter to whomever is so illogical to think a fuzzy haired swaggering cat from Canada who calls a backpack a home wants to think I have some ulterior motives.


Dear Captor,

I, Khayyam Wakil, am not affiliated with any strange or bizarre groups that have any intentions to inflict harm on any human being (innocent or guilty). I also would like to inform you that none of my family is involved with any terrorist cells or organizations as far as my knowledge extends into their fairly risk averse lifestyles.

I do admit to setting off fireworks in a heavily tree filled area when I was sixteen resulting in a small fire, very small. This is the extent of my terrorist activities. Does it count if you've been terrorized by bullies? I guess I'd be the victim, forget that statement then. I once again emphatically deny any accusations that I am in any way, shape or form involved with any other person who would be willing to end life.

If you need references there are several complete and thorough investigations on me available with the Indian Police in New Delhi, Port Blair and Havelock Islands. In addition you will be able to find a concise C.I.D. report with the government of India. Since those reports I am confident that if you contact the US&A or Canadian governments they will have updated copies of my file(s).

I would also like to fight this battle on tourism, I am here solely for the purpose to smile and travel,

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
Khayyam Wakil

cc: The Canadian High Commission, High Commissioner

Friday, April 27, 2007

Of cricket and men...

In this part of the world there is no escaping the gentlemanly sport of cricket. It is literally everywhere. You go into any kind of establishment whether it be a restaurant, guesthouse, watch shop, barber shop, you name it... there's a television set on with highlights or a match.

The fever of World Cup is a little less than what is normally experienced here since Pakistan's team exhibited an embarrassing outing and was ousted. In addition to that the mysterious death of head coach Bob Woolmer increased to the drama and I remember the 'conspiracy' theories spit out from some of the locals. It was absolutely entertaining to hear some of them come out of people's mouths and I sat back and just wondered... what goes on in that head of theirs, or are they just Pattan?! ;) Nonetheless, cricket in way, shape or form did not escape their lips.

I have to admit that I've watched a handful of matches and didn't know the difference between a wicket and an over. Since being in the sub-continent and seeing this game played in all types of venues I have been since educated. No matter where I went during my travels here, I would see kids in all places enjoying this sport. Seeing the poorest of folk playing this game with whatever they could get their hands on to represent the cricket bat and ball just showed me how rich they were, the love for the game, the happiness shared with friends and family and an ability to disappear from one world to another as long as someone was bowling.

The World Cup final is tonight and I am looking forward to watching. Not as much as I enjoyed the other matches though. This final is a David and Goliath story with no happy ending for me. For I am a Sri Lankan supporter from the very beginning of the world cup. Initially my support was won over by their stellar uniforms ;) Then as the World Cup progressed and I had actually been watching I soon discovered the passion within the team and favored them. If there is a David and Goliath story that I can reference to then there is a possibility that it can occur once more. I am rooting for the underdog as one should always do. They have the most passion and are more hungry for the victory dance than their opponent.

The greatest mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or in defeat. Let nature take its course, and you tools will strike at the right moment. Bruce Lee

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Aftermath I usually went to physics...

I've had a couple days to reflect and distract myself from that which has been occupying my thoughts for the past while. I could go into details about how this happened or what happened or perhaps even describe to a certain extent why it happened... but I won't. Let's just say everything happens for their reasons and that is all I need to know. What will be will be. I am however grateful for my two brothers and the way they have supported me, especially my mother this week. My eldest brother flew in to surprise my mom and to be with her during an extremely difficult time. My other brother will be coming to spend the weekend with her for the prayers that are being offered for my father. I had a difficult time and felt helpless not being able to be with my mother. The simple gestures can mean the greatest and I just wanted to give her a hug and tell her that I loved her with immense intensity. Thank you Salman and Gibran for being my brothers and loving mom the way that you do.

I am more than suffocated now with family and my stay in Islamabad. I feel constricted and am toted around like a child from one place to the next without even a consultation if I would be interested in going. The day of my father's barsi I was dragged off to some posh restaurant to sit with the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, some sportscaster from GeoTV and another significant person in Islamabad that I deemed insignificant ;) I sat there speechless and off in my own world. It made me realize how little my family actually knows me.

I was in no mood to attend people's homes the next day after my experience. I knew how I would be and just needed some time to myself, why is that so hard to understand? Instead I'm brought into hugs so tight I can barely breathe, more phone calls to attend and visits from people just to make sure that I'm 'ok', the complete opposite of what I want and needed.

So fortunate for me in the nick of time I was whisked away to the land of Wah Cantt neighbour to Taxila containing the ruins of the Gandhāran city of Takshashila (also Takkasila) an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning from the 6th century BCE to the 5th century CE. In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple locations. Upon arriving I was asked why I don't like Pakistan. I thought it to be a funny question. It was elaborated on and the explanation was through the family grapevine someone was told that I liked India more and that's why I was going back. They are two completely different entities to me. In India I was free to roam, independent and when I wanted to do something it was within me to do so. In Pakistan however I feel as though I am rotting away just like the meat that hangs in the bazar with flies roaming around it waiting to be plucked from it's dangling existence and consumed. I am in Pakistan yet I have yet to experience it. The historical significance and sights are oblivious to me. I spent two weeks in Lahore and all I saw was a fingertip of what could be experienced. I'm always blocked by family offering to take me to see what I want to see and it always turns out that I get to see one thing and not the rest. If I were to head out on my own I would go from one place to another, handle this thing or the other and occupy my day to it's fullest. Taxila is home to major historical significance in sub-continental legends. It is referenced in the Mahābhārata and in the Indian epic Rāmāyaṇa (I highly recommend it for fantastical tales and folklore). My cousin-brother is going to accommodate me seeing everything that I wanted to see. He understands the flow in which I travel with and knows that I wish to discover not only family but the land that houses them.

Everything you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows

Monday, April 23, 2007

Suffocating self reliance... (cont'd)


Resting peacefully...
Originally uploaded by theusual.
Headed back into the vehicle which was now loaded up with plants and flowers we made our way to Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi is the home to the resting place of my father. It was time to get what I wanted to do for so long done. I wanted to tend to my father's grave and make sure that it was neat and tidy. Not to mention that I had to have a long overdue conversation with him.

We arrived and I began cleaning up the weeds and the weed from my father's plot. We were in need of water so I sent Shaqeel to procure some. This gave me the time alone to have my conversation. As I was having my discussion I must have said something to anger my father for the winds picked up and in the distance ominous clouds encroached with haste. The wind was picking up all the sand and dirt in it's path and throwing it against my face. I just closed my eyes and continued digging while talking. Lightning started flashing and it's thunderous boom cracked above. I must have really pissed him off and tried to figure out what it was that I said, as per usual some of my statements made to or with my father resulted in the lightning bolts slung from Mt. Olympus. That was our relationship - he the sandpaper and I the rough stone. Friction aside, we were friends and he listened to me, not always with approval, but he listened. If enough sandpaper is applied to a rough stone it shall one day come out shiny and polished. He always said that if there was ever a problem that I should come to him, I wished I would have started earlier, listening wasn't always my strong point.

The violent winds ceased and reduced to gusts. I shared with him some news of my life that I really wanted him to experience. It is with great sadness that he physically will not be able to be there, but he will be there. It was nice to share with him and he didn't have much to say about it which was even better. The plants had been planted and the three flowers in the center to represent his three wonderful sons were set. As if to say that he approved of everything rain drops came from the sky as if to wash away the anger and let me know that things begin with a seed only to bloom. Life.

The anniversary of his death is coming up on the 24th and I just wanted to let him know that his sons and his magnificent wife loves him very much. I will return on Tuesday to make sure everything is everything and to plant the flower for my mother. The one that stands tall and endures the tests of time only to show it's resilience and beauty to all that come across her.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Head for the hills...


The Pakistan Transports...
Originally uploaded by theusual.
Just a quick note about my excursion over the weekend. I headed for Murree and Nathia Gali. My first time to visit Murree, a hill station. Beautiful setting in the hills and valleys full of tourists from all over Pakistan. From romantic excursion filled with feeding each other ice cream to families just getting away from the city to enjoy good company, good chai and good scenery. We left late on Saturday and the way to Murree along the twisty and winding roads was filled with transport trucks. I have now a new passion of taking pictures of these beautifully decorated moving shrines.

This family excursion was fun for I was now transformed into Chachu Khayyam (Uncle). I handled children with love and care, shared in silliness and experienced family excursions in Pakistan. The road trip means something a little different around these parts and I truly do enjoy them. I look forward to many to come.

 
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