Tuesday, April 23, 2013

TWO YEARS AFTER (23 April 2011 to 23 April 2013)

DIARY OF A VAGABOND
Two years after!

MAHTAB BASHIR
mahtabbashir@gmail.com
ISLAMABAD

With the thoughtful message of a sage “The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared,” in my head and heart I am planning to share an eventful day of 23rd April, 2011, when I was on the right lane, yet found everything coming  my way (hitting me). Since then, sitting in solitude I am going down the memory lane focusing on that particular day, but… everything is fragmented. Since then, my memory is distorted; I have quit my first love in journalism ‘Daily Times’- its working environment, missing its friendly and chirpy colleagues and last but surely not the least the experience of Saeed Minhas, who at that time was the Resident Editor of the organization and whose every single word has something professionally meaningful, for me. Fast forwarding, during the course of these two years I have lost one of my prized possessions in shape of my great father Bashir Hussain Nazim who for unknown reasons was perhaps in hurry to meet his maker. So, now I have nothing to collect and put in my bags of memories but memories!

It was a sunny Saturday morning of April 23, 2011. I was on my bike moving towards office. “Hello. Mr Mahtab, I am bringing it into your knowledge to kindly collect your passport from Indonesian Embassy located inside Diplomatic Enclave by the mid of this day because you will have to be there at Islamabad airport at 6:00 pm,” the voice of an Indonesian embassy official whispers in my ears,”. “OK, sure, thank you for your call, I will meet your another colleague as well. I am on my way. Thanks for intimation,” was my prompt reply. With the further thoughts piling up in my brain as how could I manage to finish my reporting assignments of the day, all family members are in Lahore except father, how could I pack my clothes and other essential stuff if I go back home and found main gate locked? I have just 800 Rs in my pocket, to whom should I borrow money, if my passport’s one page is not blank as all? How could I get permission for going abroad and asking for two weeks leave from my Boss and how could I face the ire of him for not informing him in time? I asked these questions to myself.

“I don’t believe in planning, because in the past I have faced my life as it comes my way… so I will better go towards the solution one by one but must end up all before 5:pm,” this was my self-discourse.

I stopped my bike adjacent to Embassy’s main gate and entered inside. I was told to go straight and then right. Following the direction, I entered in a well furnished room with few of airplane models on the corner of that room. I stood against the window, gave my brief introduction. The next moment a female hand popped out of window pane passing on my passport. With the formal thanks I hurriedly started flipping pages of my passport- I found what I wanted to. Now I asked the lady about my air ticket? She said in English but her native accent, “you ‘ll have to wait for twenty minutes”, I asked … two minutes? She said with a huge smile… no, no, “too..en..tee”, I said ok ok sure and sat on the couch.

After a while I collected the air ticket and came out of the premises of embassy. As soon as I passed through the gate I tried to manage the day’s activities one by one. The first step I took on spot was calling the Resident Editor. I called him with an intention to borrow some money and meanwhile to inform him about my maiden foreign visit. It is pertinent to mention here the previous night Resident Editor gave me an Urdu Press Release to translate in English and file it later. That particular page I put on my desk. During a load shedding, I tried harder to search it but failed in doing so. I asked all fellows and office workers about it and after a thorough search, but the paper was not found so I went home after finishing my work. Now, I call Editor and told him “I have got visa of Indonesia and want to seek financial help from you. I will return money as soon as I return,” instead of listening my words he asked in anger- “Tenu raat nu aik press release ditti si, …… o file kio nahi keeti tu, ……….,” I in a low voice told him how I lost the page and tried to find but unable to do so.” Editor in his vociferous voice said me to immediately come office and file that story, no matter what, and shut down the call. It was 12:30 pm and after that call and response and passport and return ticket in my hand, I was in dilemma either I should go abroad or make an apology!

After sometime, I went to office at F-8 and engage myself in searching that paper. Failing to find and started filing fresh stories on the day. I was too much busy in making stories and when I look at the clock it was 4:00pm. Now, I started thinking again how to meet Resident Editor to clarify my stance regarding ‘missed’ or ‘lost story’, how to inform him my flight is at 8:00pm this night? With all such thoughts mingled up in my mind, I narrated whole episode to one of my colleague Ikram  Junaidi (now working for Dawn Newspaper). He understood my problems and straight away suggested me, “Mahtab sb, ap befikar ho jain, ghar ja ke paking karain, magar us se pehlay Saeed Minhas sb se mil ke jain”, story kisi se pata kar k mangwa lete hain. (You better be relax, go home and pack your stuff but meet Saeed Mnhas sab before going home). I said sure. Now I went to Resident Editor’s room, there was a lady sitting next to him. I peeped through but did not muster courage to go inside. I wanted to wait for that lady to leave that room before I go inside so that ‘my insult’ could remain within two of us. I waited long but she did not leave the room and time was running. After half an hour wait, I gathered enough courage to talk to RE in presence of that lady. After shaking hand to him, I told him about my visit. As expected in response I found Minhas sb in anger. He asked me just one question and directed a single order, i-e I hope, you did not found that paper (containing story), and ok… Go ahead but before leaving this office, meet all colleagues for the last time. This last line aggravated my agony manifold and I went again to Junaidi sab, he smiled at me as he always did and again advised me to be calm and collected and go home. I put my documents in a folder and left the office.

Knowing well all family members are in Lahore to attend a wedding ceremony, soon after reaching the car parking of the office, I called father asking him is he home, knowing the fact had he not been there could definitely multiply my agonies. Fortunately, he received my call, I told him I am coming home and have to leave for airport by 6:00pm as I got visa. So be at home I will be at home in 15-20 minutes. He felt happy and said what only a father could say, “Masha Allah, OK, come, I am at home. All through the way from office to home, I was relieved that one by one things are settling down. After reaching home, I called one of my friend to come home and give me a drop to Airport before 6:pm and then I put few of my clothes in bag, took bath and went to father who as usual was busy in writing something. I asked him for money with the promise to give back after my return. He said “I have given you Rs 50,000, take as much as you need out of that money”. (But the fact was that, the money father deposited me had already been spent during the last 5 months because of 5 months backlog  (delay) in salary at Daily Times. I went up in my room and after a pause of few minutes, came down with bag on my shoulder. “Han Bhai… lay lian paise,” father asked I replied yes. “How much”, he asked again. I said Rs 20,000. “Yar hor  kad lay, agar zaroorat hay te, bad wich rakh dain (You better get more (money) as you like and later put it there. No problem), he said only as a father could say and do. I replied, no, no, it’s ok, 20,000 are enough and hugged him before leaving home. Kashif was standing outside gate, he opened the door of his car and off we went towards airport. Reaching there, I inserted ATM card and got Rs. 5534 (the only money I had) then went to a nearby money changer and exchange that money into US$ that further reduced the quantity of currency notes I had in my wallet.

With the boarding card, and passport in my hand, before making “Check-in”, I thanked Kashif for troubling him and that two in very short time. While saying him goodbye he said… Mahtab Bhai... “Mere liye chocolate lete ana” and I with stretching steps said in high voice, sure, sure and in low voice … itne paise to honge mere pass (I have that much money to buy chocolates).   

As I am putting down my random thoughts in black and white, memories are warming me up from the inside but tearing me apart as well. I don’t want to repeat my innocence but want the pleasure of losing it again.*