“Is that blood?”

“Where?”

“There. On the windo-”

“Be quiet.”

We stared from the tinted windows of our Toyota HiAce as our driver went to examine the situation: an empty tourist bus, teetering on the edge of the mountain road, with a cracked windscreen. Police swarmed around the vehicle. A ghostly quiet had set upon our own bus, choking us into silence. The driver emerged from the crowd with a stony expression.

“We need to wait for a police convoy to escort us the rest of the way to Skardu,” he said.

“What happened to the bus?” asked my father.

“A group of ‘daakus’ (bandits) hijacked it.”

“Why is there blood on the windscreen?”

The driver started up the engine and the van sputtered into life.

“They shot someone who would not give up their jewellery.”

“Are they ok?” asked my father.

The police convoy emerged from the road behind us. An armoured jeep, fitted with a machine gun, was to escort us and other lorry drivers to Skardu. Another policeman, armed with an AK47, entered our van and took his position near the window. The convoy began to move.

We drove past the empty bus. I couldn’t stop looking at the dark red tinges in the windscreen.

Night began to fall thick on the valley. The mountains, those majestic pegs that had kept us spellbound during the day, had now turned malevolent. Their luscious green forests were now hiding dark secrets. The mountains looked like curved obsidian talons, clawing the convoy into a deep abyss. The police officer had his sights set upon the near mountainside, scouring the surface for any hint of a threat. Inside our van, the curtains were drawn and the air was cold with silence. Ahead of us, the lorries in the convoy slowly meandered their way through the valley, their headlights snaking in and out of sight. Pakistan, unimaginably beautiful only hours before, had now become a threatening landscape, a thorned rose.

Inside the HiAce, I bit my lip, anxious with anticipation. A metallic taste filled my mouth, as if I were chewing a piece of copper. I touched my lip. My finger was covered with bright red liquid, like summer strawberries. Blood always looks unreal when it’s your own.

Abdul-Rehman Malik, an aspiring literature student, is currently taking a year off between high school and university to travel.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (13)

ivy
February 12, 2011 2:23 am
NIce literary piece. The author has the gift of creative writing though the heading doesn't completely go with the rest of the story. But definitely he'll become a good writer particularly being a novelist infuture.
sibghat
February 11, 2011 9:47 pm
Well written and commendable piece of writing
G.A.
February 10, 2011 5:57 pm
Then we wonder why no foreign tourists or cricket teams want to visit Pakistan despite such beautiful sceneries. Really sad.
Fried
February 11, 2011 4:41 pm
Lovely
tooba ghani
February 10, 2011 6:45 pm
Well expressed feelings...Good!
Mateen Qureshi
February 10, 2011 4:49 pm
Well written piece however this scenario is unfortunately not new in that part of Pakistan. I also agree with the earlier comment that the picture looks like its not from the Skardu area.
omar
February 10, 2011 4:00 pm
same here.=/
Murtaza Ali
February 11, 2011 3:22 pm
I would say that the verbiage used by the author was catchy, and it made it an impressive piece. But I want to draw the attention of the readers towards its content. What I believe is that the things which refrain foreigners from visiting such natural replicas of heaven are not the terrorist threats, but the negative image portrayed by ourselves. I have been to Skardu myself, and literally I had the time of my life. The place is no doubt out of this world, even the people and their hospitality is surely commendable. Despite the fact that we were complete strangers to them, they not just welcomed us, they even let us stay in their houses and shared their meals with us, and the fact is that we do not even share a culture or a language with them. The author is probably referring to the area which is known as Kohistan, which you have to cross on your way to Skardu, and yes you have to travel in convoy while going through that route. But that area is not in control of any terrorist organization, the circumstances have made them dacoits. They have nothing but infertile land and dry mountains, and they are so much under privilege that we can hardly imagine. Because of this reason they are bound to do robberies. Even though their circumstances certainly do not justify their deeds. But I expect from the authors or bloggers to investigate first and then put their thoughts into words. Spreading chaos is an easy mean of getting recognition, but not on the cost of reputation of others.
Sana Saleem
February 10, 2011 2:49 pm
Superb & Well written !
Amber Shahid
February 10, 2011 10:41 am
Well written ! It does feel like we are moving deeper in chaos!..
Shiza Nisar
February 10, 2011 10:07 am
The writing is indeed very descriptive, and novel-ish. The valley in the picture, and that bridge, however, are very similar to one I saw last summer in Neelam Valley. Then again, I guess in mountains you can not really tell. It was a good piece, overall. Cheers!
Farooq
February 10, 2011 9:29 am
The heading caught my attention, the body however seems more like an excerpt from a fiction novel although very believable. Where's the rest though?
Bilal
February 13, 2011 1:47 pm
I am in Total Agreement with Mr Murtaza. I have been to these areas more than once. I was also narrated the scary stories of this Route. Any How i think beside very good use of Vocabulary its an Immature expression of Thoughts.
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