Saturday, April 02, 2005

People I Would Like To Be

It is not often that I am envious of other people’s lives. I think I have found my own niche, my groove or my rut – depending on my line of vision. Last night I found myself in the company of two men with a life (as opposed to a “lifestyle”) I truly envied. (As Neil Simon aptly put it in California Suite “I have a life not a lifestyle”.) My hosts, A and F are two friends who live “out in the country.” For the uninitiated this means any place which is more than a six or seven minute drive – that being the time it takes one to get most places in Islamabad. Having psyched myself for a long (read twenty minute) drive to get to dinner I set off. The roads in that area have been repaved (even though there is nothing for miles around) as several very very very very important people have bought land in that territory. Wild horses – yes, even studs – wouldn’t get me to shift there. Islamabad is barely “citified” on my scale. I am told that the guests of honour are "exotic."

John F is a Californian archaeologist. George M is an Australian architect based in London. I have no idea what the nature of their personal relationship is, though there could be more to it than meets the eye. They have collaborated on a number of ventures and have around thirty books to their credit on Amazon, including several on South India. They spend a quarter of the year in John F’s Manhattan apartment. The next quarter is spent at George M’s flat (there are no apartments in London!) which opens right on to the Opera House in Covent Garden. The third quarter is spent at a house in Goa coupled with visits to various sites in India. The remaining time is spent taking tourists through Central Asia and India or on special assignments. The special assignment which brought them (in transit) to Pakistan was a trip to document whatever Islamic architecture there is in Urumqi and Kashgar in Xingiang Province. Yes, South China Airlines has a rickety service which connects scintillating Islamabad to humming Urumqi.

All of this brings me to the very static nature of my life right now. I have been unable to get to Karachi for the last six weeks, while there are people gliding through continents with the frequency of my trips to the local supermarket. Part of the problem is the Little Green Book which nobody wants to affix a visa onto.(Who cares how many columns my passport has, when nobody is interested in reading it ?) My Brit Visa took around two months to acquire. My Schengen is coming via a recommendation from Europe. I refuse to risk a random application. What is the world coming to? Pakistan is a notoriously difficult country to leave. And other countries are now becoming notoriously difficult to enter. An old school friend lives in London and is determined to see as many countries of the world as possible. She has visited 47 (or was that 57?) already and called from Gabon last week. She has a Little Blue Book, however, which makes these random fantasies materialize. My wanderlust will have to take a back seat for a while.

Despite all this moaning I am still on track to leave for London and Paris in the near future. Will I make it? Watch this space.

2 Comments:

Blogger s said...

that little green book is such a pain in the ass!! last time i went to get a visa (i was brave/foolish, i went to the american embassy), i was "interviewed" for 30 seconds, looked at as a potential terrorist/immigrant and dismissed politely with a 'you haven't traveled to america BEFORE, so you can not enter. on top of that, you're too young and too fucking single".

it was the most annoying thing on earth - i had spent a week collecting all the documents to support my case (they did not even glance at it), paid a hundred dollars, and waited for 6 hours to be told to fuck off!

i haven't tried since, but i'm considering going to London, and then Amsterdam (as one MUST be allowed to smoke up legally, at least once in their lives and explore all their weird festishes) this summer. Hopefully, those embassies will be more considerate and the wretched green book won't ruin everything again!

3:45 pm  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

Yes, Sarah. What we've both left unspoken is the sheer affront to human dignity, the ghastly humility of having to cue like worker ants justifying (to bourgeois bureaucrats) the fact that we want to smoke (legally), we want to dance, we want to listen to live jazz, we want to go for a walk in the bois (!), we want coffee eclairs, we want to browse at Virgin, and we PROMISE to return.

10:38 pm  

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