Paying a visit to Mazar-e-Quaid on a torrid Sunday – 37 degrees Celcius to really help you visualize – after maybe two decades is the newest definition of joy (in my universe). I understand it’s quite easy to mistake this for Dante’s first circle of hell.
My cousins from Amreeka are visiting us and we couldn’t think of places to go, other than malls, where a couple of 12-year-olds could possibly find some sort of amusement. Not sure if somebody suggested this as a joke, but without wasting a second we made an itinerary for a mini Karachi tour. Mazar-e-Quaid was first on the list of four – Flagstaff House, Frere Hall and Mohatta Palace being the other three.
For eleven long years, the white gumbad of Mazar-e-Quaid was something I saw (almost) everyday. Yup, Mamaian here! And after seeing the similar sight after a decade made me giddy. Mind you, I am not the tourist in this episode; my cousins are.
We drove up to the wrong gate first; Bab-e-Iman is not where you enter from. The place looks really clean and civilized from this angle but alas, you have to go round and locate Bab-e-Ittehad, which isn’t difficult to spot because of all the vendors parked right outside it. So while somebody else buys the tickets, you can either enjoy a plate of chaat or avoid the people selling cotton candy (reaction hasb-e-zaiqa).
After you’ve bought yourself a twenty-rupee ticket, you walk (if you’re a girl) through something that must have been a cabin once and is now is just a passage where three female guards are on duty. No body-shoddy check. Just a glance as you walk by. If they feel like they’ll check your purse. Our crossbody bags made the cut but big bags are not allowed. And no DSLRs, otherwise how will the official photographers inside make money? (Who in my opinion still don’t make any money because almost everybody has a smartphone!)
Like any place of reverence, you deposit your shoes with a person in charge of collecting them. He makes a column out of your family’s shoes and assigns it a number. I half feared my khussas would disappear. My mother has lost her cheapest pair of chappals from Masjid al-Haram, therefore the mistrust is deeply embedded.
Hopping and bobbing on the scorching ground, we made our way to the marbled steps that were a tiny bit less torturous. Dodging the official photographers, we made our way to the mazar where the guards at the entrance check your purse once again if they are in the mood.
I’m going to say it without sugarcoating it: I don’t like the new chandelier, it looks tacky. Humain bilkul pasand nahi aya. You can look at it and judge it for yourself.
The FUNNIEST thing happened. The cousin who was hosting the tour tried taking my picture with one of the doors, but as luck would have it, a throng of people barged in making it impossible to get a clean shot. We waited for half a minute, tried to stand in front of aunties just chilling in chairs by the door to block them, but nothing worked.
Dejected and laughing (half at our luck, half at the aunties) we made to leave. The head guard passing by informed us out of the blue that we could take pictures anywhere. A little baffled by the unexpectedness of it, we nodded a thank you. I don’t know why he thought we were lost and confused, because he proceeded to guide us further. He told me I could get my picture taken with the guards as well (looking all shiny and new a week after their posting). So for funsies, I got my picture taken with the guard! He even told my cousin where to stand and photograph. Directed a mini photoshoot right there and then!
We thanked him and giggled once outside. The redundant official photographers in uniform offered their services yet again, but I didn’t have words to tell them that no picture could beat the photographic documentation that had happened inside a minute ago.
A couple of touristy pictures later, we collected our shoes again (all nine pairs). We strolled through the grounds leading to the exit. We made a pit-stop by the canteen on the premises for juice and soft drinks. We knew we had been sweating since we stepped out of our cars, but in that moment we realized how drenched we were.
All in all, it took us around 40 minutes to saunter in, take a few pictures, absorb the tranquillity of the mazar and leisurely walk back to the gate. I don’t know about my 12-year-old American cousins, but I enjoyed a lot! I admit I said yes to the plan because I really, really wanted to check out the people who come here to date. I was a little sad that I didn’t see any. However, from afar, I saw two kids take a bath in their birthday suits by the sprinklers!