This July, we went up North for two weeks and witnessed the craziest mini road trips ever. Some of them were due to weather conditions and the added pressure of losing light. Most of them were because of our van driver Basharat.
We were traveling with a group and divided into three vans. Our driver Basharat, I’m pretty sure, when saw his reflection in the mirror or a still lake saw Jason Statham staring back. The way he sped around blind corners and just down the road in general requires extreme levels of confidence and disregard for safety.
Our drive back from Skardu to Batakundi was a race against time. We had to cross Zero Point by 3 pm otherwise we would be stuck for the night on the wrong side of Babusar Pass. The check point closes by 4 pm because the road leading up to and down from Babusar Top is as wispy as a ribbon abandoned by some rhythmic gymnast.
We were staying at Skardu’s Mashabaram Hotel where breakfast is served from 6 am to 10 am. We were so tightly strategized around a schedule that the organizers had requested for breakfast to be served at 5 am for us. Stumbling and half slumbering we finished the most important meal of our day and headed for our vans. And then it was just full steam ahead.
We zoomed by town after town, stopping twice perhaps for bathroom breaks. I had purposefully just had one cup of tea in the morning as opposed to my standard two because I am not fond of public restrooms. If we made a non-bathroom-break pitstop, it was to fix one of the vans that kept breaking down and to switch drivers (no idea why). We didn’t even stop for lunch because crossing Zero Point in time was of utmost importance.
And we did! After that milestone was achieved, people thought we would stop somewhere for food but they were wrong and delusional. Who cares that there is a Dothraki horde rampaging through our tummies? Apparently our team lead had been pestering their van’s driver to stop at a dhaba but for some reason he failed to understand it. He crossed numerous roadside cafes that offered a decent menu and charpayees and around 4 pm decided to stop at a dhaba which was literally a tent on a patch of grass.
After a week of traveling in vans like a tin of sardines, our legs had given up on us. They would jam and cause extreme discomfort. Therefore every time the vans would stop for a bathroom break or a checkpost, Shoaib and I would tumble out of the vehicle like clothes falling out of an overstuffed closet. No joke. A mini yoga session later we would get a bearing on the location and proceed with whatever activity was lined up. And that’s what happened here too.
What followed was the most confusing tea pitstop ever. Only a third of us knew it was just for chai and not for food. Those who thought plates filled with food were going to appear in front of them were thoroughly disappointed. Some of us hurriedly ordered tea before the convoy rushed off again.
I thoroughly savoured this cup of tea. I had to because I knew the second one wasn’t coming before 7 pm or so. I perched myself on the cemented boundary of the cliff and slightly zoned out (an aunty stole my seat as well, pfft!). I do remember somebody ordering a plate of pakoras; that can’t be a false memory. Or maybe it was a packet of biscuits. Who cares? The hero of this story is a humble, chipped cup of tea that brought a bit of sanity to my life. You can’t rely on popping Excedrins every time a headache approaches. Some times Most of the times, you just need a cup of tea to make everything feel right.
PS: While I was chilling in a corner with my hero and my husband, the highlight for some was that our young server looked like a pink Donald Trump. Khawateen took pictures of him and with him. I wonder if he knows he has a tiny fan club in Karachi.