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Being sick for so many days has given me the chance to read lots of books recently. Just read Salman Rushdie’s “Shame” about the ridiculous stories of Pakistan history, from uprising and downing of its political leaders, from the ridiculous political manouvers, and also the stories about the founding of the “Land of Pure” and it failures. The other good book I got is VS Naipaul’s “Among the Believers”. This book is about Islam in Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I have read the Indonesian part, and felt that the critics was quite well-said, even some parts I dont quite agree. The Pakistan part is quite interesting, how these Indian Muslims created this “Land of Pure” and how they tried to be the most purified Muslim on earth. But the struggle is full of failures, and Pakistan was a country of experiments.
And today, I successfully crossed to Pakistan. The crossing was straightforward on both sides, except the Indian officers said that I should have crossed the border a day earlier as my visa expired today. But they let me pass anyway. There was no luggage check on both sides.
I read from an Indian newspaper, “the creation of Pakistan itself was to make the distance of them further from us, and we dont need to continue this anymore”. Indeed the relations between Pakistan and India is getting quite well recently, somehow we have to thank to the disasters. Today I was lucky enough to be able to witness one of historical events of this. There is already a plan to make an international direct bus from Pakistan to India and vice versa. And today is the trial day for the Pakistan bus. When I crossed the border, there were many journalists stand-by there, and I just joined them. I was the only non-journalist who had this previlege. And When the historical bus from Pakistan coming, the dance in Indian started, and it seemed that everybody is commemmorating. The officer from Pakistan side promised to make the visa easier, to make consulate in Amritsar, etc etc to strengthen up the relationship between the two countries.
During this trip, I read several books about the tragedy after the Partition. Now it almost 60 years passing, and the effect of it should be minimalized to the most minimum value. The international direct bus is just one of step forward. I remember some people in Amritsar saying, “Pakistan is no longer enemy, we are friends already.”
Crossing the border, the Pakistan immigration officer was so friendly. I even didnt need to fill in any forms, just got my passport stamped, and had tea with the immigration officers. No other tourists I saw. Honestly saying, this border, despite of its fame and size, is very very quiet (except today due to the historical trial of international direct bus).
And at last I return again to Pakistan. This is my 3rd time in this country. Still the same for the hospitality, someone I knew only a minute before in the bus paid for my bus ticket as a gift, the invitation of having tea in immigration office, friendly chats from curious fellows, etc etc. But crossing the border also seems to throw you some ten years back in Pakistan side. The road and buildings in India side was more in order. While in Pakistan side, you will do really feel that you are travelling in desert, due to the heavy dusty and windy haul in the bus. Pakistan I saw today was not so much different from what I experienced two years ago, even I havent been to Lahore yet.
And anyway, Lahore is not that cheap anyway. Somehow I miss Amritsar for the food. Due to my sickness I have to be vegetarian for a while, but here it’s difficult to get healthy and good vegetarian food. Everything is with chicken. Now I can understand the complaint from an Indian Brahmin (vegetarian) who travelled in Indonesia a month back who said that Indonesia is so difficult for vegetarian food.