Sunday, January 08, 2006

Pakistan diary (Part I)

This could very well be the only part to the diary, but no harm in being ambitious, right?

In the middle of a series of mails to office explaining how busy I am and stuff, I sit down to write a blog post. Which is often a smart thing to do, of course. But my boss might not think so. Don't know if he reads this, but if he does - or has informers around - here's the logic: I am sending the feed for the day. I can't go out to shoot ordo any work because I need to be around the computer from which I am sending the feed. That's my excuse, honest!'s been five days here so far. And while it's primarily been work (some decent work at that), there's been a little time to soak in the world that is Lahore.

Landed. Checked into hotel (Holiday Inn actually). Paid a bomb to get a couple of rooms. Am sharing the room with an egotistic so-and-so of a cameraperson. But he's senior. You get the idea, right? Went out for dinner to Food Street the first night. Ate a few kebabs (didn't have any oil, Ajju)...rotis.

Have been watching the diet very strictly since and having my medicines (that's also for Ajitha's benefit).

Actually went to the Gaddafi Stadium, which has been such a familiar place for the past 20-odd years. It's a fantastic stadium. Not much by way of a pavilion, but it's quite stunning architecturally. There's also the National Cricket Academy just next to it, where the youngsters train usually. The main Pakistan team has also been practicing there.

Conveniently, I got a huge story on the second workday of my stay in Lahore. Fortunately. And conveniently. TV - for those of you who are not part of the set-up - is a mad world in that every single thing is competition-driven. The thumb rule for a reporter on tour - for example - is to not miss a single story and to keep getting exclusives. This is what's told to every reporter for every channel on tour. Which makes the whole thing a chicken-and-egg sort of situation. As a result, you spend half your time attending calls from journalists from other channels keeping track of what they have missed.

Anyway, I got the now-famous Raj Singh Dungarpur story - it fell on my lap, really - and that meant I could take it easy for a couple of days. Not just a couple of days, but actually till at least one more TV channel gets a big story. Really, one BIG story for a tour is a fair number.

The story has blown totally out of proportion, which has meant that my tourist-ing time around Lahore has been curtailed manifold. Just one evening/night of driving around the city. Around the centre of the city and around a part of the Walled City, that still houses tawaifs and host mujras...and sell extremely high quality leather sandals. There are 12 gates and 1 Mori around the Walled City. We could see only a couple. But plan to tour the entire place one of these days.

The food is good. Breakfast is at the hotel, so it's a virtual healthfood feast - juices and stuff. So I can go easy on the Grilled, Masala and Pan-fried cholesterol they serve at all food outlets. Dinner's a tad heavy - but seeing that it comes at the end of a long and hectic day...

The desk back in office is rather happy. Or so they would want me to believe. Which is always good news while on tour.

Karachi, Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Faisalabad and Multan form part of our itinerary. But there's going to be many more days spent in Lahore before moving on. Will try to make the most of it. And keep all my devoted readers updated.

Allah Hafiz!