Friday, February 24, 2006

Pakistan Diary (Part VI) – Karachi

Am back in India of course. Got back on the 20th of February. Took a couple of days off. And then came back to office. Have another couple of days over the weekend. Not bad, eh?

Also realised that I never got around to blogging on some of the other centres I touched down in around Pakistan – Karachi, Multan and Islamabad-Rawalpindi. Also did a whole lot of stuff in Pakistan, which are now in some vague recesses of the mind. Yeah, already. All that remains top of the mind are the kebabs, the DVDs and the missed opportunities – Mohenjodaro, Harappa and the Khyber Pass.


Actually ended up going to Karachi twice – first for the Test match (about eight days) and then again for the one-day match (just over two whole days).

Is it because the Tests in Lahore and Faisalabad were so damn boring, or is it just the city – which grew on me from the moment I landed there for the first time? Though Lahore had all the culture and stuff going for it, Karachi is truly a cosmopolitan city, where the people look more accessible and regular, alcohol is actually available freely, and working (and getting work done) is a relatively simpler process.

Plus, the game was so good.

On the very first night, we met up with Jalaluddin, the former Pakistani medium pacer, who had become the first bowler to pick a one-day hat-trick way back in 1982. Went over to his house. Mushtaq Muhammad – former Pakistani captain and Hanif’s younger brother – was also there, in a state of serious drunken stupor. As were a couple of other former local cricketers.

What followed for the two hours or so that we were there was a whole lot of scotch-downing and talking cricket. It’s been my experience in the past as well – most memorably with Ajay Jadeja, Nikhil Chopra and Sunil Joshi in Abu Dhabi: Get cricketers a bit high, put away your recorder, camera, pen, and get talking. Ideally at night. What you’ll come away with are piles of interesting stories, which you should never use professionally, which can be the centrepiece of long chats with friends afterwards.

Which is what happened with Jalal and Mushtaq as well. Johnnie kept walking and Chivas kept regaling as the stories flowed thick and fast, Bishen Bedi and suchlike names were torn to shreds, shers were recited and the evening flowed into the night.

Incidentally, Jalal presented me with the remnants of the scotch bottles, and the following night, yet another Chivas was delivered home.

An even better experience was had with Saeed Anwar and Mohammad Yousuf (Youhana). Wanted an interview with the slightly reclusive Anwar. He granted me 10 minutes. Eventually gave me over two hours. Gave a long sit-down interview, gave me long speeches on religion, provided fantastic home-made sham-e-kebabs, and a lot more.

Anwar is Yousuf’s spiritual guru or some such thing. Yousuf comes over to his house to pray together. Which is what he did on that day. We lunched together. And a lot of rather interesting stories about Harbhajan and Yuvraj’s escapades were told and heard.

Similar interesting and enriching times were had with men like Zaheer Abbas, Sadiq Muhammad (another of Hanif’s test-playing brothers and Kapil Dev’s first Test wicket), Arif Abbasi, and even our very own Bapu Nadkarni, who had arrived to watch the cricket.

But that’s about the cricket.

Outside of that, as with the rest of Pakistan, a lot of good food was consumed. A lot of interesting sights were seen. And a lot of romantic conversations about cross-border love were participated in.

If you’re ever there, do make it a point to spend as many dinnertimes as possible at the Boat-basin. It’s the Karachi seafront. And houses rows of fantastic food shops. Good price. Better food.

Played (is that what you do?) bowling one evening. For the first time in my life. Did fantastically well, leading the Indians – the four of us – to a win over a Pakistani journalists’ foursome. Went caddying (or at least golf course walking) with some of the Indian cricketers at the Arabian Sea Golf Resort. And was among 100-odd Indian journalists presented with an ajraakh (a traditional shawl) at the Karachi Press Club.

The Karachi PC, by the way, is the only one in Pakistan that serves alcohol.

PS: Blogs on Multan and Islam-Pindi follow. Will be posted soon.